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tailfins1959
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28 May 2008, 6:30 am

I have seen several posts about frustration with elementary school teachers. I don't like to teach my son disrespect for authority but I taught my first grade son scientific notation. He showed it to the teacher and her eyes glazed over and asked "what's that"? I honestly believe she doesn't know what it is. I told my son that he's probably smarter than his teacher. Am I overgeneralizing or are elementary school teachers in general dumb as boxes of rocks?


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28 May 2008, 8:04 am

I do think you are overgeneralizing but it is possible for some teachers to be dumber than they let on at first. My aunt told me an incident with my cousin's algebra teacher where they sent out deficiency notices only to find out through conferences with the teacher that the teacher taught the material wrong and that most of the class was failing as a result.

I would suggest a conference with the teacher if you have any concerns.



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28 May 2008, 11:47 am

tailfins1959 wrote:
I have seen several posts about frustration with elementary school teachers. I don't like to teach my son disrespect for authority but I taught my first grade son scientific notation. He showed it to the teacher and her eyes glazed over and asked "what's that"? I honestly believe she doesn't know what it is. I told my son that he's probably smarter than his teacher. Am I overgeneralizing or are elementary school teachers in general dumb as boxes of rocks?


I hope it's different elsewhere, but I went through a teacher training program in the early 1990s in California. Half the people in the program were really dedicated, they wanted to teach. Most of them, if not necessarily the brightest bulbs in the string, tried very hard to at least be several chapters ahead of the kids they taught. The other half in the program were there because it was the easiest major on campus by far and they had to get a degree in something.

As examples of what I found: my lab partner in a very basic "earth science" class was mystified by the changes of the moon, and astounded when I told her that the appearance changed because of it's orbit around the earth in relation to the sun. My supervising teacher, when I was in the field as a trainee, had been teaching for 20 years, but could not identify Latin as a language, could not read the maps in her classroom (she identified Barcelona as an island off the coast of Spain because that's where the word was written), and, at one point, told the class that the Kaiser was a Russian who started a war with Napoleon to gain territory in Europe during the early 1800s. When the kids themselves pointed out some really glaring errors in the textbooks, they were told to just use that info on the answer sheets anyway. My master teacher then turned to me and said "Is the book wrong?" 8O This is the woman who apprentice teachers were sent to for training. Oy.

The burnout rate of new elementary school teachers here was roughly 50%, the last time I checked, in the first two years of their careers. I like to think it's that the ones who are really dedicated are throwing up their hands in despair at the quality of the students (nothing like a room full of kids who don't want to be there, don't care, and know that nothing of consequence will happen to them if they just do what they want to do anyway), the sometimes obscene paperwork and regulations dumped on the teachers, and the expectations of the parents of some of the kids. (From my experience, it runs from "it's your job to teach them, why aren't they learning" to "you give too much homework - my kid has soccer and dance and gym class after school and you're cutting into that time" to "you're not challenging my kid enough" to "you're mean to my kid" to "look, the law says the kid has to be here, so he's here and your problem now" to "my kid has special needs and you'd better deal with them even though you've got 30 other kids in the room at the same time who also have their own needs" to "you're disrespecting his/her heritage by teaching about the Civil War that way" to....on and on and on.) Most people have no clue what the teacher's typical workday is actually like - which is sad, really, because that seems to eventually leave the ones remaining in the classroom who can't get any other job, except, perhaps, retail sales when the dedicated types burn out. I can't help but think that if people really knew what those poor teachers have to deal with every day, even the "Box-0-Rock" variety, and gave them a little more support it would help keep the good ones working in the field. I have no idea what to do about the others.

