"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teachers Should Be Seen and Heard

I was chatting with a scientist from the California Institute of Technology a few days ago and I mentioned Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). I mentioned it not in a positive light. The scientist remarked that I must be a good teacher. I thought that was quite amusing. Seriously, when it comes to education, everyone seems to have an opinion. Some would even go as far as claiming to represent teachers and accuse those who do not agree as being so distant from the trenches.

Teachers should be seen and heard. This is not exactly the title of a popular article written by the 2009 United States National Teacher of the Year, Anthony J. Mullen.
Anthony J. Mullen
Photo downloaded from the website of the Connecticut State DepEd 
Mullen's article is "Teachers Should be Seen and Not Heard". Mullen describes in the article a discussion over lunch during an education conference. Sharing the table with Mullen are three governors, a state senator, a professor from Harvard, and another person who volunteered to act as moderator. The conversation basically portrays Mullen's impression of education reform in the United States. The following are excerpts, showing what each person on the table had to say when asked the question, "Where do we take education from here?" (Mullen, of course, provides more vivid details regarding facial expressions and manners of the characters involved)

State Senator:
"I think we need to consider the role of teachers in the classroom. We are headed toward a teacherless classroom and must be guided by this fact."
"I agree. Technology is making the traditional classroom teacher less relevant-possibly obsolete. Soon students will be learning at home from online classes on their laptops."
Harvard Professor:
"In the future, students will be learning at home using their computers. School buildings and classrooms will not be the primary learning environment."
The governors have been bragging about their respective states' accomplishments on education, all behaving as if they were members of a mutual fans' club. When Mullen's turn came, he had the following thoughts:
Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending non educators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value.
Finally, the following is what Mullen said:

"I'm thinking about the current health care debate, and I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms. I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach."

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