Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

Sandhill Cranes a few miles from my home
Not everyone gets as excited as I do in March and April when Sandhill Cranes and loons are migrating though West Michigan on their way north to their summer breeding grounds. For the past 20 years, at least one loon has stopped by for a week or so on Pettys Bayou near my home. A few days ago, my husband spotted a sizable flock of migrating Sandhill Cranes in a corn field nearby. I think they are beautiful birds and I'm fascinated by their prehistoric-sounding call. And, again, not everyone agrees with me.

You can't see the birds in the video below, but about halfway through, you can hear their call.

This got me thinking about the  "good teacher"/"bad teacher" discussions surrounding education reform. In particular, about the following quote: "Everyone knows a bad teacher." Each time I read it, I wonder, what exactly is a "bad teacher?"

The characteristics that define a "good teacher" or "bad teacher" are as subjective as those that define a "beautiful bird." However, I suspect that both definitions are in the eye of the beholder.

How do you define a "good teacher"? "bad teacher?"

4-3-11 Update: When You Have a Problem with a Mediocre Teacher . . . Hat tip to Terie Engelbrecht @mrsebiology -- Thank you!

The above article breaks down difficulties with problem teachers into three categories: committing an immoral act, insubordination, and incompetence. It makes sense to me as an educator. However, there seems to be a significant difference in how the general public makes these distinctions.

In today's local news, a high school teacher was arrested for an immoral act and placed on unpaid leave, yet a number of the comments from the public indicate some feel this doesn't make him a "bad teacher."

In another situation, a very competent teacher was considered a "bad teacher" by parents because the teacher held a student--their child--accountable for unacceptable behavior.

I don't have answers to this, but the disconnect is frustrating.


  1. The terms good and bad are so subjective and so finite. Of course the corporate ed. reformers like this and are making sure those terms are repeated again and again. We need to shift that rhetoric and refuse to be defined as good or bad. I agree with you - the disconnect is so frustrating. I cannot say "this is a good teacher or this is a bad teacher" as it ultimately informs only ME - the person listening has no concept of my "good" or "bad." I can say however, this teacher is highly experienced in the teaching of the writing process. I can say, this teacher currently needs support in assessing and evaluating readers. I guess I don't believe there is good and bad - perhaps it is all a work in progress which chooses to advance or stall, regardless of what profession, idea, concept we talk about. Great post Literacygurl - you keep me thinking!!!!!!

  2. Peggy,

    Thanks for commenting! Makes me think of Peter Johnston's "Choice Words"--I don't like "good/bad" either. I think we can advance the teaching profession by changing the narrative, stop using those terms and call out others who use those limiting terms.