What can a year say?

Posted: March 8, 2015 by teachkirsch in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In which I will argue that it is impossible to tell how much of what a teenager knows is attributable to any one teacher, or even one year of schooling.

The buzz right now is about teacher accountability. So here’s a quick and dirty comparison of two students. What do you think? How should we hold their teachers accountable?

When I was a kid, my parents made my brother and I do math any time we went out to eat. Granted, that wasn’t that often, but every week or two we’d be handed a check with a long tabulation of numbers and be told they wouldn’t pay until we had checked the restaurant’s addition. Not to mention the fact that my mom is a math teacher, and my friends would often come to my house to do our math homework together so that she could answer any questions we had. So when I did well in high school math, was that because I had learned a lot that year, or because I had a rock-solid foundation in math from my parents? Should my teacher be congratulated on my high scores, or censured for not pushing me into calculus?

Flip side: one of my dear friends is hopeless at math. We’re in our mid-thirties and he still asks me to check over simple arithmetic for him (if he doesn’t have access to a calculator, that is). His parents are good, loving people. They told him school was important and sat with him while he did his homework whenever they could. But neither of them uses much math at work, so they couldn’t help him much when he didn’t understand. And from the time he was in 3rd grade until he was in 7th grade, they both worked in the evenings, so he came home to a grandmother who spoke mostly Dutch and had not had much formal schooling. So if, in high school math, he learned a little more than he knew but was still woefully behind his peers, should the teacher be congratulated for moving him along or censured for his imperfect understanding?

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