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Monday, May 2, 2016

A maligned profession

Friday, May 27, 2011

In this bipolar world we live in today, teachers have become the new whipping boys for everything that's wrong with society. The critics say teachers make too much money and get too many benefits for only working nine months out of the year so they're attacking the professional organizations that represent teachers by alleging they're the source of our financial woes.

I've been a college professor for 30 years and, during that time, I've had thousands of students sit in my classes. There's nothing easy about teaching. You have to be an entertainer, a comedian, a friend, a disciplinarian, a tactician, a confidant, and an expert in your field all at once. Teachers have bad days just like everyone else does but we can't afford to let our bad days show to our classes. They expect us to be on top of our game every single class meeting and, if we're not, we lose them and when we do, it's hard if not impossible to get them back.

I love what I do. I believe it's what I was called to do. Behind every great person is a teacher who motivated that person to be something they weren't sure they could be.

Not all teachers can do this. Some in fact aren't very good at what they do, just like we have some doctors and attorneys and plumbers and carpenters who aren't very good either. But despite the brashness and cockiness of young people and the assumption that they know more than anyone else does, they quickly figure out who the good ones and bad ones are.

Teachers train harder and longer for their jobs than any other profession with the exception of medical doctors. I went to college for nine years past my high school graduation so I could become a college professor. The amount of debt incurred over that period was astronomical and it took me forever to pay it off. But it was worth it because I'm doing the one thing I love; something I couldn't have done without that tremendous investment of time, labor and effort.

Some people ask me when I'm going to retire and my answer is always the same. I don't know when I'm going to retire. Maybe never. Maybe when I die. Because even though I enjoy the summer off, by the time August rolls back around, I'm as anxious to get back into the classroom as the new crop of freshmen that are coming to college for the first time. I love playing golf with my friends and doing what I want to do during the summer but after three months of doing that, I'm ready for structure in my life again. And my classes and students give me that structure.

I'm divorced so I don't have a regular companion of the opposite sex to go places and do things with. I wish I did but I don't. Single, divorced, and widowed people get left out of a lot of social things that involve couples because we have no one to bring and that's understandable.

Teaching is my life. It's what I was put here to do. I'm not a magician so I don't turn all of my students on to education, although I never stop trying. But I turn on just enough of them to bring me back for another year because I know in some cases, I'm saving their lives in the process.

I had three memorable professors during college and one in high school that did for me what I try to do for my students. Without them, I wouldn't have become a professor. I might not have even graduated from college. They motivated me to seek the best for myself and to challenge myself at every turn and for the past thirty years, I've tried to pay that forward.

The current financial situation of this country isn't the fault of the teachers. Think what it would be if there weren't any.

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I understand your defense of teachers. I dont recall anyone stating that teachers/teaching profession to be the underlying cause of the current financial problems faced by our country. I would take exception to your statement that teachers train harder and longer than any profession with the exception of medical doctors. I am sure you would get some argument, some valid, maybe some not, from, to name two or three, the upper ranks of the military, astronauts, attorneys, physicists, etc. etc. etc. I believe there are many professions that require a life-long commitment to reach the uppermost ranks.

-- Posted by doodle bug on Fri, May 27, 2011, at 12:50 PM

No argument from me, teachers do train long and hard, and the ranks are filled with mostly good ones, but not always. The "not so good" teachers don't seem to last very long. Some of the ones I had in college didn't seem to enjoy the work, and spent a lot of class time talking about the poor pay. The best ones never mentioned it.

If you've been there 30 years or more, you must be one of the best!

-- Posted by j_trail on Fri, May 27, 2011, at 9:24 PM

McCook, Nebraska was and is the home of some of the best teachers of all time.

In my opinion.

Wallis Marsh

-- Posted by wallismarsh on Fri, May 27, 2011, at 10:44 PM

I don't think most of us blame individual teachers for any of the country's problems. However, many of us do see the overall educational system as being a portion of the problem...because it is.

Our colleges have always offered a few remedial courses for incoming students, but now there are far more of these courses, and a far higher percentage of freshman in them. Why is that? Because the public school system turns out a large percentage of Seniors that cannot write a basic paper, cannot do basic Algebra, and sometimes can't even read. No Child Left Behind, as much as it's hated, has at least forced schools to address these issues, even if they aren't all fixed.

When our jobs were mostly agricultural, in manufacturing, construction and such, someone with a minimal education could get by. By now, so many of our jobs require better English, Science and Math skills that the poor education from our public schools is a drain on the whole system.

