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The Jesusification of the American Teacher

The Jesusification of the American Teacher

“Suspicious that our schools are not as good as they should be have led to much speculation about what might be done to correct this problem”, (Armstrong, Henson, and Savage).  In the 21st century teachers face the goal of preparing students to live in a very different world than ten, twenty, and thirty years ago.  News stories abound with tales of bad teachers and bad reviews of American education in contrast to other countries.

All this while more and more students are entering American schools from poor socio-economic backgrounds, greater numbers of English Language Learners, and more and more students and parents whose values and perspectives differ with their teachers.  One interesting fact is that the American public rates its neighborhood schools higher than schools in general.  The American teacher has thus been “Jesusified” to improve education.

The purposes for education are many, including intellectual growth, preparation for the work force, and individual growth and development.  Teachers must and do have important tasks to accomplish, such as improving the reputation of schools, finding funding for programs and classroom supplies, creating lessons for mastery and impact, and inspiring students.

Jaime Escalante called this “Ganas!”  Yes, there are teachers that do not perform these tasks.  Tiresome as it is to repeat, yet if it is not repeated there are some people that will go into a rage.  The few bad teachers that exist should be helped to leave the profession for another or prison, depending upon the severity of the situation.

“The professional teacher recognizes that the classroom is a complex environment; the most successful teacher is one who is capable of making decisions and solving problems in that environment.”  (Wong 1998).  What are the challenges?  The list is long and varied from child to child and school to school.  Among the challenges may be pop culture, media, drugs, divorce, violence, learning American English, socio-economics, lack of materials, unproductive staff meetings, cell phone distractions, large class sizes--work load, ever changing standards, unsupportive principals and vice-principals, some union leaders, helicopter parents--neglectful parents--parent behavior, and student behavior.  Once again.  Tiresome as it is to repeat, yet if it is not repeated there are some people that will go into a rage.  Yes, people know these challenges exist before getting into the teaching profession.  That does not; however, mean teachers should stay silent.  Speaking out, correcting misconceptions, and bringing to light these challenges is essential to being a good teacher.  The Jesusification of teachers says that teachers are the solution.

Parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.  Other important factors in school:  self-reported grades--students predict their performance  1.44, reinforcement 1.13, instructional quality 1.00, testing .30, and teacher education 0.11.  Student characteristics:  prior cognitive ability 1.04 and disposition to learn .6.  Home influences:  parental aspirations for children’s educational achievement .80, home factors .67, home environment (socio-psychological) .57, parent involvement .46, transiency/mobility -0.34 (that is a negative).  Social influences:  peer .38 and television -.12. (Professor John Hattie)

How can teachers solve these challenges?  That is where politicians, voters, administrators, principals, and school boards give teachers “tools” to work miracles.  Teachers tend to be people pleasers and often go along with these programs in hopes of helping their students.  Among these supernatural tools:  Project Self-Esteem, Whole Language, Multiculturalism, Professional Learning Communities, Data Teams, Clickers, A.V.I.D., Group Work, Devices, Merit Pay, President Obama’s Race to the Top, and ever changing district, state, and national standards.  Tiresome as it is to repeat, yet if it is not repeated there are some people that will go into a rage.

No, these tools are not necessarily bad.  That does not mean they are good, that they solve problems, or that they don’t create other problems.  All to often, if not 100% of the time, these tools don’t solve the root of the problem.  If you have a bad teacher in the classroom, one bad enough to worry that children are not learning, then it is actually best to fire the teacher within the first few years before they earn the right to due process.  Firing a teacher after he or she earns due process is still doable, although at that point we need to look at those school administrators.  We can back up the scenario even further and ask certain universities to improve their teacher credential programs, as well as the qualifications they set for entrance to their teaching programs.

We do not hear politicians and others blaming those big evangelical churches, those mega church pastors, for the sins of congregations.  Yet, politicians and radio show hosts do blame teachers.  Somehow the state of education is not the fault of principals, school boards, superintendents, administrators, society, or parents.  The next time you hear a politician, TV host, or radio personality blame the state of education on too many bad teachers, ask them for their statistics, their proof, the numbers.  Despite all the good intentions, campaign promises, political gamesmanship, and strident school revivals, we have yet to have a Great Awakening in American education.  Instead, we have hedged our bets on the Jesusification of the American teacher.

Food for Thought

What can be done?

What will you do?

What is the first step you can take?

What other questions do you have about the state of education?  

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