AmyFuji

AmyFuji
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
December 29
Title
teacher
Company
Chicago Public Schools
Bio
I'm a high school English teacher who teaches on the South Side of Chicago. I'm from Arkansas. I'm a white lady whose last name is Japanese (thanks to my Japanese Yankee husband). My brother in law says I'm a sitcom waiting to happen. I'm married and have a little girl who is three and a half, and a baby boy who is nineteen months old. I have lost 76 pounds in the last year and a half, and barefoot running is my new obsession. So much to share!

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Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 11, 2008 2:46PM

What Makes a Great Teacher?

Rate: 30 Flag

I read this article by Malcolm Gladwell yesterday, and I found it rather fascinating. It was published in The New Yorker, but I read it online.

I like Malcolm Gladwell -- I heard him speak a few years ago, and he was entertaining. I'm looking forward to reading his new book. Plus he has incredible hair, which is just a bonus.

Gladwell is trying to figure out how to predict who will be a good teacher. He explains the impact of a good teacher on a classroom of students, versus a bad teacher. According to the article, a good teacher can teach students a year and a half worth of material in a year, while a bad teacher will teach students only a half year's worth of material. The impact of a good teacher is more powerful than classroom size (something I never would have imagined).

He even makes the point that it is more advantageous to have a good teacher in a bad school, versus a bad teacher in a good school. 

The problem is that there is no good way of predicting who will be a good teacher. Teacher education programs are completely useless at this. 

Gladwell then draws a parallel between predicting who will be a good teacher with how to predict which college quarterbacks will be successful in the NFL. As any sports fan knows, often the most celebrated college quarterbacks utterly fail in the NFL. Gladwell uses University of Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel to illustrate this point.

It's a great article, and it really got me thinking. I do think we need to change the system of educating teachers. 

When I started college in 1991, I was originally a French and political science major. But by the middle of my second semester, I realized I wanted to major in English. I've always loved reading and writing, and the English degree just felt like the right fit for me.

I knew even then, in the back of my mind, that I wanted to teach high school English. There were a couple of things that kept me from doing so. One, I was in the Fulbright Four Year Honors Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas, and I felt I was too smart to just teach high school. I know that is ridiculous and pompous, but I was a little full of myself in high school and college. Those of us in the honors program felt like we were in the elite at our school, and we aspired to careers that matched our exemplary skills. 

So I was going to get my PhD and do extraordinary research and get published and travel the world.

Furthermore, it bothered me how little I felt that the education majors in my English classes seemed to know. At that time, you could get a BSE in education for your teacher certification. I think you only needed twelve hours of core English classes to be certified to teach English. This seemed woefully inadequate. Add to that the fact that most of the education majors I had class with were sorority girls who appeared to be more interested in their MRS degree, and you can see how I'd be turned off by this.

 Again, I know how snotty this makes me seem. Please remember that this was many years ago -- I got better! If you made it through college without being uppity and pretentious, well good for you.

 So I got my BA in English, and set out to see the world. I soon realized that I did not want a PhD. I really wanted to be a teacher. But I wasn't there yet. 

 I had lots and lots of dumb jobs. I lived in San Francisco, which I loved but could not afford. I had many retail jobs. I sold plastic binding in St. Louis. I worked at Starbucks. I was a data entry clerk for the University of Arkansas Physical Plant. I even owned my own bookstore for awhile (which was a disaster).

In 2000, my mom lost her fight with breast cancer after ten long years. I lost my whole world. Then I decided it was time to get my act together.

I moved back to Arkansas (I was still in St. Louis) and enrolled in the College of Education at the University of Arkansas. By that time (2001), the UA had changed its requirements for teacher certification. Now you had to have a four year degree in your content area, and then completed a masters degree in teaching. From start to finish, it's a five year program, but as I already had the degree in my content area, I had to spend one year in undergraduate education classes before I could start the masters program.

The undergraduate education classes were less than inspiring. The instructors seemed to have very little recent classroom experience. But I got through it, because I'd heard really good things about the masters program.

I would say the masters program was valuable, but still not applicable to my actual classroom experiences. For one, I knew I wanted to teach outside of the state of Arkansas (I love Arkansas, but wanted to live in a major city and didn't want to stay in the Bible Belt). Not one of my professors had any experience teaching in an urban district, much less an inner city environment. And I had no idea what that would entail, either. I think I may want to get my doctorate in education at some point in the future, just so that I can help prepare teacher education students for what really happens in a classroom. But that's a post for another day.

I've already written about what my first year teaching in Chicago was like, so I won't go into that again. I'll just reiterate that it was really, really difficult and I cried in my car a great deal. 

So I agree with Gladwell's assertion that teachers should be treated like apprentices -- if you can make it through a two or three year induction program and can perform, then you should get to teach and get paid really well. How you actually perform in a classroom is far more powerful than anything you will learn in an education class. Granted, you will have to be given the support to do that -- which doesn't happen for most new teachers.

I'm definitely against the idea of tenure, although now that I have it, I'm glad. But it is crazy that just because I've taught for a number of years, I should not have to worry about being fired. I don't think that is a good way to keep teachers motivated. Until there is a good and consistent method for evaluating teachers, though, I think it will have to remain in place (especially as far as Chicago Public Schools is concerned). 

At any rate, the article kind of got my excited. I am not a great teacher, (although I think I have the potential to be pretty good ), but I do care about my students, and I normally am able to establish a rapport with them that is valuable to me. I want to use my maternity leave to not only take care of my new baby, but to reevaluate why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. I am hoping that I can start the next school year with a renewed passion for the profession. I need that, and I know it would benefit my students, as well.

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It's tough sometimes, but when it goes well, teaching is just everything. Well, I love teaching, so, of course, I'm going to say that.
By the way, I'm certain you are terrific teacher.
Odetteroulette, you are too sweet. Thanks for your words! I love teaching, too, most of the time. Not so much this year, but I can't imagine doing anything else. It's nice to have an outlet to share my thoughts -- I appreciate your reading them.
Amy,
Very touching and insightful. In over 30 years as a teacher and administrator my take is that the best and most effective teachers are those that genuinely respect and care for their students (I'm talking unconditional positive regard here), who love and understand their subject/content area, and who have high standards and expectations for the performance of all students. This is typically 10-25% of a high school faculty. Most of us are good, decent, competent teachers working in not-so-good, not-so-decent, not-so-competent places (50-75%), and some are simply ineffective and incompetent and need to go (10-25%). I hope you have a long and successful career in education - you really can make a difference in the lives of people.
Rated.
Great post. I’d read that article – both because of the fun ‘inside football’ angle and for the insights on improving education from the teaching perspective (part of my wife’s career involves teaching). It is a great article. And it is amazing how little attention that issue (improving education) has received over the years. There’s more talk of it now. And boy, we sure could use it. Thanks for sharing this.
I love Malcolm Gladwell, and I think a lot of really talented older people who are looking for something meaningful to do with their lives (note that I'm talking about a close FRIEND of mine and not myself) would love to give teaching a try, but the certification process makes this an unattractive option.
Amy, I learned alot from this. Which means that I have a good teacher.....you.
I love teaching, too, but would add a few things. Although I taught college level psychology, for about ten years I taught only Educational Psychology, or psychology applied to the preschool through grade twelve classroom, which meant all education majors. As I always told them, the impact of a good teacher lives on in many lives, but so does the effect of a bad teacher. The mediocre ones are forgotten. But I always emphasized that a critical part of student success was parents. In fact, about 60-70% of student success is more in the hands of parents then teachers. If parents don't insist on good study and homework habits or don't respect what schools and teachers do, then the impact of a teacher, even a good one, can only go so far.....
Amy - love your post, and thank you for sharing this article. FWIW, I think you would be wonderfully suited to teach future teachers - you have a great deal of insight into the heart of the matter.
I will not go on and on about this but you note

How you actually perform in a classroom is far more powerful than anything you will learn in an education class.

The operative verb there is "perform" -- and that is much of what teaching is about is just being present and able to connect with students despite the ignorance of adminstrators, politics, and the sheer fatigue of living life outside the classroom. I do think that the teaching you do is Herculean as to those outside difficulties. All the singing/dancing/clowning/presenting required to perform is exhausting but that is what I like about teaching.

And right now I am exhausted but you must be geometrically so. When is that baby due?
Thanks so much for everyone's comments. David, I do hope that more attention will be paid to the issue -- I am cautiously optimistic that Obama can help.

Liz -- you are too kind.

Angrymom -- I wish the certification process was easier -- it doesn't really make sense. It definitely turns off a lot of people. Prior to NCLB, it was easier. I hope NCLB goes away for good.

Soapbox Amy -- you are right -- the parents have a huge impact. But I like the idea that maybe I have more power than I realize.