In their defense, let me tell you that here the "multiple subjects" (i.e., elementary school) teacher credential programs are separate from one's undergraduate degree. Prospective elementary school teachers are required to get a 4 year degree that meets with the approval of the state's board of education. In my school it was in "Liberal Studies" major (basically four to six courses in each of several different areas). The university professors who taught courses designed for future teachers did not deem it necessary to teach "methodology" - how to teach the material. In fact, more than one mentioned to us that it was beneath them to do so. (They were already annoyed at having to teach a watered-down curriculum to more or less unprepared students.) That was for the "school of education" faculty to do. So, we got our 4 year degree in being generically "educated" and then were required to take a fifth year of study in intensive teacher education coursework. In that fifth year we had two semesters. In each semester we spent six weeks cramming "methodology" classes in all subject areas all day, every day, and were then sent to practice in a classroom somewhere in town for the remainder of that term. In the second semester we were crammed with another six weeks of methodology classes and then sent to another classroom. The first semester teaching experience would be in either K-3 or 4-6th grade. The second semester was whichever of the two we hadn't already done. If you survived that, you could apply for a license. Unless you were a complete screw up, drug abuser (who'd been caught), or known pedophile, you got a provisional license good for a number of years. During that time you had to take more coursework, until such point as you had met the requirements for a "clear" (permanent) credential. I think the process is basically still the same today.

To get a credential to teach in a high school class, one must have gotten their major in that specific subject, or started out teaching that subject and later passing competency tests in other subjects, which could then be taught. I understand they have now added a middle-school credential program, but I'm not familiar with it.

It's my understanding that they designed the teacher education programs to be this way in response to criticism from people who were running down the quality of teachers who were graduating with the old-style "education" degrees. If memory serves, those education majors were considered to be sort of the bastard step-children at the university - not pursuing a "real" major, and not competent in the subject matter. They were taught how to teach, but were not fluent in the material. So, if that's accurate, it appears the pendulum was swung all the way in the opposite direction - sort of. A liberal studies major gives now what used to be taken for granted as what a person coming out of a good high school would have known, but the teaching methodology classes are minimal at best. The result is that marginally educated student teachers are thrown into a classroom without the necessary tools to function in any but the most perfunctory manner.

It could be that my experience was unique to my university - it was so overcrowded that there was no opportunity to take any but the required classes for the "major" studies or that could be petitioned to substitute for them. There were other education classes offered that some of us were lucky enough to get into during the four-year undergrad program. I could never get one. Problem was that we got our classes by lottery, ask for six in a term, maybe get one or two (or, occasionally none) of those you need and then try to find any open class in any field that you could get a seat in so as to maintain full-time status. There were many times when I went to a class of 300 students to try to find an open seat and found that another 200 students were also trying to find a place in the class. I sat through a lot of completely unrelated (though sometimes interesting, but usually pretty basic) coursework so I could keep my financial aid status.

So, in answer to your question after taking the long way 'round: There are a lot that are dumb as a box-o-rocks. There are some really good ones. My experience as a parent with a child who went through the schools here is that there are way more of the former than the latter. Sadly. In her entire career K-6, I can name one really competent teacher my kid experienced. Several were just idiots. Luck of the draw?



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28 May 2008, 3:09 pm

Quote:
Am I overgeneralizing or are elementary school teachers in general dumb as boxes of rocks?


Eh, you'd be shocked how many educated adults don't know scientific notation.

Now, if she were a high school math or science teacher, I'd be frightened.



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28 May 2008, 3:18 pm

Thomas1138 wrote:
Quote:
Am I overgeneralizing or are elementary school teachers in general dumb as boxes of rocks?


Eh, you'd be shocked how many educated adults don't know scientific notation.

Now, if she were a high school math or science teacher, I'd be frightened.


No. I dont believe it.

Everyone must know scientific notation, and up to and through Trigonometry.

I..just..can't believe an adult couldn't know that much. :(

Also, could an Electrical Engineering major become a science teacher? :nerdy:

I'm also afraid of children. I'm always afraid they are going to break, or start crying suddenly.



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28 May 2008, 4:09 pm

Well, I have noticed that teachers (in general, not just elementary) aren't always the smartest people, and some are downright stupid. I think a lot of the problem is that the teaching profession has failed to attract top talent. Of the top 16 students in my school, only 1 is going into education. Most of us (myself included) plan to pursue careers in medicine. The next runner-up field is engineering. Several of us may end up teaching at the university level, but not the primary or secondary school level.

