The death of undergraduate teaching degrees

by MooshiMooshi

Enrollment is way down in undergraduate education programs, and some schools are closing their programs now. Most likely, many of us see this as a good thing. I myself have long advocated that teachers, especially at the high school level, should major in an academic subject and then take some teaching courses and then enter a teaching apprenticeship program.

But the reality is that undergraduate education degrees are being replaced by “alternative certification pathways” that may be far worse than the undergraduate programs they are replacing. I first realized this a few years ago when a friend of mine, who had an undergrad general business degree and who had worked as an office manager for 10 years, was able to get certified as an advanced mathematics teacher at the HS level after only 6 months of online classes! I happen to know she barely made it through business calculus back in college.

‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’
Teacher education programs were facing major problems even before the pandemic, but are they dying of natural causes or being killed off? Either way, what’s lost when they go away for good?

This article details what is going on. Here is a quote on the alternative certification programs
“The first programs focused on getting “content-proficient” adults with backgrounds in science, math and other fields into secondary classrooms without making them earn another degree. But alternative paths to teaching have since proliferated. The national council, in its 2014 study of 85 alternative programs, gave the majority D or F grades. In general, they all ask the teacher candidate to serve simultaneously as the “teacher of record” and an “intern” prior to obtaining certification. Learning happens first and foremost on the job.

Failing grades mean the programs have no required grade point average for applicants, or a minimum GPA of 2.5. There is generally no standardized test or teaching audition required. Required fieldwork prior to teaching amounts to a week or less, and there is no clinical practice. Teachers within these program are observed infrequently.”

I suspect most Totebaggers would prefer that our kids have teachers who have passed a test, have a good GPA, and have spent more than a week learning how to teach. I know that I would not want my friend the former office manager teaching pre-calc to my kids. These alternative certification programs sound more like a way of getting warm bodies in front of classes, preferably at low pay, than a way of attracting good candidates with STEM backgrounds. While I think that a serious reform of teacher education programs is long overdue, I do not think this is the right way.

OK, opinions?

118 thoughts on “The death of undergraduate teaching degrees

  1. I think you know my opinion already—grade school teachers need serious training in the different ways peoples’ brains work and how to set up learning activities in various ways, including but not limited to teaching to different levels at once. It isn’t easy, but that’s why we need smart people studying it. I honestly don’t know what they do now—surely the film projector class (a real thing) is passé. High school teachers need deep profeciency in their subjects, and to get away from grades based on things like ability to turn in worksheets every day.

  2. I think one problem is we have built a system whereby people can get undergrad teaching degrees and then begin to teach. It’s backwards…
    We need people with degrees in relevant subjects, English, History, Math, Science (or specifically Biology, Chemistry, Physics etc), Computer Science, a Foreign Language (or be a native speaker, with a degree in another subject), Music, Art etc. plus passing state-specified teaching courses, maybe specific to e.g. How to Teach Reading, to be qualified to be in a classroom.
    DS2’s GF has a degree in Biology and is now earning her Masters in Teaching and plans to teach MS/HS Science. I think that’s the right way. Or as in NY, you can have a degree in Biology but you need to get your Masters in Teaching withing 3 (I think) years.

  3. The problem with these new accelerated teaching programs is they are not geared towards getting people with deep knowledge of. a subject area ready to teach that subject. They are geared towards getting pretty much anybody in front of a classroom. The person I mentioned is an example. She has an undergrad business degree and worked as an office manager. It would make sense for her to be teaching HS business – her background would be perfect. But instead, they decreed she is an Advanced Math teacher. I know another similar case – a friend who also majored in business, and worked for many years doing field sales for a telephone equipment manager. After gettiing laid off, she did a 2 semester online certification program, and got certified as a special education teacher. I can’t understand it. Teaching special ed kids requires pretty specialized knowledge, and also hands on experience. How do you get that in 2 semesters of online courses?

