My blog entry on rural schools, prompted by an AJC Sunday story on rural education in Georgia, spurred a lot of comments, including this email from retired educator and school head Dennis Brown of Villa Rica. (I have shared other responses by Brown on teacher quality.)
Here is his latest:
There is always a need for more great teachers in the classroom. But the title of your article this morning, “How do we entice great teachers to move to remote rural schools,” suggests there are none there today. That’s just not the case.
There are some great teachers already in place. But their effectiveness is muted and often their hands tied by pedagogy and lack of equipment. Let’s first attack the real problem – and while I hesitate to use it to identify what that real problem is, the saying “If you want to improve the prisons, improve the prisoners” is never more true in our schools than it is today.
State of mind and environment before the student even enters the classroom is the key – and that begins at home and in the community at large. Even the best of teachers can’t overcome a classroom filled with unmotivated and non-disciplined students. And even more than for the teacher, I feel sorry for the one or two motivated students in a classroom filled with another 30 just putting in their time and more interested in the social interaction than the learning.
Expectations are more often than not lowered and even some of the most basic academic challenges abandoned to teach to the masses. Of course, the results are sub par. The results I’m talking about include not only questionable standardized testing scores, but also increased drop-out and decreased high school graduation rates, and youngsters with entitlement mentalities turned loose in society.
Bottom line — let’s stop pointing the finger at the schools and suggest that attracting “great” teachers is the answer to turning things around.
Let’s put the money, the publicity and time where the problem really lies – first defining what educational outcomes are desired in that community and its schools and then addressing through public forums and workshops the parents’ responsibilities at home in the setting of guidelines and expectations for their children’s performance.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog