Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Peter Greene, Huffington Post: The hard part of teaching is coming to grips with this: There is never enough. There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you. As a teacher, you can see what a perfect job in your classroom would look like. You know all the assignments you should be giving. You know all the feedback you should be providing your students. You know all the individual crafting that should provide for each individual's instruction. You know all the material you should be covering. You know all the ways in which, when the teachable moment emerges (unannounced as always), you can greet it with a smile and drop everything to make it grow and blossom. ... Every year you get better. You get faster, you learn tricks, you learn which corners can more safely be cut, you get better at predicting where the student-based bumps in the road will appear. A good administrative team can provide a great deal of help. But every day is still educational triage.


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Babbles linked to this story yesterday and as the husband of a damned fine professional educator, I thought it worthy of its own thread.


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#1 | Posted by pragmatist at 2014-07-08 10:22 PM | Reply | Flag:

Thanks Mustang, great thread!

#2 | Posted by tonyroma at 2014-07-09 09:58 PM | Reply | Flag:

NW flag for story. Great find, Mustang.

#3 | Posted by TheTom at 2014-07-09 10:12 PM | Reply | Flag:

The right wing attack on teachers and their unions is disgusting.

#4 | Posted by nutcase at 2014-07-09 10:57 PM | Reply | Flag:

To be fair, Tom, as 'Stang noted, it was Afk's find. As I said to my retired Texas colleague, a current colleague in my high school, shared this the same day Afk asked me about it.

And it's not a thread, Tony, till some conversation, happens. :)

#5 | Posted by pragmatist at 2014-07-09 11:51 PM | Reply | Flag:

Noted, Prag. Good find, Afk, then.
I missed Mustang's previous reference to it.
Perhaps I was having difficulty juxtaposing Afk and Huffpo. ;)

#6 | Posted by TheTom at 2014-07-10 07:26 AM | Reply | Flag:

Assume 120 students over the course of a day.

Assume 5 minutes of 'individual attention' each per week.

Your 40 hour week just became a 50 hour week.

Individual attention goes mainly ONE place:
--Where it is EXPECTED to make a difference.
--NOT, absolutely NOT, where it is 'needed'.

The place where such attention is 'expected to make a difference', might also be 'where it is needed', but that is only some of the time.

What helps make such individual attention 'expected to make a difference'?: PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN "NEARLY" BLIND SUPPORT OF THE TEACHER. Not absolutely blind, but near blind support.

Crazy kid and parents absent? Don't waste my time. Effort goes to containment that kid, and real effort goes to kids where it might make a difference.

#7 | Posted by USAF242 at 2014-07-10 07:47 AM | Reply | Flag:

#7 Let us not forget the old axiom "10% of the class gets 90% of the attention". The good kids, the quiet ones who raise their hands, get good or at least reasonably good grades, turn in completed homework, etc... they don't get that 5 minutes. The unknowingly abdicate their time whenever the inattentive troublemaker opens his mouth, or gets up and walks around the classroom causing problems, and doesn't turn in completed homework, and whose parents argue with the teacher during PT conferences because their kid is getting D's and F's and they think it isn't the kid's fault or their fault. It's a vicious cycle - a kid who is behind a little this year will be further behind next year and even more disruptive. And it's not just the teacher's time...it's district financial resources. Additional educators and/or para-educators are hired just to try to handle the trouble kids and give the homeroom teachers more time. School resource officers are hired when those kids are old enough to start becoming REAL problems. Metal detectors are installed. School counselors burn every minute they have trying to determine if little Johnny is going to become a sociopath and try to harm someone instead of steering kids toward careers and goals.....

..and it all comes down to parenting.

#8 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2014-07-10 08:05 AM | Reply | Flag:

I've got a Master's Degree for teaching history. Have not used it since 911. Keep thinking of getting back into it, and keep going back to Emergency Management.

I taught at a fairly good public school. No huge nightmare stories, but yep, the 'never enough' applies in spades.

Best move I made was contacting parents of every student. About 80% were easy to contact. About 15% took a little effect. About 5% I had to hunt down. Just the fact that every kid KNEW I could reach and communicate with home made a big difference.

Oh how I HATED, PASSIONATELY, all the time stolen by school functions.

My rule: Pick about 3 or 4 topics to get real attention during the year. Give those topics reasonable coverage and discussion. Everything else gets crammed into left over time.

And the main lesson of those topics was NOT the topic (although that certainly got covered), but HOW to look at a topic. If you can't look at a point of view that we find repugnant today, and UNDERSTAND how people could fight, die and kill to support it at some point in history, WITHOUT defaulting to 'bad people', you have failed. "Bad culture'? Absolutely. But the 'bad people' will also be present on the 'good guy side'.

Same for current events. Never was allowed to address it in class, but a rational look "Pro-Choice/Pro-Life" makes clear that the Pro-Choice have ZERO interest in aborting even one fetus, and the Pro-Life have ZERO interest in forcing even one woman to be a mother against her will (yes, you read that correctly).

#9 | Posted by USAF242 at 2014-07-10 08:10 AM | Reply | Flag:

#9 Rationality is sure to get you ostracized here on the DR, USAF! Don't you know you need to pick one fringe or the other here?

#10 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2014-07-10 08:36 AM | Reply | Flag:

..and it all comes down to parenting.

#8 | Posted by MUSTANG

But the government can't really regulate parenting, aside from extreme cases of abuse.

So we're left with trying to do the best we can for kids. Which requires far more resources than republican tax-cutters are willing to pay.

Class size is a HUGE factor. Hard to reduce it when you're cutting costs.

Teacher competence is HUGE too. Hard to hire talented people when you can't pay them well.