Dustbowldiva -- I'm really considering it. Something to ponder. Thank you for your compliments.

Neilpaul -- I think you'd be a great teacher -- and your experience would be valuable. Male teachers can make a huge difference. I'll help however I can!

Dorinda -- being in the classroom is the best part of teaching. I've thought of moving out of the classroom -- but I would hate that. The performing is the most fun and most creative. And the baby is due Jan 12, but I'm pretty sure he's going to get here before then. I'm thinking a couple more weeks. School is out next Friday (thank God!), and we have dinner reservations and a babysitter. So I'm hoping he'll wait til after that! Thanks always for being so sweet and thoughtful.
Great post, Amy. I always tell student teachers that it takes about five years to really hit your stride in teaching (you should see the looks on their faces at that!) and feel comfortable.

Other thoughts:

*I cannot WAIT until NCLB (or, No Child Left A Dime) goes away. Forever.
*I think a good teacher can teach just about any subject they are given to teach - and I know this flies in the face of accepted Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. They have to be willing to learn the subject of course, but teaching is an inborn thing to a large extent and because...
*Teaching IS like being onstage for many hours a day. If you can perform, you can teach. The more creative you are, the better. (Ask my students about me climbing on furniture to make a point...)
*Parents are essential; no question. But school is a microcosm of society at large and society has changed. How do we cope with this?
*I agree that ed classes can be boring and uninspiring. However, like anything in life, they are what you make of them. Do great things, develop fabulous projects, research and use Bloom's Taxonomy.

Thanks for being a great teacher, Amy. We need more new blood like yours! (And I don't mean the blood part literally!)
Any,

1. What Liz said. . . .

2. There is a book called "Teach With Your Strengths" by Roseanne Liesveld. It's the Gallup strengths test applied to teaching. A beautiful explanation of what the world's best tachers do differently. You take an on-line assessment and it sends back the language for your top 5 strengths. The use it in NYPS---no way would Arne ever get something like this---it's reasearch data goes back 60 years and it works. I've used it in training both corporate trainers---literally 100's of them and teachers.

It will give you the springboard to keep going on the most excellent journey you are already on.

3. The sorry state of teacher education is that the system is set up to protect itself. Not to educate teachers or principals. You already know this---but for anybody eading this outside CPS---if they want proof---try getting ANYONE in one of the giant fortresses of bureauacracy spawned on Pershing Rd and multiplied throughout the city---try getting ANYONE to return a phone call or an email.

The system protects itself.

The system won't help---(that's one reason why people like me don't have jobs!) But what WILL help is your unique combination of the top 5 strengths you'll get from that book. (And if you can't find it on amazon---just get Strengthsfinder 2.0 at Barnes and Noble---it's the same tool---for the general audience.

And the next time you're in Little Rock---have a tamale it Doe's or anything at The Flying Fish for me!

Roger
I wonder what the amount spent on one quarterback prospect vs one teaching prospect is in this country?

My jaundiced gut tells me it is slanted towards the game player.
Great post about teaching.
I echo what someone said here, though, about the importance of parents. It can not be said enough that teachers can not go home and raise the students, and if you have a bad discipline problem with a student and the parents won't help or even consider your opinion, then what can you do? There are some things you can try, but it is much more unlikely that a student will succeed if the parents are not positively involved. People try to blame teachers for all the problems, at times. TIME had an article recently that I am going to try and write a response to it this weekend. Of course, it blamed the teachers and made almost no mention of parental involvement.
I taught for 33 years. In that time I got a number of teaching awards, and students wrote about how inspiring I was.

I didn't feel I was doing anything special. I was trying to be honest with the students, explain things that needed to be explained and set tasks for them that would provide them with a learning experience.

I started wondering what the other teachers were doing, and I spent time talking to my colleagues.

What I found out was scary. Some of them felt their students were asking too much of them. Others felt that their students were dumb. Others felt that their students were whining babies.

What I also discovered was that the teachers were people who got into teaching because they did well in class in the classes they took. They were quiet and knew how to play by the rules. They were people who knew how to be safe in a classroom situation.

I was never a guy who felt comfortable in the classroom. School made me nervous and the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time there.