  4. getting people with deep knowledge of. a subject

    What is your opinion of Direct Instruction/scripted instruction? The data is pretty conclusive that it’s by far the best method and it doesn’t require deep knowledge.

  5. Alternative certification seems to have some problems but I know of two examples where alternate certification worked well or could work well. One is a Columbia MBA graduate who went on to earn alternate certification to teach high school math and special education. She started out teaching at a private prep school and then transferred to public school. By all accounts she’s a well qualified and successful teacher. Another example holds a graduate degree in math, with experience teaching college students and tutoring younger students. He has been reluctant to go the alternative certification route, and is now doing long-term substitute teaching at two NYC prep schools.

    I don’t know the solution to managing the changes in teacher education, but IMO traditional schools of education have had major problems that have hurt students, especially low-income students. Focusing solely on discovery learning and other methods instead of direct instruction mentioned by Rhett is one example. Failing to use scientific methods to teach reading is another. Maybe major disruption is the only way to change dysfunctional teaching programs.

  6. Rhett, I only got through to the 4th page of that. It reads so much like an ad that it’s hard to read. All the bells & whistles of critique, questions and criticism keep getting in the way.

  7. One of my acquaintances is a currently a dean of education. The fundamental problem is economic- it currently costs ~$80-100k including room, board, tuition and fees to get a teaching degree at a state university and teaching pays ~$40k to start (plus really good benefits if you stick with it) with progression to ~$60k for a ~190 day work year. Traditional degrees are too expensive for the resulting pay, leading to alternative certifications. The question to me is not, “What would I like to see?” but “What is feasible within the given constraints, where there seems to be a preference by some for spending on COVID and climate change?”

    I like the idea of a minimal teaching background combined with a long apprenticeship, which would make training more affordable. I also think that the sorts of general eighth-twelfth grade competence tests that are controversial because they have a disparate impact by race are appropriate.

    I don’t think there will be much agreement between what Totebaggers want from a teacher for their children and the economic and political realities of staffing the bulk of American public schools.

  8. S&M,

    I don’t know that it’s the best overview but it’s the first one I found. As far as I know the evidence that it works better than anything else is pretty solid. Although it could be that it’s the best method considering the teachers we have not the teachers we want.

  9. In my state, there is alternate certification with the emphasis on a degree in a subject and then a smidge of teaching theory on top. IME the teachers coming in this way bring greater depth of knowledge, but there are other issues such as classroom management, an understanding of the population you are teaching, and seeing themselves as part of a team.

    In the big picture, I believe there is a definite split between Elementary (K-5 or 6 depending where you live) on one side and Middle School/Junior High and High School on the other.

    At the high school level, most teachers are specializing in one or maybe two areas – one of DD’s teachers taught Physics and Math, but there is so much math in physics that makes sense to me. Here, the earn your degree in a content area and then (or at the same time) learn how to teach it makes a lot of sense to me. The teacher would then be certified in the subject(s) they can teach – HS Physics vs. HS Science. This could result in a school needing either more teachers if you can’t have the physics teacher teach biology without getting another credential in biology or you create a market for multi-credentialed teachers.

    Many middle schools also have more specialized teachers with students rotating among them. But, in smaller schools, there is more overlap in teachers teaching multiple subjects ( English and Geometry) vs areas within a subject (Texas History, World History, American History).

    Elementary school is a whole other barrel of fish – the teacher often teaches every subject to the students or at least the core – Reading/English, Math, Science, Social Studies. I don’t know that a degree in any one area makes you the best teacher. At least K-2 was this way for my DDs. From 3-5, my DDs had 2 classes at each grade level and there was some splitting of subject matter. For example in 3rd grade, one teacher taught Science and Math and the other taught Social Studies and English.

  10. Speaking of problems with teacher education: After years of resistance to the science of teaching, the prestigious Columbia University Teachers College has finally agreed that teaching phonics is important.

