Who says who is a “bad” teacher?

profcornetI wanted to name this post – “We need bad teachers” but thought that would get me off on a tangent. So I decided to voice it about those who might think they have “the authority” to decide who is or isn’t a bad teacher.

It’s cold here in Canada. I’m snowed in. Seems like the world is going to end. The good thing is that I live right next to an amazing library. Also, have begun collecting all my own thousands of books in various homes and storage lockers. Further, got all kinds of channels and “English” content.

I mention this by way of introducing the fact that I’ve been bombarded by media here in Canada and the U.S. declaring the need to “get rid of bad teachers” and “passing blame” on teaching for all kinds of societal failures. So I got to asking myself – “Who has the right to say another teacher is bad?” — besides gross negligence, what is a “bad” teacher?

I was watching Oprah and this angelic lady comes on representing some budding organization called, “Students First”. Oh yeah, just what we need – the tea party for education. Now, I knew nothing about this group but could smell a rat a mile away as she kept saying that study after study said that if America only eliminated their worst 5% of teachers, they’d become 30% more “achieving” and enter into the world elites in education. Malarky! (read her wish for “excellent teaching” – which I’m not against only that it will turn into a witch hunt). I was tearing my hair out and almost threw my new big screen out the bloody window! Oh, yeah, this group shouldn’t be called “Student’s first” but rather, “Teaching last”.

All these bureaucrats and those without an iota of actually getting in the mud – calling for the heads of “bad teachers”!

The next day, I finally got to see the documentary, ” Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer? – the story of Professor Norman Cornett. (borrowed from the library, the headquarters of civilization and that’s why I mentioned it). Please view the trailer and see it when possible. If any case addresses the need to have “bad” teachers, this is it.

You see, Dr. Cornett was fired without explanation from McGill University in Montreal. And he was a born teacher, a loved teacher, a guy who put “student’s first” by being there every day and caring. Knowing student’s names and lives and doing what is best for them. Fired, most likely because he was a teacher that didn’t stick to a “fixed” curriculum but saw students as human beings and not empty vessels. Most likely because he taught students, not curriculum. Most likely because he tried to awaken students, not put money in their academic piggy bank.

What about all the teachers out there who “awaken”, who are different and who care in a different way? If I know anything, once we start deciding what a good teacher is (without asking parents/students) we will start eliminating the Professor Cornett’s from our kindergartens and our middle schools. We’ll have a regular, puritanical witch hunt. You know how it goes, to quote Pastor Niemoller’s words, “First they came for the Socialists but ….” Now, I’m speaking. (and please see this post and comments about Prof. Cornett. – speaks volumes about how he continues to teach without a job/income!)

And presently there is the “Edublog Awards”. Now, who is to say who is a best blogger? Just throwing that out there but I only want 3 readers. I can drum up 2 any day. The third I’m always looking for…. I don’t need another system (Edublogs, PLNs) saying who is better than who. I really don’t. Let’s get off this boat before we sink and start thinking water is air.

Education and teaching should not be based on outcomes. It should be based on engagement. These are two, two so very different things. Thank god for the Professor Cornett’s of the world. Wish I’d of had more in my own development (all I remember in this vein is Dr. Rosa – a Texan cowboy anthropologist who taught me a course in “The Science fiction of anthropology”).

Teacher’s are not “made” overnight. They bake slowly. They are not all similar and two “great” teachers might appear made of completely different cloth and batter.

So what am I saying in a nutshell?

I’m saying, based upon my own years of having to go into classrooms and evaluate teachers (there are probably some of them reading this) – it is all nonsense. Who knows who is a better teacher? Beyond negligence, we need those committed to teaching and committed to their students. The rest is chaff and blow and hot air.


Where is the positive in this world?

Over and out.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. mweisburgh says:

    You’re right. The answer isn’t getting rid of bad teachers, it’s getting rid of bad unions.

    We’re just looking for an easy answer, someone to blame, some magic bullet, so we can say we’re doing something, reduce taxes, and know it isn’t our fault. Please don’t confuse us with thoughtful posts like this one.

  2. Slawomir P. says:

    Chasing “bad” teachers by Oprah and creating an organization called “Students First”can be easily multiplied into: “bad” physicians, “bad” politicians, “bad” drivers etc with her never ending many “new” Oprah’s programs as creation of other organizations like “Patients First”, “Voters First” etc.
    Yes, she is a shallow lady posing as the most sophisticated/intellectual woman what the masses easily “buy”. However, instead of criticizing her we must feel mobilized and look deeper into this dilemma of “bad” professionalism. To solve this problem we need a truly free society in which people have time and appreciate self-reflections to determine their real personalities/abilities/gifts. Only in these circumstances we can choose the most adequate professional carriers that can fulfill/satisfy our special talents/gifts as their unique combination. The answer for choosing our best professions is “blowing in the wind” that carries love, determination and never ending self-education when teaching others as ourselves from the birth to death, with hope that it is continued forever and beyond.

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