The Toughest Job in the World:Teaching Teachers


Certainly the title of this article exudes hyperbole, but teaching teachers is a job I would not take on. Some hubris is required to be a good teacher and some are quick to judge teaching methods or styles they themselves would not utilize or adopt.

During a visit to one of my old college buddies, I was lucky enough to tag along to a professional development meeting for teachers that he was required to attend. He wanted me to meet some of his colleagues and then go to lunch after the professional development class was done with.

Prior to the entrance of the speaker, I could easily detect the disdain and lack of enthusiasm many of the teachers had for being at a function that might expose them as bad teachers. My Mom, who was a professor at an Ivy League School, was fond of the phrase teachers make the worse students.

A school admin then introduced Carol Ann Gittens, a psychologist from a school in Santa Clara, CA, who was the poor soul saddled with the task of teaching obstreperous educators. This woman miraculously reversed the mood of the room and managed to engage even the most sullen members of the audience.

She produced an excellent example of the difficult to define term, critical thinking, where she shared a pacemaker story. I believe a decision had to be made on whether to upgrade a pacemaker on a girl who had a congenital heart problem. Many teachers got involved and some rousing exchanges occurred with one of the teachers claiming to have first hand experience with some sort of insurance issue. The kicker was that it was the speaker’s daughter who had the marginally defective pacemaker and an informed quick decision was the most important thing in her life at the time!

I was appalled at the number of teachers on their smartphones or engaging in distracting cross talk or other things that they would scold students for in their own classrooms. I would wager some of the most egregious offenders are the same teachers that would be the most pissed off if their kids were acting that way!

Gittens had some great material that I will use in my profession including the idea of shut down cliches which are things students and teachers can say that will stymie a healthy learning environment. For example, a student when defending his point of view might reply that is  just what I believe or it is just common sense. Carol declared that these type of “arguments” have no place in critical thinking exchanges.

I don’t know who her boss is, but she deserves a raise for walking into semi-hostile environments of teachers who have been ordered to be there and often possess haughty attitudes towards any suggestions that they might be able to do their jobs better!

Finally, I was impressed with her polite, but firm, stance on the perils of standardized testing, especially PARCC.



2 comments on “The Toughest Job in the World:Teaching TeachersAdd yours →

  1. Carol Gittens is an excellent speaker and the type of educator who can handle abrasive, arrogant, school teachers. She spoke fondly about Stan Milgram and his study of obedience to authority versus ones own personal code of ethics. I think she mentioned Malcom Gladwell and his work Blink when she spoke to our group of “educators” who had some of the annoying negative habits you mentioned. I remember the convoluted definition of critical thinking she showed us during our professional development get to together, but it was not her definition, just one that had been published by some other entity. I thought she did a great job of keeping people engaged given their resistance to learn anything new 🙂

    1. Hailey Rabideau, from Michigan in the United States, pens effusive and compelling arguments that teachers are underpaid and unappreciated. She naively writes an open letter to the future president, just as though he(NOT SHE) will read it and take it seriously. Hailey Rabideau does not get that if teaching were a higher paid profession, she probably would have never been hired as a teacher to begin with. More talented teachers would have applied for those $70,000 Hailey believes teachers deserve AND Hailey may not have every been interviewed. The competition created by high salaries would blocked many average teachers from ever breaking into the beleagured profession. I was just reading about a fight between a teacher and a pissed off parent!

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