Now, I would view teaching, medicine, and engineering as the three most important professions (probably in that order). But teaching is a miserable field to be in, so the top students generally tend to avoid it. Those interested in science will go for a different field not only for the monetary reward, but also because doctors and even engineers are typically given far more respect than teachers in our society and there is a widespread impression that people go into teaching when they fail at other careers- "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

To improve the quality of teachers, we need to offer some real incentives for people to go into teaching. If someone can earn twice as much with a chemical engineering degree as a teacher with the same level of education, of course you're not going to attract the top talent into teaching! The oldest teachers at my school (a relatively well-off suburban district) who have been teaching there for over 30 years and have master's degrees, still are being paid salaries less than what some of my friends going into engineering can expect when they walk out of college with only a bachelor's degree.


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28 May 2008, 4:30 pm

Orwell wrote:
Well, I have noticed that teachers (in general, not just elementary) aren't always the smartest people, and some are downright stupid. I think a lot of the problem is that the teaching profession has failed to attract top talent. Of the top 16 students in my school, only 1 is going into education. Most of us (myself included) plan to pursue careers in medicine. The next runner-up field is engineering. Several of us may end up teaching at the university level, but not the primary or secondary school level.

Now, I would view teaching, medicine, and engineering as the three most important professions (probably in that order). But teaching is a miserable field to be in, so the top students generally tend to avoid it. Those interested in science will go for a different field not only for the monetary reward, but also because doctors and even engineers are typically given far more respect than teachers in our society and there is a widespread impression that people go into teaching when they fail at other careers- "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

To improve the quality of teachers, we need to offer some real incentives for people to go into teaching. If someone can earn twice as much with a chemical engineering degree as a teacher with the same level of education, of course you're not going to attract the top talent into teaching! The oldest teachers at my school (a relatively well-off suburban district) who have been teaching there for over 30 years and have master's degrees, still are being paid salaries less than what some of my friends going into engineering can expect when they walk out of college with only a bachelor's degree.


That and improve working conditions. Education needs to start at home, and be fostered there as well. It can't just be "the teacher's job". You'd be amazed at how many people totally abdicate any sort of educational efforts with their child (beyond teaching the kid their name, pretty much). They just sort of shuffle them from baby-sitter to baby-sitter until the schools have to take them in when they hit the appropriate age.

I've observed kindergarten classes where kids didn't know their colors or shapes when they walked in the door. That just blew me away. I can sort of see how a parent might not get around to teaching their kid their basic numbers (1,2,3...) and maybe not the alphabet (A,B,C) in a real stretch of the imagination, but it just amazes me that there are kids who show up in an english-speaking class in an english-speaking country, and where english is the primary (if not only) language spoken in the home, who have to be shown the difference between "on the table" and "under the table" - I wish I were joking. I really, really, really do.

Then I have to stand back and remember that the average I.Q. in the USA is 100. That means for every one of us up in the 140s there's someone in the 60s, etc. How on earth a teacher can deal with a room with a split like that... my hat's off to those who can manage it without having a breakdown.



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28 May 2008, 4:44 pm

Nan wrote:
That and improve working conditions. Education needs to start at home, and be fostered there as well. It can't just be "the teacher's job". You'd be amazed at how many people totally abdicate any sort of educational efforts with their child (beyond teaching the kid their name, pretty much). They just sort of shuffle them from baby-sitter to baby-sitter until the schools have to take them in when they hit the appropriate age.

I've observed kindergarten classes where kids didn't know their colors or shapes when they walked in the door. That just blew me away. I can sort of see how a parent might not get around to teaching their kid their basic numbers (1,2,3...) and maybe not the alphabet (A,B,C) in a real stretch of the imagination, but it just amazes me that there are kids who show up in an english-speaking class in an english-speaking country, and where english is the primary (if not only) language spoken in the home, who have to be shown the difference between "on the table" and "under the table" - I wish I were joking. I really, really, really do.

Then I have to stand back and remember that the average I.Q. in the USA is 100. That means for every one of us up in the 140s there's someone in the 60s, etc. How on earth a teacher can deal with a room with a split like that... my hat's off to those who can manage it without having a breakdown.

Yeah, teachers don't always have the most pleasant conditions to work under.

As for me, most of my education has been outside the school system. My parents taught me the basics of math and reading when I was younger, and my own reading has taught me most of what I've learned since.


