Thursday, July 12, 2012

Welcome back, Kotter.

One of the things I am grateful for back when I went through school is that an awful lot of my teachers had pretty good backgrounds and had more to contribute than just a canned classroom program.

Most of the men had been in the various services during WW2 and had seen something other than the town they grew up in. Many had taken jobs with the school system and had moved into the town I grew up in after they were hired. They had interesting backgrounds.

Of course, we had a few old maid schoolmarm types but these were mainly in the primary grades and by the time I hit junior high they were behind me. My 5th grade teacher was an old maid type but she was sharp and was an exception to the rule that old maid schoolmarms are a pain in the ass.

Even a lot of the schoolmarm types had some real world experience somewhere else. A couple of them had been 'Rosie the Riveter' types of one sort or another during the war doing defense work and one of them I knew had been a Marine officer, retreading for Korea when that had broken out. She was a major-designee when she got out, refusing the promotion as she knew she was leaving the Corps. Interesting woman.

Not all of the men that served had been fighters, they had served in a number of different functions in various fields. A few never served but had done other things beside teach. They and a lot of other of my teachers all shared one thing in common. They had other experiences in life before they went into teaching. I had a homeroom teacher that had spent 2 years in (then) Ceylon while he served in the Peace Corps for 11 cents an hour.

Another had put himself through school by working summers as a longshoreman in New Jersey. He was another interesting man.

One thing that hit me as I write this is that most of the men taught things like math and science. Three of my five English teachers were women. One was out and out lousy. I hated her. Three were lackluster and another was one of the most intelligent and compassionate women I ever met.

Five English teachers? Five?

Yeah, five. Yes, five. My sophmore English teacher was such an idiot that I used her class to study things I found interesting. She bored me to tears and about the end of the first quarter we had a showdown.

She asked me to describe the intrinsic mechanism and instead of explaining the New England transcndentalism that went on with Emerson, Thoreau and the rest of the 1800s New England free thinkers, I described the mechanism of a lobster boat's gypsy head in great detail.

After that I simply sat the class out and I recall a 33 question spelling test where she said the words were 3 points apiece and you got 1 point for spelling your name right, I left the thing blank and spelled my name wrong.

I took it with someone else the following year.

Enter the 'Welcome Back, Kotter' teachers, of which I fortunately had very few. My sophmore English teacher being the one I can recall.

These are the ones that I have seen lately that graduated from high school and went over a couple of towns to the local State Teacher's College, got their degree and came straight back to the school they graduated from four or five years earlier.

I had a few classmates that did this and I really wonder why the school system even hired them.

They had most likely lived at home for the whole four years, even if they didn't I really don't think they did a whole lot during their four years other than attend class. It's possible that the biggest thing a lot of these people had seen before entering the classroom was the time their daddies took them to the county fair.

Big deal. A teaching degree from the school three towns over and no experience in life whatsoever.

There seems to be an awful lot of that going around these days and I really feel for a lot of the kids that have had to face these inexperienced people in the classroom. While I suppose they can learn the particular subject being taught if they are motivated, they sure do not get the rest of the education that went along with it.

Back in the day there was a lot more to an algebra class than learning basic algebra.

Frankly, I think that hiring policies ought to change and before anyone is allowed in the classroom they ought to have some practical experience out of the world of formal education. They ought to not hire recent graduates unless they have had at least a few years out of college doing something else, and something that is not education related.

Work in the woods as a forester, run a business, do a hitch in the Peace Corps, start a riot on Boston Common, but do something, even if it is wrong. At least come into the education field with something besides a teaching degree and a trip to the county fair.

The kids deserve it.

Hell, they NEED it.

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