Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Letter to KDeRosa

KDeRosa,

In your response to my last post, you stated your belief that every other profession is subjected to the same scrutiny and disrespect as any other profession. I'll gladly reconsider, but only if you can really validate your opinions (in blue):
How about every other profession.If a doctor fails to cure a patient who is curable even when the patient hasn't taken good care of himself, it's malpractice. So, you are saying that, if a doctor gives a patient the necessary medicine or the proper way to care for oneself, and the patient, for whatever reason, does not listen to the doctor, the doctor is guilty of malpractice? If a lawyer fails to make an argument he should have even though the client hasn't acted properly and the client loses the litigation, it's malpractice. Again, if the lawyer provides the client with solid legal counsel, and the client walks out and neglects that legal counsel, the lawyer is at fault? If an engineer builds a bridge and it falls down for almost any reason, it's malpractice. The engineer builds a solid bridge, follows all of the codes, and the bridge collapses in a massive earthquake or gas explosion, the engineer is responsible? If a teacher fails to teach a child who is educable but perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed, the teacher gets to write a blog blaming the student for the failure to teach without repercussion. And here, you step out and take a shot at an educator who chooses to write a blog about the realit of teaching, the good and the bad, without ever having stepped into that classroom. If you really believe that a kid who chooses to never turn in an assignment, avoids any and every attempt at help and motivation, disrespects me and the students around her, is my responsibility, even though I have done my job according to all of the research and theory available, you, are, in the opinion of this sometimes humble educator, wrong. And you can rest assured if other professions had the same level of failure, you'd see the same level of scrutiny and criticism as educators are getting. And, the three examples you gave, all make much more money than me. Certainly you are aware of that, and certainly you probably blame the educator for that as well, because we are not doing our job, or because we get "summers" off.

So, let me rephrase, when someone who really knows the classroom I teach in, can show me how I have failed a certain kid, who is "curable" in you words, then, and really only then, will I listen.

In addition, though my tone is clearly one of annoyance, trust that I really want to know how to improve. I don't want theoretical answers, give me some sustenance, not leafy greens.

12 Comments:

At 5:59 AM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

You are making improper assumptions. All of your examples assume the professional was acting properly and that some intervening activity caused the problem. What you are, in effect, saying is that what the teacher is teaching in the classroom conforms to best teaching practices and that the student has somehow failed or refused to learn. This is hardly the case in the typical classroom.

I gave the example of the City Springs School in baltimore who took kids performing at about the tenth percentile and brought them up to the 80th percentile. This means that they effectively educated all but about 2%-5% of the general student population since this school was filled with low performers.

If teaching were a real profession, you'd be held to this standard of teaching. You wouldn't necessarily have to use the same insructional techniques and curriculum but you'd have to perform as well. To perform less well would be neglicence.

If you really believe that a kid who chooses to never turn in an assignment, avoids any and every attempt at help and motivation, disrespects me and the students around her, is my responsibility, even though I have done my job according to all of the research and theory available, you, are, in the opinion of this sometimes humble educator, wrong.

By definition, if you are having these clssroom management problems, the teaching is not effective and most likely has not been for the entire time these kids were in school. Do you think the kids at the city spring school are exhibiting the same kind of behavioral problems your students are? Clearly they're not since they are learning what they are being taught, precluding the type of behavioral problems you list.

And, the three examples you gave, all make much more money than me.

This is a supply and demand issue. These three professions all require more and/or difficult schooling and more brainpower. There are less qualified candidates, so they get paid more. Teachers get paid appropriately compared to other professions, such as
accountants.

So, let me rephrase, when someone who really knows the classroom I teach in, can show me how I have failed a certain kid, who is "curable" in you words, then, and really only then, will I listen.

I don't have to see what's going on in your classroom I just need to see the end product. If I see a patient with the wrong leg amputated, its a fair conclusion that the doctor did something wrong.

 
At 11:10 AM , Blogger jg said...

I think comparing doctors and engineers to teachers is apples to oranges. A doctor has a right answer. If the patient has a broken leg then you put a cast on it.

