The 37% Problem

According to a poll of 1500 students ranked in the top 1/3 of their college classes, only 37% of these high-achievers believe the following about teaching: “people in this job are considered successful.”

It’s great to know that 63% of the people who helped students get to this point are unsuccessful.

photo of a teacher sitting in an empty elementary school classroom

Katheryn Ellender at Hatton Elementary in Bridge City, TX

It goes back to the nasty adage “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” derived from George Bernard Shaw’s “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches” in Maxims for Revolutionists, which features other choice sayings like “Home is the girl’s prison and the woman’s workhouse” and “Do not give your children moral and religious instruction unless you are quite sure they will not take it too seriously.” It also has a section called “How to Beat Children.” Shaw, a diehard satirist and socialist, distrusted most institutions, including the schools, the church, and the government. Perhaps if more people were familiar with his writings, they might cease to parrot his bon mots on teaching.

But I digress. People don’t respect teachers very much. Top students see the teaching profession as underpaid–which it often is–and beneath their talents–which is most certainly is not.

How about this instead?

Those who can, walk into a room of 20 desks where 26 students wait, 2 of them asleep, 7 of them hungry because the last meal they ate was at school 20 hours ago, 3 of them still mastering English as their second language, all of them without physical textbooks, and do something about it.

I write this post because one of the comments that has stuck with me from the Fall 2011 iteration of ENGL3043: Professional Writing for Electronic Media came from an elementary education major. She, along with several classmates, had created a wiki explaining the complex process of graduating from the College of Education at PVAMU: two application processes, multiple practice tests, hours upon hours of classroom observation, etc. A business major who clicked through the site commented that he had no idea how much it took to become a teacher.

I think social media have the potential to bring this message to people outside the educational arena. You think that the teacher just babysits 22 kids all day? Check out her Twitter feed…and her blog, which has examples of student work in math, language arts, science, social studies, health and art (all covered, somehow, between 8:30 and 3:30)…her Facebook page, where she interacts with parents at all hours explaining homework and school policies…

image from FEMA via Wikimedia Commons


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