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28 May 2008, 7:53 pm

Orwell wrote:
Yeah, teachers don't always have the most pleasant conditions to work under.

As for me, most of my education has been outside the school system. My parents taught me the basics of math and reading when I was younger, and my own reading has taught me most of what I've learned since.


same here. one of the things i taught my kid very early on, right after how to read, was how to use a library. and we went there every week.



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29 May 2008, 4:24 am

Nan wrote:
Orwell wrote:
Yeah, teachers don't always have the most pleasant conditions to work under.

As for me, most of my education has been outside the school system. My parents taught me the basics of math and reading when I was younger, and my own reading has taught me most of what I've learned since.


same here. one of the things i taught my kid very early on, right after how to read, was how to use a library. and we went there every week.


Teach your kid math! Math is the most important subject that your child can learn. Imagine the possibilities when he can calculate every day events, like population growth, compounding interest, weight gain, the PH level of your water, etc.



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29 May 2008, 10:44 am

Kalister1 wrote:
Nan wrote:
Orwell wrote:
Yeah, teachers don't always have the most pleasant conditions to work under.

As for me, most of my education has been outside the school system. My parents taught me the basics of math and reading when I was younger, and my own reading has taught me most of what I've learned since.


same here. one of the things i taught my kid very early on, right after how to read, was how to use a library. and we went there every week.


Teach your kid math! Math is the most important subject that your child can learn. Imagine the possibilities when he can calculate every day events, like population growth, compounding interest, weight gain, the PH level of your water, etc.


sorry, seriously math impaired, past the basics. i did teach the kid adding, subtracting, multiplication, division prior to her starting school. she made it up through high school trig and pre-calculus, but finds them boring. when she was in elementary school we volunteered with an EPA-supported program that monitored water quality in local bodies of water - had to go out and take the samples, do basic chemical analysis on them (with supplies from a pack they gave us), keep the records, etc., for the project. that gave her a "feel" for practical science. i also worked with her while making cookies and stuff in the kitchen - volumes, weights, measures, time. so, she has a broad understanding, i think.

she's way farther along in the less mundane maths than i ever got to. i did ok with the basics of math, but was blown out of the water by probabilities and stats in high school. quite frankly, i've never needed more than what i can do, but it's good that the kid went farther - just to prove she could. she's basically an artist, and hasn't got a scientifically-inclined bone in her body. me, on the other hand, like a lot of kids of my era, i wanted to be an astronaut. or a rocket scientist. of course, i was a girl and at that time my options were homemaker, teacher (until i got married), librarian, nurse, or nun. glad the kid has other options.



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29 May 2008, 11:22 am

Unless I've heard wrong (which is quite possible), the sole requirement for a grade school teacher is most places is some sort of teaching certification or experience. That doesn't mean that they're educated on the topics they're teaching beyond their high school education. Of course, a good teacher would fully study the topic in question before putting together a lesson plan... but there are many teachers that are worth EXACTLY what they're paid... which isn't very much. I think it's quite possible for someone who got a "D" in remedial high school math to go become a teacher and then try to teach your kid algebra. Sad, but possible.

If anything, consider it an opportunity to teach your child the skills he will need later in life - when he invariable gets a job working for some middle management dweeb who can't tell Microsoft Word from a festering head wound. Getting along with idiots who think they are smarter than you is a HARD skill to learn - much harder than any math that he could be learning in this class.


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29 May 2008, 11:43 am

tharn wrote:
Unless I've heard wrong (which is quite possible), the sole requirement for a grade school teacher is most places is some sort of teaching certification or experience. That doesn't mean that they're educated on the topics they're teaching beyond their high school education. Of course, a good teacher would fully study the topic in question before putting together a lesson plan... but there are many teachers that are worth EXACTLY what they're paid... which isn't very much. I think it's quite possible for someone who got a "D" in remedial high school math to go become a teacher and then try to teach your kid algebra. Sad, but possible.

If anything, consider it an opportunity to teach your child the skills he will need later in life - when he invariable gets a job working for some middle management dweeb who can't tell Microsoft Word from a festering head wound. Getting along with idiots who think they are smarter than you is a HARD skill to learn - much harder than any math that he could be learning in this class.


