How to Fix Education in America…

Old School House in Brooks California built in 1868

… and Probably Fix Many Other Things as Well

If pride is the root of all evil, then employing the proper amount of respect for one another should cancel all the failings that pride has brought us.  Instill greater respect in our children and we should see a return to happier times as our children grow into leaders.

It appears to me that America could learn a lot about respect in schools from the Asians.  It is obvious that we should be observing the best education practices throughout the world and adopting the ones that fit our particular needs.  Indeed, we already do this.  Therefore, I suggest that we attempt to adopt the respect that comes with the title a teacher carries in some Asian countries by granting a similar title to our teachers in America.  A very attractive aspect of this solution is that, unlike raising teacher salaries (a fine idea but apparently not very doable at this time), it would cost us little to pass laws requiring the administration to always address teachers by their official title.  And where the administration must go by law (and perhaps the students as well), the public may follow.

More particularly, this is what I suggest and what it looks like (and, no, I am not a teacher myself):

  • All school administration officials are required to always address a teacher by the title of “Teacher.”  The easy aspect of such a law or rule is that it can be tried at any level: private, local, or state.  Include other other government officials in the law if you can such as mayors and governors.  Basically, what this law should look like is that all official correspondence from the administration to Teacher Jones, for example, must be addressed to “Teacher Jones.”   Even things like paychecks should show this title.  Similarly, in a conversation between the principal and Teacher Jones, the principal, by law, must address the teacher by the full title of “Teacher Jones” throughout the conversation and cannot use any other familiar names.  (To nitpick, the title address should come before any pronouns in a sentence such as “Teacher Jones, will you do such and such for me?”)  It would be my hope that at some point the laws can be taken further to require students and even parents to also properly address teachers during official business… that is, if common courtesy fails to dictate this.
  • The administration is there to support the teacher and not the other way around.  For example, if the principal needs to be present during a dispute between a parent and a teacher, the principal must appear to back the teacher in all things (and must also set the example how to the properly address the teacher by proper title).  If the teacher and principal disagree on certain points, this should not be visible to the parent and should be resolved at another time.  The administration may serve to handle disputes between teachers — but a better idea might be for the teachers to set up a council of their peers (such as 3 or 12 fellow teachers, depending on level of dispute) to handle such matters.  The administration, such as the principal, may serve to help guide the teachers toward a common goal.  The administration may be in charge of evaluating teachers and the teaching systems in general.
  • The parent is there to support the teacher and not the other way around.  If you see wisdom in the old saying that it takes a town to raise a child, then granting more power to our teachers to raise our children is likely our best hope to reclaim this wisdom in our modern cities.  If we cannot trust our teachers to be experts with children, then we are lost.  Therefore, a teacher must have the right to lecture parents when needed and even give parents disciplinary assignments that may affect the advancement of their child.  Teachers should also conduct home visits somewhat regularly in pairs or small groups.
  • The teacher and the teacher’s classroom is like unto a captain and the captain’s vessel.  The first and final authority in a classroom must be the teacher assigned to that classroom.  This authority also applies to substitute teachers when in place.  The administration can help guide a teacher but must ultimately respect the teacher’s authority with the development and discipline of a student.  Laws may need to be written to help support this and to do more to protect teachers from angry parents.  Furthermore, like a captain is responsible for their passengers even during port, a teacher can exercise authority over their students even in public outside of school hours.  Disrespect in public can rightfully be handled later at school.  Past teachers, retired or not, can still exercise some residual authority over students they recognize in public with disrespect handled similarly when reported to the student’s current teacher(s).
  • All teachers should attempt to be a model of how power sharing should work.  Rules may need to be written to help establish this.  Teacher power sharing may look something like the following.  All students must respect the authority of all teachers at all times.  If a student is in the presence of another teacher and not their own, they must obey that teacher.  If a student appears to be under a conflict of orders from more than one teacher, then the student and teacher should do their best to resolve the conflict and all parties ultimately report back to the student’s regular teacher or “home” teacher if orders were altered.  I thought about writing some example scenarios here but they seemed silly and full of common sense.
  • The title of “Teacher” should not be automatic and can even be stripped from undeserving individuals.  The title should have to be earned — perhaps through the current certification process — perhaps something more.  Once earned, the title is generally kept forever.  Substitute teachers can earn the title.  If switching careers from teaching to school administration, then the title should be put away for that time in favor of more appropriate school administration titles.  The title can be revoked if the teacher is proven to not be acting in the best interest of children.

Much of this may sound similar to the way faculty are seen at universities but this is neither my goal nor have I thought much about the connection.  I have thought a bit about tenure systems and would strongly recommend against such things for elementary teachers.  Our kids are too important to risk keeping a bad teacher in place due to such rules or politics.  If a teacher becomes tired of the occupation, or loses skill, move them out if the situation cannot be improved.  How to properly evaluate teachers and weed out the less talented ones is probably the subject of a whole new thought process and another essay.  For now, I would hope that the above suggestions would bring about such a better quality of teacher that they would figure out how to weed themselves out.  But, yes, perhaps that is hoping too much.

Reason Behind the Rant

I believe strongly in fixing things from the inside out.  Parents, in general, do not give teachers enough respect and it also shows in their kids.  Many parents do not give anybody enough respect and this also shows in their kids.   Therefore, because many parents can’t parent properly, let us give more power to the teachers to help the next generation grow beyond the previous one in spite of the parents.  This is the best hope for our schools and for all parts of our future… provided we can find teachers up to the challenge.

Hopes

It is hoped that reestablishing respect in our kids early on will grow into respect in all things throughout our country, resulting in a better America.

It is hoped that elevating the position of a teacher by simply elevating (and perhaps regulating) the title of “Teacher” will attract better-quality teachers regardless of pay.

It is hoped that once we have attracted enough better-quality teachers and have given them sufficient respect to act with more authority, they will then begin to fix the pay problems in innovative ways, which should further the attraction of even more better-quality teachers.

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