Monday, August 08, 2005

Proficient Teachers

Someone recently gave me a copy of Simple Truths for Teachers, one of those pithy ispirational books. I'll have to admit I always enjoy pithy proverbs, whether for the soul or the work place.
One of the maxims reads, "You cannot put a price on a proficient teaching. It is invaluable."

I find such statements heartwarmingly naive. The kind of naivety you hope every one of your students holds on to in the face of MTV and No Child Left Behind. It is true, though, that proficient teaching is difficult to come by some of the time, and not attainable all of the time. Yet we as educators are faced with the challenge of mounting pressure from our government, both state and national, to be absolutely proficient.

As a tangent thought, considering that Senators and Congressmen perform such highly important duties, casting votes that have implications beyond our current generation, shouldn't all elected officials have to be highly proficient. Ted Kennedy is highly proficient at alcohol consumption and general crabbiness. Rick Santorum is highly proficient at putting his foot in his mouth. But are these men and women proficient at their jobs? Are there any tests to take in order to retain their position?

Sorry, one of those days. But with all of this proficiency floating around, I ask you, are you proficient? What makes a proficient educator? It will be nice to hear from actual educators on this subject as opposed to wealthy businessmen and lawyers who used their wealth to get elected to a public office. And though I doubt any of those important elected officials read what this lowly teacher has too say, if you are one, I guess you can chime in!


At 12:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once *they* attain perfection, *they* can hold teachers to the same standards!

At 7:37 PM , Blogger Mrs. Ris said...

15 years ago, we in our Emotional Disabilities program were considered proficient if we managed a child's inappropriate behavior so that 50-60% of their outbursts were eradicated....If we could get through 3 of 5 group lessons a day without a child completely freaking out.... if we could safely restrain or carry a child to the crisis room .....

In other words, we were to focus on managing behaviors so that some semblance of classroom-like behavior could be conducted. (Not very rigourous standards, I admit.)

We continue to have the same kinds of kids, the same intensity of disturbance, violence, extreme hyperactivity and abuse issues. But now, our proficiency hinges on students' test scores just like gen ed.

There has to be a "happy" medium, one that holds teachers to a high standard while accounting for the students' extreme disabilities.

At 8:16 PM , Blogger Nancy A. McKeand said...

I have been teaching for a long time, and I really don't know what proficent teaching is.

To me, all teaching has to focus on the student, so am I proficient if I strive to meet their needs both in and out of the classroom? A test can show whether or not I know my subject matter and maybe whether or not I have learned about things like classroom management and school politics, but I don't think it can demonstrate whether or not I am proficient at teaching.

My students demonstrate my proficiency, I guess, by succeeding at what comes next in their lives.

At 6:35 AM , Blogger Janet said...

Administrators should be careful with proficiency. Just bc someone is proficient in a subject matter, this doesn't always necessarily mean they are the best "teachers" for the job. In other words, the two don't always go hand in hand.

BTW, I've moved...

At 2:25 PM , Blogger graycie said...

Nancy said it: "My students demonstrate my proficiency, I guess, by succeeding at what comes next in their lives."

Every child is capable of learning. They are NOT all able to learn the same material, and definitely cannot all learn at the same speed and depth. But, every child can learn. If your children learn what they can while they are with you; then your teaching is proficient.

Of course, this is not a measurable skill. Standardized tests do not measure it. Graduation rates cannot measure what any individual teacher can do. No survey will tell it. That's why government people, high level administrators, and educational studies do not tell us what makes a proficient teacher or classroom or school. (Whew! Sorry, there. Suddenly found myself up on the soapbox and lost my head.)


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