Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the self-proclaimed leader of education in New York state, has single handedly caused a teacher shortage. His wrong headed ideas about teacher evaluation and school reform have driven teachers from the profession in record numbers. Schools across the state are now struggling to find both full time and substitute teachers in literally all subject areas.
After advocating the “death penalty” for underperforming schools, in a system which is too expensive and underperforming, and in addition to his world class teacher evaluation system (which by the way is totally stalled at this point), New York’s education governor is now going to fix the schools by recruiting the best and brightest to New York’s classrooms.
How can you argue with that one? Personally I am very much in favor or smart people being teachers. As a matter of fact, having worked in schools for more than 40 years, I am pleased to report that all of the teachers and administrators I worked with were pretty darn smart. However not all of these smart people could teach. Therein lies the problem that will cause another misguided Cuomo education policy to crash and burn like all the rest.
I will prove my point through a simple quiz I will give you all right now.
- Think of the very best teacher you had from Kindergarten to the highest level of education you completed.
- Get that person’s face in your mind.
- Now answer the following for me about that person:
- What was his academic average in high school?
- What were her Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
- At which college did he earn his bachelor’s degree?
- What was her grade point average and rank in class as an undergraduate?
- What were his GRE scores?
- From what college did she earn her master’s degree?
- What was his grade point average as a graduate student?
The answer is usually pretty simple: “I don’t know,” followed probably by “I don’t care.” That is because the questions I asked are not the best measure of good teaching.
Face it, all of us who attended college had some great teachers and some OK teachers and occasionally, a really bad one. Even the bad ones were smart people, with high test scores, and they all held doctoral degrees. They were not dumb. They just could not teach. They could not develop a rapport with the students. They could not inspire them. They could not capture their imaginations or their hearts. The good ones can and the great ones always do.
The best teachers I ever had from Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Blaine in elementary school to Mrs. Cionek in junior high, to Brother Lane, and Mr. Blaha in high school not only inspired me and captured my imagination and heart, they provided the model I needed to help me choose a career … as a teacher.
While I am not sure how they did on the SAT’s, I know that they were all pretty darn good teachers. I guess that is what really matters.
Dr. John Metallo is a retired teacher and administrator. Among the positions he has held are the principal of Albany High School and adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh. He lives in Slingerlands and can be reached at (518) 577-7530 or [email protected]