Maybe great teachers are those who don't feel they should be teaching -- because they know something essential about teaching: too much of being a good student is knowing how to be quiet.
Amy,

I'm certain you are a terrific teacher too. I'm also right there with you when you say that there's something wrong with the way teachers are trained and selected in this country. Not that you would have been like this obviously, but in my experience (across states and socio-economic status) people who go through education programs as their major course of study do not come out of the program knowing even half as much as someone with a content-area degree. It's not enough to know all the learning theories, or even know something about educational psychology. You have to know the subject too. You have to love the subject. You have to care about it and have standards for it -- unfortunately what I see happening most often is that many students who couldn't hack it as an English major end up majoring in English Education because the vast majority of their classes are education classes that don't require a lot of writing. How are these people supposed to go out and then teach writing?

I've had a problem with the way teachers are trained for a long time, but since I never went into K-12, it didn't really impact me. I trained myself, really. I never took a single course in "education" per se -- I took courses in Composition pedagogy, but that was it.

I learned everything I know about the classroom and how to handle students from experience. I would like to have had some names for some of the things I was doing -- but I think that's all a proper "teaching" course would have given me.

I think I was good at teaching because I really cared so much about my subject. I learned to care about the students, and how to reach them, with good feedback and trial and error.

If Gladwell is suggesting that teacher training be more focused on actual classroom experience -- an apprentice type situation -- I say it's high time we did something like that. I'd much rather have a serious history buff with a BA in History who has gone through in-class training teaching my kids than someone who took 15 hours of history in college and really doesn't give a crap.

But that's just me, maybe. Great post, as always.
I got a "D" in Mr Kup's history class. I saw him 31 years later and apologized for hating his class, and told him that I now could pass any of his tests with flying colors.

Great teachers are one's who leave an impression on you years after the class is over. I had many great teachers. Not a bad one on the bunch.
Amy

I enjoyed your post immensely. Gladwell’s comments seem to be based upon, at least in part, some of the earlier educators and their philosophy of educating people.


My daughter is attending college now and I frequently register in and attend some of the same classes that she attends simply because at 57, I enjoy learning more now than when I was in school. Even when I’m not “officially” part of the course, I like to see her work to help any way that I can and to relive the educational journey again through her.


Last year, she had an exceptional English professor, who you remind me of. She adeptly guided her students along a semester of not just English, but an entire study, as part of the curriculum, of the educational system in this country. My daughter wrote a paper about the evolution of the American educational system that utterly enthralled me, quoting writings by Ralph Wald Emerson and a more recent educator john Taylor Gatto. Both held serious concerns about the mass-production style of education fostered by the bureaucratic system we all see now.


My wife and I have recently finished 12 years of fighting with school districts in Nevada and Colorado. We used to think teachers were the problem, but now realize that it’s actually the massive machine that inhibits quality education. My daughter also now realizes that, when given the freedom to truly teach, good teachers will motivate their students beyond their dreams. This seems to be connected with the freedom college professors have in developing their curriculum, unlike public schools, where curriculum seems to be canned and closely monitored towards conformity, as in Gotto’s concerns.


Keep up the great work. Teachers are everywhere, but educators are rare.
I am teaching 5 lessons of the same class. It can go really well in one section and not so well in another. If you were to walk in on the good one, would you say that I am a good teacher? And if you were to walk in on the bad one, would you say that I am a bad teacher?
I'm always so gratified by everyone's comments. Thanks for reading.

Roger, I haven't been to LR in years (my family lives in Springdale, in NW AR), but I love the tamales at Doe's. They have a location in Fayetteville now, so that can fulfill my craving! Next time I go I'll have one for you.

Shelle, I completely agree. I think if you have a four year degree in the content area, you should be given a chance. It can't be worse than what we have now. (I was thinking of you when I was writing this post; your last post really stuck with me. As all your posts do.)

Sierra, I hate NCLB -- I hope it goes away forever, too! And you are right -- most things are as you make them. Thanks for your support.

Fey -- I'm pretty sure Chase Daniel is finishing college with no debt. My certification and masters degree cost me $30,000. That's depressing, huh?

John, I think you are on to something. I really try not to stand in front of the class and talk for more than five minutes. It's no fun for them to be lectured to, and it's not much fun for me, either. I would much rather they try to learn from each other with my guidance. Sometimes that works better than other times.

Delia, it's always the teachers who get blamed. CPS wants to lay all the blame at the teachers. It's so insulting.

Rose, I share your concerns. I am scared of the DC plan, because while I think merit pay could be a great idea, how are you going to decide who's successful? I am curious to see how it plays out.

Ron and Bob, thanks for your comments. I still remember most of my teachers fondly. And the ones I didn't like, I realize I still learned a lot from. Bob, the system is not set up to benefit teachers or, more importantly, students. It's so frustrating. I'm glad your daughter is doing so well and in enjoying college.