I know public schools love to blame these things on the parents, and it's true that getting parents involved does help...but it's not the whole issue. Much of the problem is the "canned" educational methods, and the feminizing of the system. We need to educate our kids with a regard for how each one of those kids learns! Some kids need competition to do well, others require cooperation. Some kids must have visual aids, other require hands-on. All kids must have real discipline, not the helplessness demonstrated by so many administrations, nor the Zero Tolerance, zero common sense policies of others. Every child should be taught in a way that allows that child to do his or her best. Kids should be tested and "labeled" and put into classes depending on how they learn, not randomly. Kids that require structure and competition should be in a different class than kids that require cooperation and more freedom. Dyslexic kids should be in a class with the kind of 3D, hands on aids that will make the best use of their ability to visualize in all 3 dimensions instead of being labeled "learning disabled," when the disability belongs to the canned teaching methods.

And every teaching college should require every teacher to have at least a basic understanding of "learning disabilities" and how to teach kids that have them.

The problem with our system isn't the teachers, it's what the teachers don't know, and that the overall system is far too focused on "$$ per student" instead of final results. Time and again, I have see private schools with far less money per student do a far better job of educating...and manage that same better job with "learning disabled" kids.

-- Posted by MrsSmith on Sat, May 28, 2011, at 12:27 PM


Could you provide some specific names of Private Teaching Facilities that out perform Public Teaching Facilities with far less money per student - which do a far better job of educating?


-- Posted by Geezer on Sat, May 28, 2011, at 12:49 PM


Why did you pick out one small point out of MrsSmith's post to question? I think your bias is showing.

-- Posted by Sir Didymus on Sun, May 29, 2011, at 8:56 PM

Sir Didymus

Has nothing to do with bias - it is a simple request for additional information from MrsSmith.

Please mind your manners in future posts and refrain from making belittling comments about others - you wouldn't want to be labeled as being biased yourself would you?

Best Regards

-- Posted by Geezer on Sun, May 29, 2011, at 10:48 PM


I fully admit I am opinionated, perhaped biased even. Some people can do that instead of claiming innocence. Please don't treat me like I am an idiot.

P.S. How is implying that you appear to have a bias belittling? Do you not want to stand up for what you believe in?

-- Posted by Sir Didymus on Mon, May 30, 2011, at 3:09 AM

I'm sure we all face a level of scrutiny in our lives at work. I know it do. Customers are always asking if I know what I'm doing. Are they getting their moneys worth. Can I do my work for less. Unlike the teacher, I do not have to answer to the students, their parents, or the administration.

So teachers and educators, stand up and take a bow.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Mon, May 30, 2011, at 8:33 AM

For Geezer:

Some famous home-schooled folk:

Blaise Pascal

Albert Einstein

George Washington

Abraham Lincoln

Sir Isaac Newton

John D Linsley

George Washington Carver

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Noah Webster

Booker T Washington

Erik Demaine (associate professer of Computer Science at MIT)

Claude Monet

Leonardo DaVinci

Grandma Moses

Louis Armstrong

Alan Alda

Charlie Chaplin

Whoopi Goldberg

Hillary Duff

The current Miss America - Teresa Scanlan from Gering Nebraska

Katherine Hepburn

Elijah Wood

Andrew Carnegie

Joseph Pulitzer

Tim Tebow

Venus and Serena Williams

Alexander Graham Bell

Thomas Alva Edison

Benjamin Franklin

Orville and Wilbur Wright

Garth Brooks

Robert Frost

etc. etc. etc.

That's just a drop in the bucket. We all know we could get better results for the money we spend on education. I believe that so much of education is bogged down in administration and staff dedicated to procuring and proliferating government money; that it can't help but be a distraction to learning exellence.

-- Posted by Mickel on Mon, May 30, 2011, at 9:58 AM

Teaching, is a 'calling,' but, sadly, not one of the many others, representing a 'True-Calling,' which is not 'just' a job. Sadly, almost every 'Calling' finds that 'called' person underpaid, held to a much higher standard, with job tolerance, and judgment, on a much shorter fuse. Why?? Because they 'take-it,' because it is a Calling, and once 'Called,' that person cannot 'just' walk away; they are 'Addicted.' Teachers, I feel, are a 'Semi-Called' group, but have great influence in the future lives of those they teach, so must be a part of the list, even though they seldom suffer loss of life, in their 'calling.'

