The way the press reports the story, it’s easy to conclude the main problem with schools is that teachers are a worthless bunch whose motivation is a paycheck and not the education of their students.
How then to explain why dozens of teachers are gathered here in Farmington, Maine this week – for neither money nor because they have to be here – trying to develop a better way to teach world languages to students? It’s certainly not the lure of the digs - shared bathrooms, no air conditioning. And it’s summer vacation time – remember – according to legend teachers don’t work in summer. So why are these teachers spending four days tackling the question of how to do their work better? Why are quite a few of them also talking about the independent curriculum work they plan to do after this institute is over?
The answer is that the majority of teachers care deeply about their work, see it as a vocation, and work very hard to be the best teachers they can be. They seize learning opportunities that come their way. Teachers are not the main problem in American schools. The main problems are a top-heavy, unimaginative bureaucracy, childhood poverty, and an incredibly shallow level of analysis by the press and our legislators of what we need to do to improve schools.
So when you see teachers these next few months, thank them for caring so much about your children, and for thinking about them over the summer. Tell them you know teachers are not the main problem with our schools.