Monday, December 10, 2012
The Missus e-mailed this to me the other day to get my take on it. Apparently someone had posted it on Facebook and was soliciting the pro/con viewpoint on the quote. With what little I know of Mr. Mencken, I'd be willing to bet that he wasn't endorsing this viewpoint but rather he was pointing out that this is the unfortunate outcome as education was practiced at the time. Or right now, as far as that goes. If the ultimate goal is to pass an English and math exam, that pretty much breeds a standard citizenry. However, Indiana's latest response to upgrading education is to allow anyone to become a teacher at the middle or high school level without any training other than a Bachelor's degree and passing a test in your choosen area of expertise.
At this point I'm sure you're all thinking, here it comes again. But wait, I actually started my career just like that. I was attending college classes and was pretty close to graduating when my teacher at the college said they were looking for a welding teacher at the high school where he was an administrator. Long story short, I started teaching without a degree at all, but at that time it was possible to get a vocational license on nothing more than your work experience. You did have to attend "clock hour" classes for teaching methods. In fact, I drove about 75 miles one way to attend one after school on my very first day as a classroom teacher. I left the house about 6:30 in the morning and didn't get home until about 11:30 that night. Tough way to start the new job but I was young. And that was one of the best things I had going for me. Energy that comes with youth. Plus, my first real job out of high school prior to teaching, I had the good fortune to go to work for a craftsman of the highest order who instilled in me the value of good work. When it says in the Yellow Page ad that it's "A Quality Shop of Master Craftsmen" and the boss shows the ad to you before hiring you, it was pretty obvious how he stood on the subject. The other thing was the fact that when I started teaching I was at the end of a long hallway in the school and that hallway was filled with great shop teachers who were kind enough to take me under their collective wing and see to it that I got off to a good start.
Once again this goes back to pride in your work as well as pride in your workplace/school on both my part and theirs. If I was going to be a knucklehead, they would have cut me loose in a heartbeat. No way they were going to let me screw up their department and the reputation it had. Instead, even though I was completely green, I had the good sense to pay attention to what these guys told me and I learned early on that if I wanted to know about creating lesson plans, classroom management or any other thing that might arise, I could go to Ray, or Skip, or Don, or Matt, or Harold and these guys would set me straight. A whole department full of Crackerjacks. A rare thing but a damn fortunate one for me. I should also mention that I had a great principal as well. Good leadership is essential for a new hire. Even with all of the positives, the first couple of years in the classroom were a lot of work. They were fun, but there was no slacking off. Often times I was only just one day ahead of my students. It takes a while to generate 185 days worth of decent lesson plans.
Will the new system work? I don't think it will make much difference in the long haul. Half of all new teachers pack it in within five years as it is. If that rare individual walks in and has the energy to jump through all the new hoops the state requires, plus has the gift to stand in front of a class of 25 or 30 young people and is able to effectively make that transfer of knowledge for 185 days, and spend a few hours every evening grading papers or preparing lessons, and reading in the newspapers or listening to the politicians downgrading what you do because you just went into it for the money, then I wish them all the best. Your children and my grandchildren deserve nothing less than the best. And after a few years, when there is no real noticeable change for the better in spite of all the reforms, they'll try something else. Hopefully, next time they'll get it right.
Posted by Shop Teacher Bob at 5:00 AM