It depends on the country,and then the state in the country (if the USA). I don't know of any state where one can become a certificated (professionally licensed) teacher without having a 4-year university diploma. There are states where one can get temporary, emergency credentials and substitute teach. In some states, the emergency credentials require only that someone has passed about 2 years of a 4-year university program in any subject. In others, the emergency credentials require that the person also attend classes at night/on weekends/in the summer or be under the direct supervision of a credentialed teacher. There is a national teacher's test that can be taken, but very few states accept it as qualifying as a teacher credential in their particular state (or, that's how it was the last time I checked into going back into the field). A "D" course in any class in a university is not usually considered passing and must be retaken. Again, it's been a while since I checked, but I think not a lot has changed.

When it comes down to it, really, all an elementary school teacher needs is to be at least a chapter ahead of the kids in the textbook the first time through. They're going to be teaching the same stuff year after year, so it'll be "old hat" after a few. It's the classroom management and having the flexibility and talent to adapt what you are required to teach to the needs of the kids in the classroom. Some districts mandate what, precisely, you teach - including providing you the lesson plan you must use - on a specific day. Others are not so structured. It's a real hodge-podge.

But yeah, working for idiots is a real skill. And it is always an eye-opener when you realize that you can be a hell of a lot smarter, more talented, more highly educated, more competent... but if you don't have the political and interpersonal savvy to navigate the social structures in a workplace you are going to end up at the bottom of the pile (unless you have some rare, esoteric skill that they need so badly you can use it as leverage).



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29 May 2008, 12:21 pm

Nan wrote:
It depends on the country,and then the state in the country (if the USA). I don't know of any state where one can become a certificated (professionally licensed) teacher without having a 4-year university diploma. There are states where one can get temporary, emergency credentials and substitute teach. In some states, the emergency credentials require only that someone has passed about 2 years of a 4-year university program in any subject. In others, the emergency credentials require that the person also attend classes at night/on weekends/in the summer or be under the direct supervision of a credentialed teacher. There is a national teacher's test that can be taken, but very few states accept it as qualifying as a teacher credential in their particular state (or, that's how it was the last time I checked into going back into the field). A "D" course in any class in a university is not usually considered passing and must be retaken. Again, it's been a while since I checked, but I think not a lot has changed.

When it comes down to it, really, all an elementary school teacher needs is to be at least a chapter ahead of the kids in the textbook the first time through. They're going to be teaching the same stuff year after year, so it'll be "old hat" after a few. It's the classroom management and having the flexibility and talent to adapt what you are required to teach to the needs of the kids in the classroom. Some districts mandate what, precisely, you teach - including providing you the lesson plan you must use - on a specific day. Others are not so structured. It's a real hodge-podge.

But yeah, working for idiots is a real skill. And it is always an eye-opener when you realize that you can be a hell of a lot smarter, more talented, more highly educated, more competent... but if you don't have the political and interpersonal savvy to navigate the social structures in a workplace you are going to end up at the bottom of the pile (unless you have some rare, esoteric skill that they need so badly you can use it as leverage).


Where I went to university, there was a teaching degree. But from what I saw - not much, granted - they took an awful lot of courses on education ITSELF. Much of it was hands-on, which is good, but a lot of it was really touchy-feely. I don't think they had to take much, if anything, beyond the most basic classes outside of those classes either. Personally, I'd like anyone teaching at high school level to have at least passed sophomore English, Math, and Science with a "B", even if it means spending less time sitting next to first graders cutting giraffes out of construction paper. Maybe that's just me.

Granted, with higher requirements, we should pay them more than we do. It's a shame that the educators of our children are basically paid and treated little better than babysitters.



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29 May 2008, 2:27 pm

I know that not all elementary school teachers are dumb because a rather bright cousin of mine is an elementary school teacher. However, the law 'those who can do, those who can't teach, those who can't teach teach teachers' is and remains valid.


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29 May 2008, 2:38 pm

its like that saying "Those who can do, those who can't teach" most of my elementary teachers, were lazy no good idiots, I learned to read because of my dad