Who are the Best Teachers ?

  • The inevitable plot in the stories of great creators and great discoveries is the struggle of a smart person to transcend poor role models, bad teaching and sustained oppression to discover a novel and better way of thinking or of doing things. The majority of children, however, do not escape the limitations of their schools.

    The best teachers take their students from the classroom into nature and into the community to have direct experiences of things as they actually are. You can plan a field trip in the classroom and return to assess the results, but the experience out there in the real world is all important. I advocate teachers with real life skills and experience who are generous, gregarious and good natured. People who want to share their knowledge and wisdom. They need a little training in pedagogical technique and class management.

    Teacher training has critics. For example, in the US, the director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Katherine Merseth, stated that only about 100 of the nation’s 1,300 graduate teacher training programs were doing a competent job. The 2009 Obama administration shifted from using master’s degrees in education for pay raises, toward rewarding teachers based on children’s performance. The problem with performance measurement is the grades on exams are used, often exclusively. Grades on exams can be a stifling measure that does not evaluate the development of a whole person with social and adaptive skills and an ability to create new knowledge rather than repeating old ( and often obsolete) knowledge.

    A professor of education, Martin Kozloff, wrote:" A master’s degree in most subfields in education, especially reading — or what they like to call “literacy” — early childhood education, teaching and elementary education adds little to student teachers’ knowledge or practical skills. Indeed, a master’s degree in most education subfields further stamps in the “progressive,” “child-centered,” “constructivist,” “developmentally appropriate,” postmodernist, pseudo-liberationist baloney that infects the undergraduate curriculum, and which leaves graduating education students unprepared to provide their own students with coherent, logically sequenced instruction…And if you ask graduating master’s students who have managed to escape indoctrination (because they are fortunately endowed with a wide streak of skepticism), they will tell you that they learned nothing new."

    Teacher, Arnie Gundersen wrote:" I was voted as “Teacher of the Year” at the High School I teach at, and I have never taken an Education course. I have a Master’s degree in Engineering. After 20 years in industry, I became a Math and Physics teacher through the alternate route to certification here in Vermont. After teaching for 15 years, I concluded that an Education degree for teachers and especially for administrators is a detriment to the education of students, not an asset. How much better to bring real life experience to the classroom than the rote prescriptions taught in the Education classes. In my opinion, rather than spend summers pursuing a Masters of Education degree (and the salary increase that goes with it), teachers should be given comparable credits for spending the summer interning for an NGO or a business."

    Another teacher, Norina Sfeir, with real life experience wrote:" After an Ivy League education and a 20+ year career in business. When I was applying for teaching jobs, I could barely get an interview. This means that almost all schools would rather have a student right out of college with a teaching major and no real world experience than someone who has 20+ years of working in the real world. The education courses I was required to take were set up to be non-rigorous. They did not begin to compare to the effort required of my undergraduate (Wellesley) or graduate degrees (Columbia). I am in my 4th year as a teacher. In the very first week of teaching, I proposed throwing out the traditional business program being taught and was given the privilege of creating an entirely new program. I essentially teach high school students the core courses of an Ivy League MBA. "