#11 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2014-07-10 12:24 PM | Reply | Flag:

I think that funding needs to be there, Speaks, but just looking locally at the way my VERY blue state allocates funding, I see that the money is there but the state chooses winners and losers for that funding (the urban counties receive more per student from federal and state sources). My county's kids receive about 70% of what a kid in Baltimore County receives.

And I agree totally regarding the impact of class size and how it spreads a teacher thin. My daughter's class next year will be pushing 30 students. Imagine if the state didn't pick winners for funding and could hire some more teachers.

#12 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2014-07-10 12:56 PM | Reply | Flag:

Imagine if the state didn't pick winners for funding and could hire some more teachers.

#12 | Posted by MUSTANG

Urban schools NEED more funding. And ALL teachers need to be paid far more, in order to attract talent. That's not resource allocation, it's national priorities. Repubs are happy to pay for weapons that even our military says it doesn't need, but they won't give another dime to reward those who are preparing the next generation of citizens because they see education as a liberal brainwashing conspiracy.

#13 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2014-07-10 01:07 PM | Reply | Flag:

This story seems to reinforce the wisdom of homeschooling if/when the parents can do it well.

#14 | Posted by DoofusOfDeath at 2014-07-10 01:28 PM | Reply | Flag:

I only read the opening blurb, but it hits the nail on the head. It's a tough pill to swallow, to know that even your best is likely to miss at least some students. I think there exists a small number of teachers who can really reach nearly every student; I also think anti-teacher folk tend to use those types of cases as the benchmark. And even some educators, for that matter.

#15 | Posted by dylanfan at 2014-07-10 08:25 PM | Reply | Flag:

"Never enough"

Same goes for coaching.

More significantly, same goes for parenting itself.

#16 | Posted by DixvilleNotch at 2014-07-10 08:55 PM | Reply | Flag:

#13 Other than the increased infrastructure cost (property costs more, etc..), why do urban areas need more funding than rural areas? Are urban kids always poorer? Are urban kids dumber? Do urban kids lack access to museums and libraries?

#17 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2014-07-10 09:15 PM | Reply | Flag:

Screw the funding.

First: Involved parents who support rather than interfere (by todays standards that would be 'near blind support')

Second: School admin that uses no more than one day a MONTH of class time. Screw sports and 'functions'. (You want sports? Sign up for THAT class and use the TIME from THAT class).

One allowance for 'funding' that I will make: In 'troubled' schools, fund one to three PAID teacher 'assistants' per 'troubled' class. Their main job would not be teaching, their main job would be dealing with disruptive students so the teacher does not need to stop teaching (some schools already do this for some classes).
On good days the assistant will actually be able to spend time helping with academics, but the main purpose is to prevent one or four kids from stopping a class cold.

Without the two items I numbered above, there is NOTHING that money can buy that will make more than a modest difference. That's goes especially for the first item.

Holy Trinity of education:
--Student Motivations (will be apathetic for most. Does not mean they can't be motivated, but they will only RARELY 'self-motivate'. Students that regularly 'self-motivate' cannot be stopped, but that comes from within)
--Motivated Parents (Needed to provide motivation and discipline for most students)
--Teacher (MANAGES and ASSISTS the efforts of the first two. If working without help of at least one of them, there is no hope).

#18 | Posted by USAF242 at 2014-07-10 11:08 PM | Reply | Flag: | Newsworthy 1

#13 Other than the increased infrastructure cost (property costs more, etc..), why do urban areas need more funding than rural areas? Are urban kids always poorer? Are urban kids dumber? Do urban kids lack access to museums and libraries?

#17 | Posted by MUSTANG

Because of a dearth of parenting. (see above -- "never enough" and even more important than teachers)

#19 | Posted by DixvilleNotch at 2014-07-11 01:22 AM | Reply | Flag:

#19 But is it the responsibility of our educational system to provide top cover for crappy parents? I say NO, it isn't. Why does a dirt poor kid in farm country get $10k/yr in educational funding when a kid in an urban area gets $15K. Is there anything other than geography that makes one kid worth more to the government? This isn't even an issue of black or white...there are craploads of dirt poor black farm kids in the south not getting the same school funding as their counterparts in urban Atlanta or downtown Mobile.

#20 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2014-07-11 09:26 AM | Reply | Flag:


"My rule: Pick about 3 or 4 topics to get real attention during the year. Give those topics reasonable coverage and discussion. Everything else gets crammed into left over time."

Yep, depth over breadth every time. For the past two years in the first semester of English 9, I have been focusing on ONE kind of writing: analytical. I figure if they can nail that, they can do any other kind. Or learn any other kind. And it gets us focused on precision, on grammar, on evidence...

"And ALL teachers need to be paid far more, in order to attract talent."

Now, Speak. You know that using money to attract talent is only a valid approach in the free market...

18: Holy crap! You NAILED it. So how do we make that happen, good sir? The first two seem to be the most lacking in today's reality.

And look, 19 posts and not a single union bash! Nice job, guys.

#21 | Posted by pragmatist at 2014-07-11 09:26 AM | Reply | Flag:

When the kids were in school, at least one of us went to EVERY parent-teacher conference, and asked what we could do help. Many of the teachers regarded us as space-aliens, saying our kids weren't the ones who were in trouble; and more than one teacher remarked how the parents they needed to see were not the one who came to the meetings.

Our best contribution was presenting kids at age five who were already reading and doing simple arithmetic. Oddly, we didn't consciously teach them to do either. They just saw us reading and wanted to do what their local grownups were doing. They must have really been paying attention to Sesame Street, Electric Company, Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers.

#22 | Posted by RoyaltyBatty at 2014-07-11 11:19 AM | Reply | Flag:


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