Jason, I would assume it would not be just one observation that was used to determine one's success in teaching. Because of course you are right -- I've had classes that went great, and ones that are a disaster. Sometimes in the same class period. The whole idea needs a whole lot of fleshing out, but I think it's something to consider. Thanks for reading.
Interesting post. (I'm not sure that the title fits the content, but, then again, it isn't being submitted for a grade.) The teachers that I know - the ones I work with, including my wife - consistently point to teachers they had when they were students as models for themselves. I do to. I had two teachers in high school who always told the truth - especially about me (which hurt sometimes) - and demonstrated in their own lives and inculcated in me a curiosity about ideas and books and people and a love of learning that has always stayed with me. I try to do the same with my students. You can't "reach" them all; teachers who try to do that fail more than they know. The ones you can reach are the ones who don't necessarily remember their grade, but they do remember what they learned.
My mother taught and served in a number of different positions within the school system until she recently retired. Her explanation for the state of teaching may have some validity, even if it is an uncomfortable truth:
When she entered the field, teaching was almost the chief occupational outlet available for women who wanted to work outside the home. If a young woman was smart and ambitious, teaching was often the only available option. Therefore, an ironic effect of a gender-segregated workforce was a large body of extremely talented women serving as teachers.
Conversely, the opening of occupational opportunities in recent decades, while certainly a good thing, had the unfortunate consequence of providing other outlets. Given a choice, fewer truly talented women chose teaching.
In this new scenario where almost all women now work, teaching tends to attract women (and some men) with less talent and ambition. Of course there are exceptions and there are wonderful teachers today--but we're talking about the law of averages here.

In my mom's words, when she started, she felt that was surrounded by the best and the brightest--by the time she retired many of her coworkers--especially the youngest--were "dopes."

This contributed, in part, to her decision to retire. Likewise, I often see less -than-ambitious college-age students today gravitating towards education (again with notable exceptions). The more talented students--like the writer of the original post--can see this. They look at which of their peers are going into education, are turned off, and head off to graduate school or the corporate world. (Also, I might add that courses offered by education departments have a reputation for being power-point heavy, focusing on rote memorization, and being non-intellectually stimulating--as if designed to turn off the very type of future teachers that our systems need. Oh,the ironies . . . .)
A follow up to my post above.
The unfortunate take away point from what I wrote is that those problems are fundamental in a way that reforms in tenure, shifts in pay scales, NCLB, cannot easily address.

I agree with an earlier poster who wrote that future teachers are often those who were themselves quiet students who liked taking and giving instructions.
Great post, and a really interesting point of view. Two of my closest friends are teachers who, like you, care about their students and are always trying to find ways to be better. I suspect it's a lot like being a parent- when you're in the trenches it's so hard to tell how you're doing, but later you see that it was the day to day caring that mattered the most. Bet you're a terrific teacher.
well, my master's program wasn't very applicable to my career, either, except maybe to get me the interview b/c of the strength of my resume.

I like Gladwell too - he always comes up with stuff that is so after-the-fact obvious, like "it is more advantageous to have a good teacher in a bad school, versus a bad teacher in a good school".

Thanks for the link, I look forward to reading it. And the fact that you read such, and write so well about it, suggests to me that you are probably one of the good-to-great ones.
Hi Amy:
Good luck with your thinking during your maternity leave. I lvoe Malcolm Gladwell's way of thinking about things. I like yours, too. I think the apprentice idea is wonderful as I believe that every classroom of more than 15 students should have two teachers present. If not an apprentice to help, then a teacher's aide -- especially in classes where the students might need more one on one time, like math or sciences.

When is the baby due -- sometime in January still? I am in and out of OS, mostly out, so if I miss your announcement, it is because I am not here -- I do care!
Dead-on post, Amy. But I don't think you should be so defensive about your negative observations about education majors when you were in college in the early 90's. Empirical evidence supports you: education majors throughout the eighties and nineties and as recently as a couple years ago (last year data collected) demonstrate that colleges of education enroll the lowest performing high school students of any university programs, in terms of GPA and test scores. When I was in college from 80-84, I too majored in English and didn't consider Education for the sole reason that it was considered a "blow-off major." I think it was smart of you to get your license and I'm sure glad you did. I'm still struggling as an outsider in the system, on the one hand proud of my outsider status, on the other making a hell of a lot less than the union-protected, certified teachers. But it is what it is, as they say. I'm thrilled that the "good ones" weren't turned off by the reputation or later went through the hoops--those kids need all the creative brainpower out there.
I am such a noob! I meant to post this comment here and put it in with some on Shelle Stormoe's blog instead. So here goes:

I started to read the article on teacher prep. Skipped all the stuff about football. Got just as far as the experts evaluating teachers. Made it to the third one--a high school math teacher who sounds really terrific. And I stopped reading because I'M just not THAT terrific as a teacher (like the guy in the article). But after 20 years...I don't' know--maybe once I was, maybe I wasn't.

