31 October 2011

"Dear American high school math teachers..."

An "open letter"-type post* at Reddit, where the discussion thread is not particularly encouraging.

* with admittedly a variety of grammatical errors, but this comes from a math teacher (which may raise an entirely different question...)


  1. If it were only about mathematics... The thing is, their written skills are frightening, their communication skill not better... Their general knowledge (history, politics, geography, world and current affairs, etc.)is pathetic, and the worst of all, most of them simply do not know how to learn thing, are neither interested in learning thing nor understanding why it is important... I work with university students on an everiday basis, and this depresses me.
    On a brighter note, you do appreciate brillant student when you encounter them.

  2. Reading my comment, I realize the S key on my computer is not working as well as it should be. Sorry about that.

  3. "Dear American high-school English teachers..."

  4. Dear university professor. Who taught the teachers?

  5. We had a young visitor to our workplace and I allowed her to draw and write on my whiteboard....
    Dad was mortified that of the forty or so words she put on the board, only 4 or 5 were correct in spelling and letter orientation.
    "she's getting A's in writing and math", he said...
    OK, so school has a problem but also - Was he indirectly telling me that he had never seen his child's handwriting before?
    -> 'More than the teachers are the problem here', is what I am saying.

  6. a) teacher training is ridiculous.
    b) students are not even coming close to graduating with any sort of basic education
    c) no one cares enough to make it happen.
    d) I work at a university, in one of the science depts, and frankly the quality of the teaching there is slumping too, where the students under-perform, and the instructors lower the requirements to make the curve work.

  7. True story--when I was thirteen, I got a first-quarter math grade of "C." This would have been great, except for the fact that I hadn't done a lick of work--not classwork, not homework--for most of the quarter.

    When I confronted the teacher about it--because honestly, I didn't earn anything like a "C"--he told me he gave it to me because I "looked like" I was working.

    That was sixteen years ago. Is it any wonder that students are slipping?

  8. Fact of the matter.. many parents don't really care about their children's education (though I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they think they care) Instead, they care about good grades, if anything. This is evidenced by them coming up to the school when their child gets a bad report card, not to find out how to help their child improve, but to berate the teacher.

    If you truly care about your kids education, demonstrate by requiring them to do their best, and by making sure they are learning with more than 'how was school today?'

    Having said that, I think it is obvious many schools have capitulated to the 'teach for the test that brings in the money' and 'pass 'em on and don't hurt their feelings' mentality.

    Ultimately, if parents don't care though, then no-one will. In my case, we decided to home school. I'm glad we have that opportunity. I wish more did. (hey, it would even be nice if we had a small fraction of the $13,500 the government gives our school per student each year. I like to imagine what we could do with a $1000 in the education pot each year. But them I'm being ridiculous. Instead I'll pay my school taxes, and hope for the best)

  9. I have an arrangement with our daughter's teacher that any work that falls below a reasonable standard is sent home to be done again. As far as I know I'm the only parent in the school who does this. Poor kid doesn't always appreciate it, but the standard of her class work has shot up since she decided that being told to go and photocopy it to take home wasn't a good thing.

  10. One thing that I got out of that thread that I really enjoyed was: http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf a very passionate and intelligently argued essay on maths in schools. It was buried in a response halfway down.

  11. Anon 6:55 (above): Wow. Yes. That's the most brilliant essay on math and math education that I've ever read.

    - A science professor

    p.s. Science education often suffers from the same problem. Too much memorization of 'facts'; not enough training in reasoning, experimental design, or data interpretation.

  12. This reminds me of the "maybe not so popular in Boston" joke that goes something like this: In and around Cambridge it is normally assumed that a college age person standing in the express line at the supermarket with a carriage full of groceries is either an MIT student who can't read or a Harvard student who can't count.

  13. I work at a grade school. Your kids are being passed on to the next grade without a care in the world. Why? Kids don't care. Parents don't parent. Instead of churching up the kid who is failing, I see parents coming through the admin offices demanding another teacher. One kid told his teacher that he wouldn't be failing if his teacher was black. Hmmm, 9 years old. I wonder what mom and dad are like at home? I know a HS senior who cannot read. He buys audio books for his assignments. Kids on ritalin and adderol (along with mom) are the norm. Don't like the grades? Get your kid on an IEP! That'll get him through! Teachers, counselors, principals do not give a damn. There's a whole new batch coming through next year and they have tenure, contracts and unions on their side. Mention performance based pay and you will get death threats. One of our teachers has had 5 parents pull students from her class this year.....but there is not a problem with the teacher now, is there? The principal made eleven (11!) schedule changes affecting the entire school before mid-October. Gee, maybe a lack of communication on her micro-managing behalf? Unless you as a parent demand performance from your kid and your kids' teachers, they will be shuffled through the system with the rest of the chemically altered mouth breathers. Even if they do excel, be prepared for them to be standing next to a SPED vegetable at their NHS induction ceremony.


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