    The United States has long struggled with teaching kids to read; 65 percent of fourth graders read at a level considered basic or below, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. Reading scientists say part of the problem is that popular curriculum materials, including those written by Calkins, rely on a disproven theory about how people read. That theory says people use meaning and sentence structure to predict words as they read when, in fact, decades of cognitive science research show that skilled reading requires an ability to decode, matching the sounds in words with the letters used to spell them.

    The disproven theory, explained in a 2019 APM Reports podcast episode and story, is sometimes referred to as “cueing.” It has led to instructional strategies that prompt beginning readers to guess words using pictures and context instead of first sounding them out. Calkins’ published materials contain lessons and assessments that promote these cueing strategies. Experts say cueing teaches children the habits of struggling readers and can impede the brain’s ability to effectively process and remember written words.

    In the statement obtained by APM Reports, Calkins’ group now says that beginning readers should focus on sounding out words and recommends that all children have access to “decodable” books that contain words with spelling patterns students have been taught in phonics lessons. Calkins, who once minimized the importance of phonics instruction, started selling a phonics program in 2018. But that program retained the cueing strategies. In a statement last November, Calkins lashed out at her critics, calling them “phonics-centric people” and denying that her materials promote cueing.

    The new statement seems to mark a shift in her organization’s understanding of the scientific research. In addition to acknowledging problems with cueing, the statement says Calkins’ group has recently become convinced that instruction that benefits students with dyslexia also benefits all students, something reading scientists have long known.

    https://www.apmreports.org/story/2020/10/16/influential-literacy-expert-lucy-calkins-is-changing-her-views

  11. “Although it could be that it’s the best method considering the teachers we have not the teachers we want.”

    That’s a good point. The “creativity” and “innovation” I’ve seen from some teachers is much less effective than a good scripted lesson.

  12. Kim,

    I’m kinda impressed. Usually these things change one funeral at a time. It’s rare for someone to change their mind like that. Kudos to her.

  13. DD wanted a slice of leftover pizza in her lunch and was afraid her brothers would eat it first, so she got a Ziploc and wrote, “MyName’s Pesu” on it. The brothers asked what pesu was, and it’s how she sounded out pizza. Clearly, the sound at the end of pizza is more like the “u” in bug than the “a” in apple.

  14. The “creativity” and “innovation” I’ve seen from some teachers is much less effective than a good scripted lesson.

    The only teacher that completely bombed in both my kids time at school was a young teacher who was very enthusiastic. However, instead of teaching the social studies curriculum there was discussion of current events, random topics and the whole year was wasted in this way.

    I like the high school teachers the best. They know their subject and are also interested in teaching students. It does help that the classes are organized by ability level in high school so the teachers are able to tailor things to a particular group of students.

  15. We only ran into alternate route teachers in high school and my kids’ experience was very good. English teacher was a disaffected lawyer who had majored in English then went to law school just because, hated it, married a tenured professor at the local college and decided to teach instead of trying to break into the small town law situation. Also coached Mock Trial. AP Computer Science teach retired after 20 years at Nasa and did alternate certification and returned to his hometown. DS3’s AP calculus teacher was a young guy who majored in math and was working on a masters in applied mathematics. The kids who drew the short stick got an AP calculus teacher who majored in “Math Education” at a small liberal arts college and as far as I could tell looking at the requirements, did not have to take calculus for her major. After a year, and comparing AP exam scores for the students in DS’s class vs. the one in the math education major’s class, the school dropped her back to basic math and gave both classes to the applied mathematics guy.

    I think that living in a low cost of living area can make a difference in who wants to teach. A two teacher household here can have a nice house, vacations, a big truck, and a boat, which isn’t possible in a lot of places, so teaching can be a nice life. In our district near Kansas City, few of the teachers could afford to live in the district.

  16. I have never been able to figure out exactly what Direct Instruction is (and I tend to be allergic to any instructional strategy that has a capitalized name). As far as I can tell, it seems to mean “teacher led”, aka lecturing, perhaps with some scripted questions that the students answer.

