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Jul. 14 2010 - 12:22 am | 509 views | 0 recommendations | 18 comments

The Real Value Of A Rude, Stupid Teacher

Polish primary school and grammar school (gymn...

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Here’s a novel educational theory, espoused by an outgoing high-ranking official in British education:

Ms Atkins argued that poor teachers should not be sacked, as schools “need to reflect society”.

She told The Sunday Times: “It’s about learning how to identify good role models. One really good thing about primary school is that every kid learns how to deal with a really —- teacher.”

She continued: “I would not remove every single useless teacher because every grown-up in a workplace needs to learn to deal with the moron who sits four desks down without lamping them and to deal with authority that’s useless.

“I’d like to keep the number low, but if every primary school has one pretty naff teacher, this helps kids realise that even if you know the quality of authority is not good, you have to learn how to play it.”

I see her point. There are few things more demoralizing, after years of hard working studying and prepping and interning for the glamorous world of work than discovering that the “real world” offers some of the stupidest people you’ve ever met — and some of them are your bosses.

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to learn early of their existence and how to deke around their insanity.

Or — is this woman nuts?


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  1. collapse expand

    Fine, as long as they don’t teach something important. Have the gym teachers be the total dipshits.

  2. collapse expand

    But that’s the point….even the best jobs can inflict a horrible boss; and for those of us who are athletic, even having a crap gym teacher is serious business.

    • collapse expand

      Physical education is an oxymoron like vacation bible school or good government or adult male. Every fat unhealthy classmate I ever had benefited not one iota from attending gym class taught by academically challenged instructors from such vaunted educational institutions like Slippery Rock University. Athletics (something beautiful) is nothing like gym class, and shouldn’t be confused with it. A lot of gym teachers want to coach, but cannot due to chronic stupidity. Throw me the ball! I’m open!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    There’s a new comedy show on the FX network on cable called ‘Louie’ which was conceived by the comedian Louis C.K.. In last night’s episode he made a comparable point. Gathering with parents and teachers for a PTA meeting which seems obsessed with dealing with silly problems, he says to the group something to the effect, “Yeah, but school sucks – it sucked when we were in school – you make the best of it.” Another parent replied, “I don’t think you’re going to make a lot of allies with that idea.” But how true.

  4. collapse expand

    In retrospect, I was lucky to not have had any truly horrible teachers — which might be why I was so shocked by the insanity of some workplaces. I had teachers who were really demanding, but that was a good thing.

  5. collapse expand

    I feel like there crappy teachers wouldn’t bother us so much if we knew they weren’t tenured. One of my least favorite teacher had multiple complaints against her, but she was locked into the security of her job. She literally taught problems from a worksheet then let us sit around (and cause trouble) for the remainder of the period.

    I agree all teacher can’t be stellar, but there has to be a point where a teacher is so awful that he or she can be fired for inadequacy.

    • collapse expand

      The problem is the same whether we want to promote or get rid of a teacher: What criteria should we use?

      Most can clearly see who is doing well and who isn’t; yet we can also see that these are qualitative, not quantitative, value judgments. Good luck getting a bureaucracy to acknowledge that!

      Ms. Atkins is evading the problem by making up a ridiculous excuse to justify mediocrity. Instead of firing a rotten teacher she says we should learn from them by framing such performance in terms of life experience. Well then, why not attempt to find a way for bureaucracies to accept the value judgments of those whose job it is hire and fire teachers: The Principals!

      How could we have forgotten THEM?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    leon, so bitter! I must have had OK gym teachers. The harder part for many kids, with gym, is if they really have no athletic ability yet are run ragged when in no condition to do so. I loved my gym classes, but I was a competitive jock.

    mp817, NYC for many years had a “rubber room” — a crazy, costly scandal — where teachers who were deemed dangerous or difficult were confined, sometimes for years, on *full pay*. This, as a result of the difficulty of getting rid of bad ones. Thank God, as a non-parent, I don’t face this issue personally.