There is much more of a gray area with teaching. If I have a behavior problem there isn't a "right" way to correct it. I can't run a few tests and then have a "prescription" to cure them of their behavior problem. Yes I can look at research about ideas other people have done in dealing with similar problems but it is by no means foolproof. I have some students that exhibit the same behavior problems but require completely different solutions just because of their personality. How I wish I could just put my kids in the x-ray and see how to best deal with them but it just doesn't work that way. Yes, effective teaching will limit behavior problems by having the kids so engaged that they don't have time to misbehave but that cannot always be accomplished either due to the material or the time we have to prepare for it.

 
At 1:24 AM , Anonymous Pavane said...

Yes, jg has it so right. Doctors deal with diseases and injuries, which have specific remedies. Engineers deal with physical matter, which have specific properties that can be manipulated in specific ways. Lawyers deal with the law, which is set down in black and white.

Teachers, however, deal with humans. Every person is unique, and what works for one probably won't work for another. Teachers can do their best by reading about the different approaches out there, and trying a myriad of different strategies to reach a kid, but it is not black and white like it is for a doctor or engineer or lawyer.

KDeRosa, you cite student test scores as a means as measuring how "successful" a teacher has been at educating students. I'm sorry to say that, despite the current climate in the US with NCLB etc, that sort of thinking really does belong in the dark ages. Ever heard of Gardiner's Multiple Intelligences? Kids can be intelligent in ways that will never be able to be measured in pen-and-paper tests. I have some kids that don't do well on those sorts of tests. However, they have an understanding of the world that will see them absolutely flourish in it nonetheless.

 
At 4:52 AM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

Last time I checked, doctors deal with humans all the time and have the same problems diagnosing human problems that teachers have.

And, the law is far from black and white. If statutory construction and judicial case interpretation were so easy, we wouldn't need high-priced lawyers.

And we could say the say for your other examples, but let's get back to teaching.

Every person is unique, and what works for one probably won't work for another.

This statement is only true, if we're talking about poorly designed instructional programs. Most programs work for the smart kids and consistently fail to work with the ones who aren't smart. If what you say is true, we'd be seeing lots of non-smart kids successfully taught when we've paired them with the right instructional program. But, we don't, disproving this theory.

I'm sorry to say that, despite the current climate in the US with NCLB etc, that sort of thinking really does belong in the dark ages.

You aren't trying to say that there's no objective way to measure student performance? That's nutty.

Ever heard of Gardiner's Multiple Intelligences? Kids can be intelligent in ways that will never be able to be measured in pen-and-paper tests.

Fortunately, you only have to concern yourself with the one form of intelligence that is relevant to academic success.

Sounds like you are rationalizing your failure to effectively teach some students by blaming them for your teaching failure. It has to be the student with the wrong intelligence causinf the problems, couldn't possibly be the teaching.

 
At 8:27 AM , Blogger Ms Otto said...

KDeRosa - Are you really suggesting that the teacher is the only person responsible for the success or failure of the student? I guess I should be flattered that you believe that I (and others in my profession) are all-powerful, but I am willing to share my limits. I am limited to the hours I spend with my students; it is impossible for me to control the environment my students experience when they are outside of my classroom.

Perhaps you believe I am describing the "inner city school" problem that is so often decried in the media. If so, you would be mistaken. I teach in an affluent suburb in the midwest, where few of my students are impoverished or neglected or abused. The school has high expectations, high standardized test scores, and rave reviews from parents.

However, there are still students who are enabled by their parents not to succed. Please tell me (because I would be ecstatic if you had the answer) what I can do when a parent refuses to involve himself in his child's education? The child I speak of is a high school freshman who is failing three classes (two fine art electives and a core academic class)...he has no learning disability and no special needs, except that he lives with parents who not only ignored all report cards, progress reports, calls home, and offers of conferences, but also rewarded him for his poor academic performance and levels of personal responsiblity by buying him an extremely expensive iPod.

Do you really believe that my well-intentioned and skilled attempts at teaching and motivating this child (and, by the way, I have a master's degree in my field) can overcome 15 years of overindulgence and low standards from home?

In this, perhaps your analogy of teachers to the medical profession is correct, in that (for example) a dentist can teach his patient about good oral hygience, the proper way to floss, the dangers of chewing tobacco, etc.... but he has no way to ensure that the patient follows this good advice. You seem to suggest, in addition, that the dentist is culpable for the patient's lack of personal responsibility and motivation. Do you really believe that any court in the nation would award the patient damages for malpractice from this well-informed, well-intentioned dentist?

