Just-OK teachers — not bad ones — are the problem

Teacher tenure took a hit on The View last week.  “Bad teachers don’t do anybody any good,” said co-host Whoopi Goldberg. “So the union needs to recognize that parents aren’t going to stand for it anymore.”

“I love teachers, I respect them fully, but who is respecting the students?” said co-host Jenny McCarthy.

Goldberg released a video in response to criticism from teachers. “I am all about teachers,” she says. “My mom was a teacher. I like great teachers. I don’t like bad teachers. I don’t think bad teachers should be given the gift of teaching forever badly.”

Defenders of traditional job security rights for teachers should be very worried about a shift in the popular culture.

The problem isn’t “bad” teachers, writes Maureen Downey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They usually don’t get tenure. It’s not teachers who show up drunk and pantless (and unphotogenic) in class. There aren’t many of those. The problem is the “just-OK” teachers. There are lots of those.

Can the sober, properly dressed, not terrible but not very effective teachers become “fantastic” teachers? Or maybe just competent?

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  1. Downey misses the point like everyone else.

    Expecting to fill schools with ‘great’ teachers is horribly and foolishly idealistic. You have as much chance of filling a basketball team with Michael Jordans. There are not enough great teachers to go around…that’s the reality of the situation.

    People need to realize that the number one factor that influences a child’s education is not their family income, zip code, race, or even their teacher. It’s the individual child. A motivated child will learn with a great teacher, a just-OK teacher, and even sometimes with a bad teacher. This fetish for great teachers is destructive in the educational community.

    Tenure is not guaranteed job security, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is a protection for teachers to practice their profession according to their best judgement, free of the manipulation of administrators and board members. It does not protect a teacher from illegal or immoral activity, or incompetence. If school administrations are not able to fire incompetent teachers, it is because they themselves are incompetent. We had a teacher who was caught by the police with a substantial amount of cocaine. The district dished out three years of paid leave to the guy until they eventually paid him to resign because his criminal case was progressing slowly. This was not because of tenure.

    My district administration is embracing a progressive student-centered pedagogy that is being pushed by one of the local ed schools, and as an untenured teacher, I have been instructed to adopt it. I’ve read all the research on it, and at best it produces comparable results to other styles and at worst it annihilates whatever chance the students had of success in the future.

    As a good (untenured) soldier, I have no choice but to commit educational malpractice or risk losing my career. Luckily, most of the tenured teachers in the district are thumbing their noses at the district’s policy, and when I do achieve tenure, I intend to do the same. This is the point of tenure, and God forbid we ever lose it.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Aren’t most administrators former teachers? Why is the judgment of former teachers worse than the judgment of present teachers?

      • Educationally Incorrect says:

        Because they’re former teachers in different subjects and age groups than the ones they’re administering?

  2. You know, when your plan calls for everyone to be above average, statistically, you have a flaw in your plan.

  3. “Just OK” teachers with a strong curriculum and regular collaboration with their peers do a lot better than Just OK teachers who are trying to wing it with a weak curriculum.

  4. Cranberry says:

    Would it be acceptable to amend the statement? How would you react to “The problem is the Just OK parents?”

    There are many more parents than teachers. They spend much more time with their children. If you object to blaming the Just OK parents, you shouldn’t blame the Just OK teachers.

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    “The problem is the ‘just-OK’ teachers. There are lots of those.”
    The world is full of “just-OK” employees doing many jobs. The US has 3 million K-12 teachers. Any plan that doesn’t allow for “just-OK” folks to do an adequate job and then requires over 3 million of these folks is doomed to failure.

  6. While it would be great if everybody were truly ‘fantastic’ at their job, and I’d hope that most students have at least 1 or 2 fantastic teachers during their school years, if all students had OK teachers teaching a fantastic curriculum, that would be good enough.

  7. PhillipMarlowe says:

    Goldberg released a video in response to criticism from teachers. “I am all about teachers,” she says. “My mom was a teacher. I like great teachers.
    Didn’t Mel Gibson said something similar 8 years ago?

  8. Mark Roulo says: The world is full of “just-OK” employees doing many jobs. Any plan that doesn’t allow for “just-OK” folks to do an adequate job and then requires over 3 million of these folks is doomed to failure.

    Right. Hollywood is full of “just-OK” actors. Take a dozen, give them a great script with a great director, and you can get a great movie.

    Doubt that? Consider the thousands of high school and community theaters who put on very entertaining performances of great plays from Shakespeare or Rodgers and Hammerstein or whatever. A great script, a good organization, and modestly talented but diligent performers can turn into sheer wonderfulness.

    Now, imagine the mediocre actors tasked with the problem of developing their own scripts. And costumes. And sets. A lighting schemes. etc etc.

    THAT is the problem the “just-OK” teachers have. Build a lesson plan. Dress up the windows and bulletin boards. Keep the classroom lit and warm (or cool) and clean. Deal with discipline. Oh, and by the way, transmit knowledge on topics (such as algebra or history) for which you have no particular training yourself, since your college classes were all in pedagogic theory and Freudian Pschology and Race/Gender studies…

    The solution is called “direct instruction”. Give a “just-OK” teacher a thoroughly planned and tested and entertaining script. Give them the output of a Shakespeare of lesson planners. Emphasize THIS word. Draw out THAT response. Check point the matter HERE…

    Every homeschooler using Saxon or Singapore math or “Read in 100 Easy Lessons” has found the Hamlet-calibre scripts of teaching. They work. They work for “teachers” who have NOT had teaching lessons and summer credentialing continuing education courses. They work for Ma and she passes them down to Cousin Jesse when the next crop of 5 years olds seems ready.

    Sadly, in my experience, the larger systems utterly fail to even look for quality teaching scripts.