Jobs I Would Never Want, Dept.

Just saw an advertisement for a math teaching position in a “new, progressive, independent” middle school in San Francisco. As I read it, I was reminded of what Stanford ed school Professor Steve Labaree said about constructivism in his book “The Trouble with Ed School”. In it he says that while constructivism rules the waves in ed schools, it has had little impact on education in general.

He goes on to say:

“[T]his form of progressivism has had an enormous impact on educational rhetoric but very little impact on educational practice. … Instruction in American schools is overwhelmingly teacher-centered; classroom management is the teacher’s top priority; traditional school subjects dominate the curriculum; textbooks and teacher talk are the primary means of delivering this curriculum; learning consists of recalling what texts and teachers say. … What signs exist of student-centered instruction and discovery learning tend to be superficial or short-lived.”

While what he says may be true for high school, it can certainly be rebutted for the lower grades in which student-centered and inquiry-based/project-based learning is becoming increasingly commonplace. To wit and for example and case in point is the ad I was talking about for the math teacher for the private middle school. Here are some excerpts from the ad:

“We call our teachers “Guides” to indicate how we see the ideal learning relationship with students. We support the shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide by the side” and beyond.”

“We’re inspired by Jo Boaler’s approach to Math teaching, and aim for a mix of project-based, real-world math with a “Pure Math” complement that develops numeracy with approaches like Number Talks.”

And this is a private school. In public schools such approaches are also prevalent in lower grades.

As far as requirements for the job, this one grabbed my attention:

“You comfortably exist in and naturally model authenticity. Through experience and practice and perhaps your own mentors, you’ve developed an awareness of what authenticity looks like, and a comfort being yourself.”

Not sure what that means other than the person they’re looking for is so full of him or herself and so far out of tune with what students need in terms of learning, that they’re not even wrong.

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One thought on “Jobs I Would Never Want, Dept.

  1. The early grades can still screw up what they claim to do. A big one for my son’s school was different learning styles, but in sixth grade, they all had to color 3X5 inch cards showing scientific definitions they were supposed to learn. My son could easily memorize (and remember!) the definitions, but it took him 40 minutes per card to color with crayons (in sixth grade) each of 100+ definitions they had to do that year. The teacher was surprised that it took him so long and claimed that they were not graded on the art work. Considering his “rubric” grades on the cards, that was just not true. The quality of the art work seemed to indicate the effort put into the learning. What is less rote about coloring a definition?

    I found that many parents don’t worry much about K-6 teaching as long as the grades are good. Back when I was in school, the grades were simple letter grades and directly related to homework and tests that covered basic knowledge and skills. The work came home and parents could see the raw data. When my son was in K-8, they used vague rubrics that didn’t tell you much even though they were three pages long. They were related to the vague categories of the state test for things like numeracy and problem solving, and gave grades like “proficient.” Rubrics went from 1 to 4, but 4 was almost impossible to get. The grading scale was non-linear, so many kids didn’t even try to get a 4. Most students got a 3, which didn’t mean much of anything. They then decided to have the rubrics go from 1 – 5, where 5 was almost impossible to get. One teacher told me directly that a 5 was not even an A+. You had to show some sort of vague extension/application of your learning, but they had no process for showing that. School work and tests were hidden away in portfolios that stayed at school. We had to make appointments with each teacher after school to see the work. With 3 pages of rubric scores, parents now have less real data feedback on how their kids are doing, and PARCC’s highest level (“distinguished”) only means that the student will likely pass a college algebra course.

    The fundamental change in K-6 is full inclusion. Differentiated instruction either doesn’t exist or doesn’t work, so all of the edu-babble is just their way to provide cover. Tracking and the increased academic gap are hidden away at home and those students are used as cover for whatever K-6 schools want to do. I don’t mind if charter or private schools offer progressive learning, but not in public schools where parents have no choice. If they insist on full inclusion, then they are pushing the high school need for different academic levels down into the lowest grades. Not providing those levels is educational incompetence. However, I just can’t imagine different levels of Everyday Math. They would screw that up too.

    K-6 is anti-facts and skills and that changes completely in high school with teachers who have certification in their subject areas. High schools are driven by college and “real world” needs, but for many students in math, it’s all over by 7th grade. K-6 exists in a fairyland of edu-thought that has absolutely nothing to do with the “real world.” We parents get notes telling us to practice “math facts” at home. It’s really quite unbelievable.

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