Thursday, April 16, 2009

If you want me to take you seriously, get with the program

I find that as I'm getting older I have less patience for teachers who simply refuse to get with the program when it comes to altering the way they teach to accommodate the sweeping changes in the way students learn. We are constantly told that those of us who have gone through our paces, learned new ways of instruction and have done our best to become adepts with the new skills sets and technology need to be more understanding and let the older teachers ease into this gradually. Sometimes we're even told not to worry about it because some of them only have seven or eight years left before they retire.

By way of analogy, there was an episode of the TV show Scrubs where the main character JD was being mentored by an elderly, well-beloved doctor played by Dick VanDyke. VanDyke's character was charming and warm, but he still practiced medicine using techniques that were decades old. This lead to an incident where a patient almost died, and JD had to report him. The chief of medicine had to let VanDyke go because he refused to keep up to date, and patients were being harmed because of it. I feel that teachers are in the same position.

How many other careers allow for practitioners to disregard methods that improve productivity simply because they don't want to change? In most jobs I can think of, such individuals would be out on their asses, and often there's a lot less at stake than we have in education.

Perhaps I get so annoyed because I still have kids in school, and it is beyond aggravating to think that they may not get the most out of their education because we coddle some people who don't want to keep up-to-date on their profession.

For as long as I've been a teacher, I've heard time and again how many in the business are frustrated because so much of the public doesn't see teaching as a "profession." They want to be put in the same category as doctors, lawyers, psychologists and the like. The problem is that in all those fields, the respect doesn't just come from what those professionals have done in the past, it deals with what they are doing to stay abreast in the present. If teachers want to be treated like professionals, then they have to act like them.