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What is an Exemplary Teacher?

I was recently reading an article titled “What Happens to Bad Teachers?”  The article suggested that “getting rid of problem educators is a lot easier in theory than in practice.”  This got me to thinking, (a) Who hired them in the first place, and (b) What constitutes an exemplary teacher?  My wife has been in the teaching business for the past sixteen (16) years, the last four as a middle-school principal.  Identified as a Title 1 school with over 50% poverty (53.4), she has guided that school to the School of Promise award for three of the four years, and Exemplary School status for 2009.  That level of achievement, over the past four years, with only four years at the helm, in any school – far more a Title 1 school, suggested to me that she may know a bit about teachers and teaching.  So rather than talk about “bad” teachers whom, it is suggested in the article, are hard to dismiss, I elected to focus on the attributes of an exemplary teacher.  My simple question to her was; “What is an exemplary teacher?”

Her response:  “Willing to remove any barrier in the way of that child’s learning – willing to teach that child coping skills to deal with barriers affecting learning.  A teacher who would give up lunch, come in early, or make a home visit at the drop of a hat.”

That got me thinking.  I have no answers to my questions.  I just have a whole lot of questions for you.

  1. How is an exemplary teacher developed?
  2. How is an exemplary teacher nurtured?
  3. How early should “child barrier removal” be initiated?
  4. What are these potential barriers?
  5. Are teachers trained in barrier recognition?
  6. Are teachers trained in barrier removal?
  7. What if a child does not have control over barriers?
  8. Are environmental barriers different from biological or neurological barriers?
  9. Do they require different learning and training?
  10. What is the nurture/nature relationship with barriers and barrier development?
  11. Are barriers more evidenced in certain populations that in others?
  12. Are barriers different relative to social land/or ethnic differences of the populations being served?
  13. If “yes” do we have specialized teacher training in barrier recognition and removal?
  14. Is there remuneration for training specialization?
  15. What schools/colleges/universities are particularly good at training for barrier recognition and removal?

It seems to me that it would do us well to go backward and recognize universities that consistently produce exemplary teachers, and highlight those that do not.

Bad teachers come from somewhere.  Exemplary teachers come from somewhere.  Identify the farm.  Identify the farmer.   Don’t wait until you buy crappy fruit and then blame the fruit.  That just means that you suck at selecting good fruit.

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This is not my blog.  I picked it up off Blogspot this morning.  It is a post by Dean Dad.  The entire blog is reposted here for your review.  The response (below) is mine. Enjoy!

Diversity Hiring

I’m on the horns of a dilemma here, and I’m hoping that crowdsourcing the problem might lead to a sustainable solution. Wise and worldly readers, I’m counting on you!

Like many colleges, my college’s faculty does not reflect the demographics of either its students or its community. Bluntly, it’s a lot whiter. The disparity is largest on the faculty side.

The Board of Trustees has made a public commitment to diversifying the college. However, opportunities for hiring are fewer and farther between now than they once were, with the recession-driven cuts in state aid. The pincer movement of ‘a drive to diversify’ and ‘a paucity of openings’ means that the college has to take a serious shot at candidates from underrepresented groups whenever it can. That’s proving harder than one might expect.

The teaching load here is typical for community colleges in this region, which is to say, it’s not for the faint of heart. And while the benefits are good, the starting salaries won’t blow the doors off.

Even in this economy, we’ve had trouble recruiting minority faculty. We’ve made offers, but we keep losing out to places with higher salaries or lower teaching loads. Minority candidates are in much higher demand than others, so even in this market, they can command offers far sweeter than what we can muster. And faculty salaries here are determined by a pretty mechanistic collective bargaining agreement.

We’ve exhausted the low-hanging fruit. We advertise in venues likelier to attract minority applicants. We have racially mixed search committees. We screen job posting language carefully to ensure that nothing in them creates unnecessary barriers. The low-cost, nonconflictual stuff is already done.

Which means, in practice, that the available options are few.

One is to simply make the salary offers the contract allows, and to hope for the best. When we get turned down, turn to whomever else is available. It’s legally clean, but in practice, it makes an already very white faculty that much whiter. It winds up placing a value of ‘zero’ on diversity, with predictable results.

Another would be to go above the grid and simply endure the grievances. If paying an extra, say, 5k will make the difference, and the Trustees have determined that the difference is worth making, then so be it. The advantage of this approach is that it stands a greater chance of actually recruiting people. The disadvantages, though, are several. For one, it virtually guarantees protracted legal battles with the union. For another, it stirs up resentments that tend to get ugly fast. And at a really basic level, it raises the question of just what, exactly, the candidate is being paid for.

The union, of course, would prefer that we simply raise the entire salary scale until the whole thing is high enough that we can recruit without premiums. But that’s a budget buster, and it would actually freeze the existing imbalances in place. It’s both unaffordable and unhelpful. It’s a nonstarter.

(And please, don’t start in with the usual “bloated administrative salaries” crap. We’ve already shed administrators, and I’m looking now at the fourth consecutive year at the same salary.)

Which means that the second option is rapidly becoming the preferred one. Without it, recent results have shown, the racial gaps will simply continue to grow.

But if we go with the second option, the question of magnitude becomes real. So, wise and worldly readers, is there a reasonably elegant and sustainable way to improve our minority hiring results within the confines of limited resources and a vigilant union? I’d honestly like to know.

 # posted by Dean Dad @ 2:18 AM

RESPONSE to Diversity Hiring: 

Okay ~ let me help you out here. 1.  I don’t know where, geographically, you are talking about. That makes a difference relative to your ability to attract ethnic minority candidates. (I am assuming that is your reference in using the term “diversity”). If you are in a culturally white area, there are only two reason I would come there. (a) Does the benefit of the 5k balance the social & emotional cost of uprooting myself and working in that environment?  (b) Would my experience in that environment translate into opportunities elsewhere – let’s say 3 years down the road.

If the answer to each is “no” or “not likely” then I am not coming. Makes sense?

So you are left with another option:  Search within an environment, similar to the one you’re in, where the population you are looking for (Blacks, Latinos) are already acculturated. They’ve grown-up in the environment.

3. You have differences (not the point of discussion here) between African Americans and Africans, or African Americans and Caribbeanos.  Africans and Caribbeanos are more readiliy acculturated or “acculturable” (See – I made up a word) than African Americans. Why is not our point of discourse here. You target that population.

Finally, it is according to what you want them to teach.  There are readied populations in certain areas…there are invisible populaltions in other areas of academia. There are certain areas of academic that we have not yet discovered, been advised of, engaged in…blah, blah, blah.

Good Luck.

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