  7. collapse expand

    I think this idea is complete rubbish. The education system shouldn’t be about conditioning our youth to accept a life surrounded by idiots. Conditioning our youth to not be idiots makes a lot more sense to me.

    Everyone grows up facing disagreements, irrational opposition, and abused authority. Agreeing, as a society, to purposely foster what can be a huge roadblock to success is just depressing. I know people who dropped out of school because of terrible student/teacher relationships.

  8. collapse expand

    I just completed my graduate studies and received my teaching license. I have a few prospects, but it is a very difficult job market for teachers (amongst numerous other professions). I hope to have a position for the coming year, but we shall see. The thought of a teacher being kept at a school under this rationale is nauseating. Questioning authority is something any skilled teacher can work into their curriculum. No need to have a staggering jackass filling a position which many qualified and quality individuals would jump at.

  9. collapse expand

    tony, I agree…I thought it was a bizarre and provocative idea, which is why I blogged it.

    Sean, exactly….This is why anyone in NYC was so appalled at the “rubber room” where teachers pulled in full salary (and even accrued vacation!) for doing NOTHING all day…having been removed from the classroom for incompetence but not yet having their case adjudicated.

  10. collapse expand

    The USA has a society built not around knowledge but greed.

    Food quality, which affects the ability to reason, continually degrades in the quest for quarterly profits. Supplementing poor food are prescription pills by the billions which degrade cognitive function.

    We had a joke at the university: if you fail every other path you can always become a teacher.

    Is it any wonder that the schools are filled with ignorant assholes? Methinks no.

    A stupid population is a population easy to control. If you were a slave-owner, would you properly feed and educate your slaves? Or would you fear that they would revolt or just choose not to be complicit if their cognitive functions were nurtured instead of beat down.

  11. collapse expand

    Cheerful. If you watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution — in which schoolchildren did not know how to use a knife and fork (!) from eating crap with one hand — you’d agree with this sad thesis.

  12. collapse expand

    “lamping”? “deke”?

    from what mixicon is you drawin’, dahlin’?

  13. collapse expand

    Hmmm. It’s an interesting idea to keep some of the lousy teachers around if only to teach kids how to navigate around them. But what if you’re that one kid who happens to get the reject teacher in every grade? I know from my own experience that a deadly teacher for a critical subject can really mess up your foundation for building on that class in the future. I had a horrible Algebra teacher in 9th grade and it took a couple of years of outside tutoring as I progressed in math to make up the difference. Not only is that a lot of lost time, but it also killed any ambition I had for the sciences.

    I think there’s something to be said for the Master teacher concept, i.e. having an exemplary elementary or high school science teacher, for example, pass along their knowledge, their tricks of the trade, and their passion to their less gifted peers. And if they’re really hopeless, there should be a humane way to weed them out and suggest that perhaps teaching isn’t the best fit.

  14. collapse expand

    Deke is a very common sports term…to deceive, or feint or fake out.

    Lamping — I don’t see that word.

    imho, this is true. I might not have ended up as a writer without the tremendous encouragement of several teachers…and I did not try college biology (which I loved) as I was warned it would be “too hard.” Better I should have tried and failed, or not.

    Teachers can and do have tremendous effects on us and our kids.

    • collapse expand

      So true; I had an amazing grade 10 science teacher who won me over. His enthusiasm motivated me and now I’ve got degrees in engineering physics and computer science, and I’m almost done my master’s.

      On the other hand until I took electives in other subjects at university I didn’t understand what these other fields were really even about. What does someone with a PHD in English lit even do?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  15. collapse expand

    They wait tables…Seriously, the lucky ones teach.

    Being actively encouraged is huge; my partner has a very senior journo job as a photo editor — a high school teacher put a camera in his hand and told him he had talent. I was lucky enough, in my senior year, to have two English teachers practically insisting I become a writer professionally. That really helped me gain confidence.

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