Thursday, October 22, 2009

For a change I agree with the White House

Well, surprise! Yesterday the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan announced that he was quite concerned with Teacher Education and he wanted to improve the education and training of approximately 200,000 teachers who will be entering the profession in the coming year.

Actually he said something like... the College of Education is a cash cow for the university which takes the monies generated and gives it to the rest of the departments. Ahhh, yes, maybe. First, a disclosure--I was a professor of education in the College of Education and happen to have enough experiences to think this is partially true. In essence, I do have some biases in this subject so take what I write with a grain of salt.

There is no question that the Colleges and Schools of Education attract both undergraduate and graduate students. Hence, this brings tuition money to the university. And no, the College of Education dose not get all that tuition money back. Some of it does go to other colleges and departments.....for specific reasons. For example, the English department teaches several classes on how to teach English, literature, poetry, writing, creative writing, etc. Some of these professors are members of both Education and English departments. The mathematics department has a cadre of faculty who specialize in "How to Teach Mathematics" from Arithmetic to High School math. I won't bore you with a long list of classes as you probably can see the thread--there are "educational" courses in chemistry, geology, psychology, and a popular area, history of....... Oh, and don't forget Physical Education. The list goes on.

So, yes some monies generated by education majors and graduate studies does go to other departments. If I have any concerns about this sharing of monies is that the College of Education is held responsible for the quality of our product, i.e., the teacher of tomorrow but we have little or no powers over those courses taught in other departments. Some of those courses are taught by faculty (and sometimes graduate assistants learning how to teach!!) who have never taught in a public or private school. This bothers me.

I once had a course within one of my department called "children's literature." A standard course found in most colleges and universities. It was a good course for those planing on becoming an elementary teacher. However, this course was removed from our catalog and given to the English department for a faculty member who had never had an interest in the elementary school or in children's literature. That happened over thirty years ago and I am still bugged by what happened. I was a young professor then and didn't understand the politics of the situation, thereby losing the course. It still ticks me off.

So I agree with Secretary of Education Duncan that universities need to appreciate the colleges of education for what they are--an important learning center for those that will take an important role in our society. I'm proud of my Woodring College of Education. We have in the past turned out a good product. I suspect they are still doing just that, although I have not been to a college meeting in some time. Universities take long to change. And this university was a college of education before it became a university....all for the better.

But another concern is that funds from the Secretary of Education will come to my university for educational programs and the university administration will hand much of that money out to other departments...with the announcement that those funds will provide labs and technology.....which will also be used by the regular students in that department. Are you following me? I hope there will be a carrot as the feds hand out money--better educational control over the the College of Education. I have no problem with Arne Duncan wanting better trained teachers-to-be. I do too. But let those who have taught do the improving. Okay?

[the following is an emotional diatribe by me and for me] Wherever I lived as I grew up as a child during World War II, there was a school and a teacher for me. We moved a lot--for me, eight times by the eighth grade. New town and my mom would give me a folder and tell me to go to the school and enroll myself. She would be unpacking from the latest move. And I did. And there was always a teacher to help me. I didn't get the greatest education through all of this. You begin to learn one system of math...or....penmenship.....or..history, and then move. It was a montage, sort of like putting together a picture puzzle. Which part fits here. And being a dyslexic didn't help either--but there were teachers. Some I like, some were wonderful and others really bothered me. I now know of things I didn't learn well because of all those moves. On the other hand, I still remember a teacher in my second or third grade in Harrison, NY, that would take me out of class; she specifically taught me how to read. For a dyslexic this was a great thing and I still enjoy reading.

But the constant that I see in our society is that I am most comfortable in the presence of teachers. My wife and I went out for dinner one night this past summer and as we were seated I watched the one waiter helping people to decide on what they would like, helping newly arrivals to some tables and chairs, making sure those with a meal had all that they needed. It was my opinion that this person was not a professional waiter and as he came by to take our order, I asked him if he was a teacher? A look of amazement appeared on his face as well as my wife's. "How did you know?" he asked. It was just his style--of helping, assisting, making sure all was well. He taught Drama, theater, and one other course at the local high school but didn't make enough so took the waiters job to help out. There is no question in my mind that teachers are special people. For those of you who have taught even for a short time, please accept my thanks. For those who are still teaching, you have my respect and admiration.


  1. I have been following your blog for sometime... though this is my first comment here.

    Thought would drop by and send you some flashcards which I have found interesting.

  2. Aathira, Thank you for commenting and reading my blog. I appreciate it very much. And, yes, flashcards. The mainstay of elementary teachers with the time tables, spelling words and of course capitols of the states. What would we do without them.

    Thank you as well for the web site on flashcards. I didn't know about that site. I'll check it out.

    Thanks again. Les