No matter the 'Calling,' most of those who can walk away, were not called, to start with, IMHO.

Ministers, Doctors, Police, Fire-Fighters, Military, anon, anon, name but a few, serve that profession, willing to die in that profession, and are always sacrificing for that profession. This indicates only one problem that I can see, overall: The peoples,Society at Large, receiving maximum benefit, from that life of sacrifice, and calling, seem to be the problem, with their lack of respect, and support. The benefits 'We The People' demand, need be willing to pay an honest price for, nothing more, nothing less, for those in an accepted 'Calling.'

Any person, in the 'calling,' not fulfilling the requirements of excellence needed, must be removed, no matter the 'Tenure,' or Union, or, or, or. The people pay the price, and the people need be Boss, over those services """needed."""

I'm done ranting, now. Just a thought.

Pray for those who have served and lost life serving, as well as our ancestry of family and friends. We were all influenced by many people, in and before, our existence in mortality. Next stop, Eternity. AMEN

-- Posted by Navyblue on Mon, May 30, 2011, at 1:57 PM

Shortly after beginning a career in education 30 some years ago, I walked into a teacher's classroom a couple hours after school was out to find her in tears.

This teacher was noted for her effectiveness and dedication and the results showed in the performance of her students. Her comment to me was, " I teach because I love the profession, the students, and this district, however, in my 10 year career I have noticed each year the parents expect me to increasingly do more of what they (the parents) should be doing. Considering my husband is a(n) ------- and makes more money than we need, not sure how much longer I will do it."

Another educator of my acquaintaince who has proven effectiveness in the classroom along with a number of national awards has chosen to finish his career teaching in Europe where "parents participate in their child's education and appreciate the efforts of the teaching staff."

(This teacher's last U.S. employer was one of the top school districts, as measured by student performance.)

Parental involvement, initiative, and cooperation are the most important components of positive change in education and the decreasing amount of the above have dramatically decreased the quality of education in this country.

Not a teacher myself, worked in maintainence and had the opportunity to observe the classrooms of many teachers over the years. The percentage of teachers who did not put in extra hours on a daily basis was very small. The percentage of unqualified/ineffective teachers was even smaller. The percentage of burnout for teachers during the first few years of their teaching career is very high.

Recently had a conversation with a graduate of a private school. He was alarmed that there are those in our country who would remove "under God" from the pledge because, as he stated, "it's always been there." When I shared that it had NOT always been part of the pledge he argued, "No, my teachers told me it had always been there." When I shared that in fact it had been part of the Pledge for just under 60 years, he refused to believe me. (I personally appreciate and support the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge.)

Whether it be education, health care, the federal budget, etc., so long as it is acceptable to keep repeating a lie until it is perceived as truth by significant numbers of people, resolutions to the problems we face as a nation will not be forthcoming.

-- Posted by ontheleftcoast on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 7:56 PM

One thing I noticed about the education system that has recently changed is the tests. I graduated from MHS in 2005 MCC in 2007 and Purdue University-North Central last year.

In the beginning of my education it was all fill in the blank (a lot of the time with a word bank) or essays questions with a few multiple choice and a couple true and false. A lot of memorization.

toward the end of high school and into college, There was a lot more multiple choice and true and false questions along with a lot of open book/open note tests. There were the take home tests that most of the time you could look in the back of the book to get the answers (even the teachers that tried to make it hard to that)

Some times the teachers said they made it all multiple choice because when they were in school they didn't like essays questions. Others didn't want to take the time to decipher handwriting and read an essay. Other times, the tests were graded by computer (be it an act fill in the bubble type test or a take online test that you can randomize the answers so students can be like the answer to 10 is C)

the open book / open note tests were nice. the justification for those is based in fact, in the real world you have access to all these resources.

And while at first I appreciated the easy tests, The last couple years, I started wondering what had I retained? Especially when there were things I know I had learned but couldn't remember.

I've also wondered if the educational system builds off the previous course enough. Lets face it, you do something for a week and don't touch it again for another year or year and a half you wont remember it easily.

I think the educational system has issues. Teachers are generally not the problem though. I think a good portion of the problem is tests that don't encourage memorization of concepts and thought to string together an essay a long with too much segmentation. My college experience hit all the points that it should have, but in a way that didn't build of previous courses.

I also never heard of MLA or APA styles at MHS which I think was a disadvantage in college.

-- Posted by npwinder on Fri, Jun 3, 2011, at 9:07 PM

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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night