    In STEM fields in college, traditionally all instruction was “Direct Instruction”, that is, professor focused lectures. However, most research evidence points to “Active Learning” as being more effective than lecturing. Because of the evidence, there is a lot of pressure nowdays for STEM professors to move away from lecturing and towards a style that involves students in active learning experiences. Both the AAAS and the NSF have been strongly encouraging encorporation of active learning into higher education classes, through grants, training, workshops, and so on.

    While in theory the two styles could be combined, it would require teachers who have good knowledge of their subject area, which argues against Rhett’s idea that using direct instruction would mean you don’t need teachers with good knowledge of their areas. If you have high quality active learning experiences in your course, students will start asking questions that go off the script. At that point, you need a teacher who can answer the off the script questions.

    My take on all of this is that there is some content that needs to be taught by lecture and demonstration, and some content that is better taught by having the students work through it. And that teachers who actually know their area are the best suited to figuring out that mix, as well as drawing students more deeply into the subject. My daughter is currently taking honors global history (which feeds into AP Global next year). The teacher has her PhD in history and is very knowledgable, not just about factoids, but about drawing historical inferences. My middle kid had her too, and adored her. Because of the remote situation, I know more about my kid’s classes than I ever did before – and this teacher is good. Way better than any social studies or history teacher I ever had in school, and way better than the history teacher my oldest had. Knowledge makes a difference.

  17. Forget quality, given the pay and amount of disrespect for and abuse of teachers I am seeing in our area, I fear we won’t have anyone to teach.

  18. I have never been able to figure out exactly what Direct Instruction is

    As far as I can tell when it’s capitalized it means highly scripted lectures. In the likely event that there aren’t enough (and never will be) enthusiastic History PhDs to teach AP history, what’s the next best option?

  19. “What is your opinion of Direct Instruction/scripted instruction? The data is pretty conclusive that it’s by far the best method and it doesn’t require deep knowledge.”

    Obviously I’m biased, but I think my DH is a teacher who is both effective and enthusiastic/creative. Parents whose kids were in his class routinely lobby to get their younger kids into DH’s class when the time comes. DH states categorically that he would quit the teaching profession if he ever had to teach under a scripted-instruction regime. I suspect a lot of other good teachers would, too.

  20. Lolly – agrees. My sister has taught middle school for 30 years and used to love it. The last few years have caused her to hate it even before Covid. She would never recommend anyone to get in to teaching now given the environment and the pay.

  21. Parents whose kids were in his class routinely lobby to get their younger kids into DH’s class when the time comes.

    Guilty ! There have been changes between the Kid 1 and Kid 2 but I have been largely successful.

  22. The scripted approach has been around for gazillions of years. Back when my mother was teaching, she got roped into teaching a scripted course (private K12 school). She said it was an utter disaster. The scripts didn’t work and were really hard to adhere to. Her opinion was “never again”.

  23. but I think my DH is a teacher who is both effective and enthusiastic/creative

    No doubt. But is he scalable? There are 3.2 million public school teachers in America. If he’s among the 320,000 who are killing it, what do we do about the remaining 2,880,000 who aren’t?

  24. “Focusing solely on discovery learning and other methods instead of direct instruction mentioned by Rhett is one example.”

    I think we’ll find out soon enough if discovery learning works. That seems to be the basis of my elementary age child’s virtual learning.

    Kim, thanks for posting that article. DD2 is struggling, and although phonics is taught in school, she is a self-taught cueing reader (she may have inherited that by me). One-on-one private phonics tutoring during this pandemic is paying off, as she has come a long way in a short amount of time.

  25. She said it was an utter disaster. The scripts didn’t work and were really hard to adhere to. Her opinion was “never again”.

    Teachers universally hate it. The only problem is it really works. So where does that leave us…? I’m not really sure.

