With the likelihood that schools will not reopen until the fall at the earliest, parents are learning firsthand just how hard it is to teach children (“California classrooms will not reopen this school year due to the coronavirus, superintendent says,” San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 31). That’s a lesson way long overdue in the wake of charges by reformers that teachers have it easy.
I’m reminded of the series of op-eds by Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs in several newspapers claiming that teachers are not underpaid. Even though teachers are walking away from the profession at the highest rate on record, Richwine and Biggs join other critics in arguing that the number of hours in front of a class, coupled with the summers off, make teaching a plum.
I say tell that to parents who are trying to teach their own children. The energy needed to keep children on task is enormous. If they think it’s hard to teach their own children, can they possibly imagine how hard it is to teach a roomful of children from diverse backgrounds?
If there is one good thing to come out of the present pandemic, it’s that it will give parents and others a realistic sense of the difficulty of educating the young.
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2 Replies to “Coronavirus makes parents appreciate teachers”
Seems likely that it’s much harder to teach K-12 today than it was back in the 1950s or 1960s, probably harder than even 20 years ago.
As you’ve noted in prior columns, changes in the rules re teachers’ ability to discipline students have resulted in increased misbehavior.
Other important changes over time that have made teaching today more difficult:
1. Elimination of tracking — teachers have to teach the same lesson at several different ability/achievement levels; extra effort + boredom/frustration leading to misbehavior for the kids when the teacher is teaching at someone else’s ability/achievement level.
2. Pressure to keep kids on track for on-time graduation + to graduate almost everyone; results in kids having to do academic work that they are not capable of doing + of kids who decades ago would have dropped out still sitting in the high school classes, marking time and screwing around.
3. Kids having access to computers/iPads/iPhones in the classroom, so the kids are screwing around on their digital devices while the teacher is trying to teach.
4. Kids being used to watching very high quality professional entertainment on TV and the internet; this raises the bar for the level of entertainment the kids come to expect from the teacher.
5. Related to #4, kids growing up with constant one-way stimulation from TV and the internet, so that kids have a shorter attention span + less ability to amuse themselves when there is neither social interaction with peers nor entertainment directed specifically at them. This makes it harder for the teacher to split the class into three groups, interact with one group, and realistically expect most of the kids in the other two groups to continue working independently on their own.
Folks my age — remembering their own school experiences in the 1950s and 1960s — do not appreciate how much harder it is to teach today.
Labor Lawyer: All of the factors you point out are correct. Teaching young people today is much harder than it was decades ago. I’m not saying that students were angels in that era, but teachers did not have to confront the distracting factors that exist today and teachers were able to act in loco parentis. I’m glad I’m retired from the classroom.