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Education in the Media, Philosophical Meanderings

What the School Reform Debate Misses About Teachers

For my post today, I’m sharing an excellent op-ed by former New York chancellor, Joel Klein. While I don’t always agree with Klein, in this case, I believe that he’s hitting the crux of the issue regarding teachers, and that we need to stop choosing sides and ensure that our children get great teachers and that great teachers are properly compensated for their crucial work. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The problem is that our discussion too often fails to distinguish between these very different types of teachers, treating them all the same. This ‘group-think’ not only pollutes the current public debate – either you’re for or against teachers – it is also killing our opportunity to fix our schools. Any reform worth its name must start by recognizing that teachers are our most important educational asset. That’s why we need to treat teaching as a profession, by supporting excellence, striving for constant improvement and ridding the system of poor performers.”

Read the complete op-ed.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach

About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.


5 thoughts on “What the School Reform Debate Misses About Teachers

  1. What further complicates the issue for me, Zoe, is “great” at what? Our society, as well as our policy-makers, communicates mixed messages about what it means to be a great teacher, and too often limits our definition of greatness to something that is quantifiable by test results and observable in well-ordered, teacher-centric classrooms.

    We need to agree on several definitions of greatness and give several kinds of teachers, students, parents, and communities the chance to work together according to their values and talents.

    For every great teacher we have, I am convinced we have another teacher who could be great of he or she felt able to teach differently than asked.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 30, 2011, 7:50 pm
    • Great point (great? hmmm… what do I really mean???). Would love to hear your thoughts on what constitutes a great teacher. For me it is a combination of a bunch of things: inspiring and inspired, clear, exciting and energizing, kind, helpful, knowledgeable and passionate about his/her field, able to convey information effectively, able to ignite creativity and instill good critical thinking skills, honest, supportive, a lifelong learner

      Posted by Zoe Weil | April 4, 2011, 10:16 pm
  2. The situation is the same in every state. School districts that have very few children living in poverty do well academically. School districts that have a majority of children living in poverty do badly academically. Schools supplied with children who are being well-raised succeed in teaching most of them. Schools supplied with children who are not being well-raised fail to teach most of them. Blaming schools for the academic failure of poor children makes no more sense than blaming hospitals for the lung diseases of people who smoke cigarettes. Schools cannot repair the academic damage done to children immersed in poverty.

    Posted by Robert A. Bligh | June 1, 2011, 7:55 am


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