Teaching-disabled teachers

Nearly one in five teachers suffers from a teaching disability, reports The Onion, which makes stuff up.

As noted in the report, hundreds of schools have already begun setting up special classrooms in which the teaching- disabled can receive the extra attention they require, teach at their own unique pace, and be paired up with patient students who can help to keep them on track.

. . . “Rather than punishing our teachers or kicking them out, we give them a gold star every time they do something right,” (Wesley Principal Donald) Zicree continued. “If they write the correct answer to a math problem on the board, they get a gold star. If they volunteer to read aloud during English class, they get a gold star. You’d be amazed what a little positive reinforcement can do. Some of our teachers have even stopped drinking in their cars during lunch.”

Sadly, most teaching-disabled teachers don’t get this kind of support.

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  1. The Onion co-opted a term (among several variants) that’s been in use for quite a while. Teaching Disability isn’t so much a property of the individual teacher—as the Onion article makes it—as it is a property of teaching actions. The schools are rife with examples of dysteachia, dyspedagogia, maleducation, and it’s cousins:

    Encouraging children to guess a word by looking at the accompanying pictures;
    Promoting practicing of faulty algorithms in computation;
    Depending on sanctions and punishment rather than reinforcement to promote appropriate behavior;
    Presuming one verbal explanation of a concept will count as teaching the concept;
    Using the “train-and-hope” approach to generalization.

    Zig Engelmann’s been championing the idea for a long time. Alan Cohen used the term dyspedagogia in a chapter title in the 70s, which I remembered when Liz Ditz mentioned the idea in a post in 2005. Reid Lyon dropped it into a post on Jay Greene’s blog in 2008. Shoot, I even mentioned it in an article in 1975 (JLD, 8, 74-78).

    The point isn’t demeaning teachers. It’s getting folks to focus on kicking out the bologna and using effective teaching methods. It’s tough row to hoe, though. Sadly, some of the worst cases of teaching disabilities occur in the classrooms of schools and colleges of teacher education. In those cases, perhaps we should refer to it as “teacher disabling.”