Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Job Well Done

I had missed out on the story that famed educator Jamie Escalante had passed away. I never saw the move about him, as tough school teachers struggling against the odds weren't really my cup of tea back then. Now? Haha. Yet I feel like he represents all of us in a way. In fact, reading some of the criticism of him I felt like he represents us even more. I can't find the exact website where I read the critique of his methods but the gist of it was that his students just learned by rote and didn't understand the concepts of calculus. I feel like this is an argument that I might have listened to at some point but certainly not in the last two years. Now all I wonder is whether his students made it into college or not. The answer seems to be that they did at a much higher rate then their peers. Good. Whether they did it by rote or by skill or by computer chips implanted in their brain, I don't care. The important part is that they got out of somewhere and got into somewhere else. Having taught in several schools known for being bad, I have to say that that is pretty much the most that I can hope for some of my students, even though it will never happen for a lot of them. I wish I could communicate to the person who wrote "But they don't understand the concepts" how little I care. Do you think that getting into college made them have less opportunities in life? Did their high test scores not enable them to find another field they were interested in? Furthermore, how many people who do understand the concepts don't understand other things in other fields? Are they crippled in their effectiveness as humans somehow? I doubt it. I am telling you now, I will teach my students any tricks and any methods that I think will give them a chance to have a choice about how their lives turn out. Would I rather give them a solid liberal arts education? Sure. Is that the system most of us find ourselves in? No. Congrats Jamie. Job well done.

End note: I am also attracted to this as it says something very positive about America that a man from Bolivia was able to become an esteemed teacher. I am not saying anything. I am just saying.

1 comment:

The Morholt said...

These observations speak to a concept I've been thinking about a lot lately and had a bit of dialog with Jake about; how teachers are part of initiation and rite of passage. Not exactly earth-shattering observations, but thinking of our jobs in those terms is a paradigm-shift for most people, even for many teachers.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.