If you have the answer to motivating unmotivated students, please, please,share... and I suggest that you copyright the idea, because every school district in the country will want to purchase the rights to your idea - because we all want to save our children.

 
At 8:28 AM , Blogger Ms Otto said...

KDeRosa - Are you really suggesting that the teacher is the only person responsible for the success or failure of the student? I guess I should be flattered that you believe that I (and others in my profession) are all-powerful, but I am willing to share my limits. I am limited to the hours I spend with my students; it is impossible for me to control the environment my students experience when they are outside of my classroom.

Perhaps you believe I am describing the "inner city school" problem that is so often decried in the media. If so, you would be mistaken. I teach in an affluent suburb in the midwest, where few of my students are impoverished or neglected or abused. The school has high expectations, high standardized test scores, and rave reviews from parents.

However, there are still students who are enabled by their parents not to succed. Please tell me (because I would be ecstatic if you had the answer) what I can do when a parent refuses to involve himself in his child's education? The child I speak of is a high school freshman who is failing three classes (two fine art electives and a core academic class)...he has no learning disability and no special needs, except that he lives with parents who not only ignored all report cards, progress reports, calls home, and offers of conferences, but also rewarded him for his poor academic performance and levels of personal responsiblity by buying him an extremely expensive iPod.

Do you really believe that my well-intentioned and skilled attempts at teaching and motivating this child (and, by the way, I have a master's degree in my field) can overcome 15 years of overindulgence and low standards from home?

In this, perhaps your analogy of teachers to the medical profession is correct, in that (for example) a dentist can teach his patient about good oral hygience, the proper way to floss, the dangers of chewing tobacco, etc.... but he has no way to ensure that the patient follows this good advice. You seem to suggest, in addition, that the dentist is culpable for the patient's lack of personal responsibility and motivation. Do you really believe that any court in the nation would award the patient damages for malpractice from this well-informed, well-intentioned dentist?

If you have the answer to motivating unmotivated students, please, please,share... and I suggest that you copyright the idea, because every school district in the country will want to purchase the rights to your idea - because we all want to save our children.

 
At 10:57 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Ms. Otto,
KDeRosa does have all the answers. Check out his blog. One simply needs to follow the highly scripted, fast paced world of Direct Instruction, which has small class sizes and astounding supervision of instruction by highly qualified supervisors. It worked at the elementary school, I can't recall the name, that he regularly touts. The problem with KDeRosa is that he offers only theory, and will not have much in the way of solid provable (to 100% accuracy) methods for motivating the unmotivated.

 
At 4:24 PM , Blogger LesMO said...

Someone said comparing doctors and engineers to teaching is like apples and oranges. Is it really? This holds true for some aspects, however, the points that Mcnamar brought up are common throughout many professions.

Like he said, if a layer gives someone help and that person chooses not to use it, why should the lawyer be blamed? A stock broker gives financial advice and his client doesn't take it, so its the stock brokers fault? Teaching cannot be any different.Like a stock broker or lawyer, help is being offered to students. If the students aren't getting the grade or applying the knowledge, then the teacher cannot do much to help that. Teachers cannot be a students' mentor, counselor, parent, and teach all at the same time. Nor can a teacher force a child to do good.

Like many professions, there are more than one way to go about things. There is not one style of lawyer, doctor, manager, or even teacher for that matter.

Kderosa I pose you this question, when is the hand holding going to stop?

I appreciate teachers like Mcnamar because they want their students to do well, yet don't hold their hand. He's given me all the knowledge to do well, and I've chosen to use it. It's not his fault if another kid chooses not to and ends up failing the class.

From what I've heard, college is the same way.

 
At 4:47 PM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

Are you really suggesting that the teacher is the only person responsible for the success or failure of the student?

Yes that's right for those 95% or so of kids who are educable the schools, our agency for teaching, are responsible for students' learning.

it is impossible for me to control the environment my students experience when they are outside of my classroom.

The six hours, 180 days a year are sufficient to teach what you need to teach them assuming they have the necessary pre-skills coming in and attend class regularly.

I teach in an affluent suburb in the midwest, where few of my students are impoverished or neglected or abused. The school has high expectations, high standardized test scores, and rave reviews from parents.

