Saturday, September 12, 2009

"I'm a Goofball, Myself"

The above headline does not describe your humble correspondent; rather, it quotes the self-description of a 7th grade teacher who was in the process of introducing herself to the parents of the second period English class that she will be teaching this year. Attending that open house with my co-blogger, whose daughter is a student there, provided a depressing snapshot of the current state of American education, particularly when one considers that this was a highly rated school in one of the higher ranked school systems in north Texas.

Please know that this blogger understands the limitations involved in teaching seventh graders. Even so, one could not help being stunned at the lengths to which these teachers (I listened to short presentations by four of them that night) assured parents that mediocrity would not be a problem. The students wouldn't have much homework. If they had homework, it was only important that they turn it in: whether it was done correctly or not was not the important thing. It would be graded, but those grades wouldn't count for much. Oh, and tests will be given -- the state requires it, unfortunately. Some kids just don't test well, so we try to make allowances for that.

On a brighter note, two of the teachers (history and science) did express passion for their subjects, but none stated any interest in encouraging achievement or trying to get the best from their students. None admitted to having high standards. Rather, the teachers spent their time emphasizing that the kids would have fun and should be able to pass with minimal effort.

It was additionally disconcerting to note that only one of the teachers -- all of whom like to be thought of as professionals -- showed even minimal evidence that they had prepared for these presentations to the parents of their students. None of them had notes to turn to as they tried to recall what they thought they should cover. Two of them pleaded for questions because they could not fill the 10 minutes allotted to them. One spent much of the time repeatedly complaining that she could not think of what to say because she was tired due to her long day. One called herself a "goofball."

Is this an anomaly or the norm? This public school is considered a good one in north Texas. If this was typical, one shudders to imagine what the bad ones present to their parents.