Critical Junction – Motivating Teachers

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I recently attended a meeting at which a group of educators were discussing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and how to recruit qualified teachers and raise the performance of current Georgia classroom teachers. In this meeting, a good bit of attention was given to all of the online training resources that are being developed or are already in place.

I raised the question, “How will teachers be motivated to put time and energy into learning new things via these online resources – to improve their skills as teachers and improve classroom outcomes?” Silence.

Let us first agree that their are many excellent, motivated teachers who gladly put in extra effort to be the best they can be in the classroom. They are not the concern. It’s the other end of the bell-curve that worries me. There is a reason Georgia has a 35% dropout rate and 490 math SAT average – part of it is teachers that see their work as just a job or frankly who are not sufficiently skilled or motivated to be in the classroom anyway.

Anyone who has worked with Georgia teachers for any length of time will have encountered individuals with difficulty forming a syntactically correct sentence, frequently misspell words, still don’t know the difference in left and right-click, etc. They leave one wondering how they made it through college and into the teaching profession. How does one motivate these teachers to put in the extra work (time) to upgrade their skills? I’m asking the question – I don’t pretend to have the answer.

It is a critical question.

I do know that we must convince underperforming teachers that it is in everyone’s interest that they do their part to help turn our system of education around. As we move into the age of wireless devices in the hands of every child, teachers will be called upon to teach in new ways. Motivating kids and helping them become education consumers (responsible for their own learning) will be chief among their new roles.

How do we make this happen? Or do we simply continue to consign 35% or more of our children to lives of mediocrity and want? I heard an interview with Condoleezza Rice over the weekend in which she commented that public education has reached the point where the success or failure of a child (and ultimately adult) can be predicted by their zip code.

Why aren’t Americans outraged by this? Oh that’s right, American Idol is on…

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