Why should teachers have to be superstars? (There's an example in the article about a teacher whose students improve 70% on standardized tests in one year compared to a teacher whose students' scores drop--where is this person who raised scores 70% in one year? Of the thousands of teachers that work in our country I wonder: does this person really exist? Or is it like the Jaime Escalante story? (He taught the sharpest kids--not all the kids, he had the brightest.) I have such mixed feelings about my job.

For a while I was an instructor in a teacher training program. And I had opportunities to evaluate exit portfolios and some written work that's required by the state as well. It is possible to watch a video of someone teaching--or observe them in real time and it's obvious when you see someone who just clicks. In the article it's being quantified and broken down--but it's a sort of connection thant you see--and it is like art when it's great. I know I've had those moments teaching and with my students, but it's not an everyday thing.

But I also know this other feeling. It's something that I HATE about my job--and it's also something that I think has more to do with my own emotional make-up and reactions than with the job itself. As I was reading about this great math teacher in the New Yorker article, I felt like I'm a shitty teacher. I think that this particular profession receives more criticism than almost anything else (except what? lawyers? politicians?) I even work with people who are into this super teacher mode--they are world savers, they teach to the whole child (even though these children have gaping holes in skills and knowledge--in other words, there is no whole child yet to teach. And you are a bigot or elitist to point this out.)

There are so many jobs that don't have that kind of weight on them.

There was a comment on parents being the most important factor in how well kids do. There's never discussion about how threatening it may be to kids for them to become more "whole", more thoughtful, more knowledgeable than their parents. This is an issue in education--but the education system can't address it. Our culture doesn't address it because it is too real, it getting into how we interact in families and in groups and how we get in each other's way.

One of my former students, now an eighth grader--an immigrant from Somalia by way of France--is having an essay published and won $3,000. Last year I kept telling her to try to get her work published--and I wonder if my input helped her. But I'll never really know--most of the time teachers never see the fruits of their labor. And like many others who have commented here. I'd like the opportunity to do what my student has done. I'd like to fix my own mistakes and see what I can produce.
I was just having a conversation last night about teachers who made big impacts on our lives with one of my young adult mentorees. I was reminded of my seventh grade math teacher, Mr. Fritz. I struggled with math that year and he took it upon himself to reach out and tutor me after school. I specifically remember the moment, thirty six years later, when the light bulb went on in my head. I "got it". I never made anything but As in math class from then on all the way through college. I wish I could go back in time and tell Mr. Fritz what a difference he made in my life. How much being good at math bolstered my confidence and affected my life choices.
Wow...now that's what makes a good teacher. To those of you who teach and do it well Kudos! You may never know what effect you have on your students.
@ Without a Paddle, I feel the same way you do. I often wonder how "great" of a teacher I am. If my students don't improve their test scores, I'm lookd at as a bad teacher. My thought/concern is this: When I got Johnny and Raymond, they were freshmen in high school, 14/15 years old and reading on a 4th grade level. I wonder wear this Super Teacher is and please share your secrets.

I concur with the people who said parents are an important (if not the key factor) in this equation are absolutely correct. I think the blame is always placed on the teacher, we forget the people these children have lived with and continue to live with on a daily basis. On most days I truly enjoy teaching; however, I often woonder if i am wasting my time. It is difficult for me to continue on when so many students and parents don't care.

I've have a class of 30 (20 boys/10 girls) who has given me the flux since the begnning of school. I've called home and the situation hasn't improved. It has actually gotten worse. I am supposed to have a special education provider with me on a daily basis and sometimes that doesn't happen. I often wonder why many of these students come to school. They don't bring any supplies to class and have no intention of doing anything. I know I've said some less than stellar things to them out of frustration. There have been times when I had to stop and wonder if I was the crazy person.

I wish college would have prepared me for the students I have, but it doesn't. I guess I'm going to have to write my own manual for teaching in the inner city.