The affluent schools are only superficially different from inner city schools. The only difference is that they have better students. The affluent schools perform about as poorly with less bright students as the affluent schools do.

The child I speak of is a high school freshman who is failing three classes

If a student is allowed to fail up until about the fifth grade without getting him back on track, it is very difficult to re-motivate him. This is when the peer effect takes over. If you want to make sure you get properly motivated students go talk to your middle and elementary schools are make sure they are properly teaching your prospective students.

Do you really believe that my well-intentioned and skilled attempts at teaching and motivating this child (and, by the way, I have a master's degree in my field) can overcome 15 years of overindulgence and low standards from home?

Odd that you would leave out the biggest determinant of student success--what he was taught (or rather not taught) in school the past 9 years.

So exactly what is your success rate at teaching low-performing students? Most teachers have a effective success rate of about zero.

You probably have a heterogeneous classroom with a wide range of student ability. You target instruction toward to the average student. You moveon to the next topic when the average students learn the material. Now you're surprised when the low performers who have been taught above their ability level at a pace that is too fast for them with the cumulative effect being that they fall further and further behind as the year progresses. And, you're actually surprised because they are unmotivated and disengaged. And, the parents of these kids, probably the least capable parents, are supposed to be picking up the slack at home.

You're ipod kid example, while charming, is probably failing for these reasons rather than due to his ipod.

Do you really believe that any court in the nation would award the patient damages for malpractice from this well-informed, well-intentioned dentist?

Your example conveniently assumes the dentist acted properly. Let's use an example that is based in reality. Let's assume that the sentist knew that the patient did not have good oral hygiene and used a tooth filling that only worked with patients with good oral hygiene rather than the better tooth filling that was more difficult to apply that works with all patients. If the patient's tooth rots, you can rest assured that the dentist will be liable for malpractice.

If you have the answer to motivating unmotivated students, please, please,share

That's an easy one. Teach them better. And to find out if you actually taught, you need to check to see what the student has actually learned. Students who are learning tend to be motivated to learn. Of course, there are no guarantees if the student came to you unmotivated and with a history of non-learning.

Here's a good article on managing classroom behavior. Of course, the article is premised on effective instruction in the first place.

The problem with KDeRosa is that he offers only theory, and will not have much in the way of solid provable (to 100% accuracy) methods for motivating the unmotivated.

It's much more than unsubstantiated theory. There is a solid research base behind it and much actual classroom success too.

 
At 5:15 PM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

Like he said, if a layer gives someone help and that person chooses not to use it, why should the lawyer be blamed?

See my dentist example above. Your analogy has a fatal flaw.

Like many professions, there are more than one way to go about things. There is not one style of lawyer, doctor, manager, or even teacher for that matter.

This is true, but it's also true that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. So if there is a right way to do something that ends with 95% of students learning, then the way that ends with over half the students not learning would be the wrong way.

Kderosa I pose you this question, when is the hand holding going to stop?

There wouldn't be a need for any hand holding in the first place if the teaching were effective. You can accurately predict the academic failures in 8th grade by the students' performance in first grade when teachers are assuredly in control of the classroom behavior and motivation.

It's not his fault if another kid chooses not to and ends up failing the class.

Academic performance is highly correlated with student IQ, and most of the academic failures are lower IQ kids. So by your reasoning all the lower IQ kids are simply not choosing to learn. It can't be that they aren't receiving suitable instruction for their ability level, right?

 
At 9:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Whom it May Concern,

Academic performance is based on how well a student can mold themselves to the correlating image portrayed by his or her teacher figure. If you have a student that knows exactly what to say at the precise moment in a manner that hits home with his or her educator then obviously they must be highly intelligent - right? Wrong, the child who sits in the back of the classroom who never socializes or raises their hand could indeed be the same student that contemplates issues greater then what can be shown or learned in the classroom. The classroom has boundaries and borders - the real world is without those limitations and spans further then any educator could ever dare to reach. Kids need basic understanding of the world and rudimentary skill sets but then it falls solely on their own shoulder's how to interpret and comprehend the vastness of the world around them. You, as a teacher, can never give them that worldliness. You instill basic thought patterns and problem recognition - that is it. And your tests are a bunch of BS too.
Anon.

 
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