I am not an educator. I am, however, a pretty good teacher. I know this for a number of reasons. My grandfather taught chemistry at Temple for about a million years. He was not an educator either but he was a tenured professor. My cousin teaches biology at Perdue. I taught computer apps and technology at Vermont colleges. My students learned the material I taught and learned how to expand on it. I got pretty good grades, too.
I am not an educator. I didn’t vote for one to be superintendent of schools either.
So, what’s the difference between a teacher and an educator?
Educators talk about “graduation rates” and “resources” and “administrative needs” and “professional leadership.” Teachers simply make sure every student learns.
An Educator should make the system work.
A Teacher does make the student work.
I didn’t vote for the incumbent Superintendent of Schools here in the Keys because he advertised proudly that he had raised graduation rates “to 84%.” The Monroe County schools make up a “State of Florida A Rated School District.” In a state where a quarter of the kids drop out of high school, that statistic means more kids stay the course here. Unfortunately, it also means he still isn’t teaching 410.5 kids what they need to know and that’s just wrong. (As of 11/3/08, all Florida Keys public schools have a total of 2,566 students enrolled in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.) I want to know what to do with the half a kid.
Our kids aren’t learning. Everybody knows it. And everybody points fingers. It’s the parents’ fault. No, it’s because the kids don’t eat breakfast. No, it’s because of television/Internet/cell phones. No, it’s because kids don’t get enough sleep.
Didya ever think it might maybe be the “educators” themselves?
Have you followed the trends in your school district? All of the techniques tried and discarded to improve test scores? Buzz words, all of them. Edu-speak designed not to improve teaching but to make education seem more professional. Professional? At the end of his term as president of Yale Kingman Brewster said, “Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession.” He may have been talking to British managers but academia should have listened.
I have lived through Critical Thinking, Emergent Literacy, No Child Left, Portfolio Assessment, and Whole Language. I watched in awe as my cousin learned that 3 plus 5 equals purple. I have taught in a college that believes in neither tests nor grades (I gave both anyway). I learned about Discovery Learning, Lifelong Learning, and Mastery Learning.
Don’t get me wrong. Parents do need to read to their kids and to set boundaries. Kids do need nutrition and sleep. Kids do watch too much television. And so on.
Kids need teachers who teach.
Put up your hand if you had one. You know whom I mean, the life-changing teacher who inspired you. The teacher you visited when you went back to your school. The teacher you talk about at cocktail parties.
Want a superintendent who will fix your schools? Vote for the one who will fire all the educators and hire some teachers.
Of course if that many kids do drop out of your school, they can become garbologists instead of ordinary trashmen. God knows we need more trashmen.
A couple of interesting links: