Lessons on Teaching


I was going to put up a post about a data source I came across today with lots of historical information on unionization in the United States, which puts Rhode Island as the fourth-most-unionized state, when it comes to the government sector, just barely behind Massachusetts.  A big majority of government workers (63.2%) in Rhode Island are covered by unions.  If Rhode Island is like the country, overall, about half of government workers work for local governments, about a third, the state, and the rest the feds.

But let’s close out the blogging week on an empathetic note.  Faith Moore is correct about “3 Understandable (But Untrue) Assumptions About Teachers“:

  1. Teachers have tons of free time
  2. Because I went to school, I could teach as well as the teacher
  3. Maintaining order in the classroom is easy, anyone could do it

As the husband of a teacher who has had the opportunity to give it a try, I found these all true, although footnotes are needed.  Some teachers do structure their classes and conduct their teaching in way that requires minimal work, although even then, it probably takes them a while to get to that point, and a case-by-case assessment would be necessary prior to criticism.  On the third point, obviously the students play a large role in just how difficult it is.

The second one may be the most surprising in actual experience, and not just because teaching is a process distinct from the subject matter.  Moore writes that a teacher “needs to know how to teach that material to someone who’s never even heard of it before.”  I don’t think most people, even parents, understand just how surprising it can be when something isn’t obvious to a child.  (For one thing, parental interaction with children doesn’t generally include as many areas of abstraction or topics that might have no immediately obvious application.)

Now multiply that times a classroom full of students who will not-understand different things, or not-understand the same thing in different ways.

Obviously, it doesn’t immediately follow that these truths entitle unionized public school teachers to the maximum amount of money that can be wrung out of taxpayers, indicate that they are underpaid at this time in this state, or make the unionized structure (including, among other things, rigid step scales for all teachers) suitable to education.  But it’s too easy for progressives and unionists to get us into an us versus them mindset that encourages both sides to stop realistically assessing each other for positives and negatives as human beings.