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 What Teachers Know and Can Do 
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Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2006 5:12 pm
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Location: Ashe County Schools
Being that Savage Inequalities is a rather depressing book, I was refreshed to read a short description of Ms. Hawkins on pages 48 and 49. It made me want to go back to a second grade classroom and do the things she was doing. Self-motivation, self-esteem, and helping your sister or your brother are three things ALL children need to learn, whether they be in South Chicago or in northern Ashe County. I admire Ms. Hawkins because she is an overcomer - not only did she "survive" public school, but she has chosen to give back. That's why so many educators consider teaching a calling rather than a profession. Linda Darling-Hammond, a researcher in teacher quality, found that what a teacher knows and can do affects student learning more than any other factor. Teacher training is vital, but pouring wine into cracked wineskins doesn't do any good. Trying to train teachers who let it go in one ear and out the other really doesn't help anyone. I am of the conviction that WHO we choose as teachers for our public schools makes such a difference. Human Resources has a saying that is so true: we hire people because of WHAT they know and fire people because of WHO they are. Unfortunately with a teacher shortage in the US, in certain subject areas we don't have too many to choose from. So, my question is ... what would attract more highly qualified individuals into the teaching profession?

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Rena Powers


Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:49 pm
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I hate to parrot what is so often referenced in Kozol's book, but money seems to be what draws many into other fields. Both of my parents are public school teachers and have always been employed in areas working towards the greater good; without saying so explicitly, they instilled in me, not only a desire to do this work without much pay, but a reverse snobbery for the wealthy. "Well, you may have a lot of money, but how does your existence benefit society?" kind of thing. If you lack this sort of righteousness in the beginning, you may never get into a career like teaching to discover how good it can make you feel. I also thoroughly believe in the concept of being "called" to do something. And, I try to help my students realize what talents and passions they may have. However, I believe this also because of my parents' take on careers. Many people don't feel like that. A job is just something you do to pay the bills. So, if it doesn't pay the bills (or just barely), then what's the point?

Apart from the financial side of things, increasing society's respect for teachers would also help. So many people including my friends and PROFESSORS told me, "You're too smart to be a teacher. You should do something else." Too smart to be a teacher! That statement says it all. Granted, there are a lot of bad teachers out there, and it might be one of those vicious cycles where you can't convince better people to be teachers until you have better teachers who increase the renown of the profession.

However, what has almost burned me out as a teacher after five years is not the students at all, but the administration and bueracracy. No offense, Rena, I'm sure this doesn't apply to you. But, my experience is that most educators who go into administration do it for the money and that they couldn't hack it in the classroom. Those are not the kind of people to be running schools.

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Stephanie Holt Helmer


Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:08 pm
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I also enjoyed the passage about Ms. Hawkins; however, the sad truth is that students in Ms. Hawkin’s class will not have her as their teacher throughout the rest of their academic careers, and most of these students will fall victim to the misfortunes the public school system breeds. In a way, the scene in Ms. Hawkin’s classroom depressed me more than most scenes in the book because I realized that in spite of this wonderful teacher's best intentions, most of her students would not make it. It seems to me that though bringing in more teachers like Ms. Hawkins is a step in the right direction, it will not be a large enough move to encourage real change. The entire public school system is flawed, and it needs to be addressed. We have to make society as a whole aware of this injustice. Even more so we need to make society as a whole care, and I don’t know if that is possible.

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April Eichmiller


Mon Aug 28, 2006 7:50 am
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I have a LOT of stuff going through my head in response to all of your posts, as well as this book. Reading this has been a struggle - not because its not good, but all of the hopelessness - page after page of it, has been awful. But who am I to complain? At least I’m not the one having to live in a house full of raw sewage.
Rena, I love what you said about how we “hire people for what they know and fire them for who they areâ€

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Nicki Boyette


Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:59 pm
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