  26. My DD has an actual real history textbook this year – the kind that weighs a bazillion tons and has artwork and lots of text. It is supposedly college level since this is officially an AP course. I am really enjoying helping her study for tests because I am learning so much. And best of all, it has an INDEX!!!!
    The book she had to use for the last two years of social studies wasn’t actually a book – it was this online thingie called a “TechBook”. It was completely shalllow, often wrong, and sometimes strayed into what I felt was offensive language. It was inscrutably organized – no chapters, but rather, these blocks that you clicked on, with the information scattered about the blocks. And it had NO INDEX, and the control-F find that you normally have in online content had been disabled. It was AWFUL.

    And that gets into one of my concerns about scripted instruction. Who is going to design these scripts? Likely, the same idiots who create “TechBooks” – the K12 publishing industry.

  27. Seems to me that what we really need is smart teachers who know what they’re talking about. But we have no longer excluded 50% of the population from other job options, so a lot of smart women who would have been teachers 50 years ago now look at the pay and working conditions and say, no thanks.

    What we want are barriers to entry that are low enough to let the smart people in but high enough to keep the stupid people out. But when Eastern CO literally cannot find teachers to hire, continuing to demand the appropriate degrees from the appropriate schools and the appropriate experience fails to acknowledge that no one is actually willing to jump through all those hoops for $20K/yr and the privilege of living in a super-small farm town. The supply/demand ratio has changed dramatically in many areas, and many school systems and teacher training programs/credentialing requirements have not kept up.

    Teaching is one of the few areas where we expect people with great abilities and many options to choose the job out of the out of the goodness of their heart and despite the significant personal cost in hoop-jumping and foregone salary. In my world, if we’re not attracting the people we want to hire, we recognize that we have to pay more or improve our benefits/working conditions. There are some parts of the country that have done that — Lauren’s tales suggest that at least in her area, they have decided to maintain a supply of decent candidates the same way my firm does. So in those areas, it’s fair to keep the bars to entry high to screen out the less-qualified. OTOH, if you’re in a part of the country where you literally can’t find enough teachers, then dude, you either need to pay a lot more than $20K or open your doors a lot wider to find some warm bodies to put in the seats.

  28. And that gets into one of my concerns about scripted instruction. Who is going to design these scripts? Likely, the same idiots who create “TechBooks” – the K12 publishing industry.

    But you need to compare that against the “scripts” prepared by the median teacher today. You can’t compare it with perfection. You need to compare it with current reality.

  29. “Teaching is one of the few areas where we expect people with great abilities and many options to choose the job out of the out of the goodness of their heart and despite the significant personal cost in hoop-jumping and foregone salary.”

    Agree!

  30. Teaching is not unlike other primarily public sector jobs, in that the annual pay is depressed compared to similar jobs, but the pension aspect makes it attractive. I’m barely 50 and have a high school classmate finishing her 30th year this year, and she’ll get full pension next year. That is worth something,

  31. Why doesn’t your school have a text book if we live in similar neighborhoods in the same county? My DD had a textbook for social studies every year in grades 5- 11. She is in regents US History this year, but she has a textbook and it seems decent. She studies from it for exams and she has the teacher that does teach APUSH so they are covering similar material. The exams are much easier in the regents class, but the teacher does similar lessons. I used to quiz her from the textbook when she was in middle school and the textbooks were accurate. The stuff is pretty standard and it is correct. Is it possible that your district doesn’t want to spend the money to give a every kid a textbook for use at home? I can’t think of any other reason why they would stray from a textbook since a lot of this material is covered in the tri states review for the Social Studies curriculum.

    I have a lot to say about this topic, but this is one time when I am glad that I live where I live because many of the teachers that DD had in our district are very good teachers. The compensation is fair and there are some hurdles to become a public school teacher in this state. I was interviewing teachers as one of the parent reps until last year, and many of the new (young)teachers were also qualified to teach. There are plenty of teachers that are not great, but it isn’t so easy to become a public school teacher in NY state. That may change as there continue to be shortages in certain subjects like Physics and Computer Science, but most of the teachers in the upper grades have subject knowledge. We are spoiled in this area because so many new grads start in NYC and then jump to a nearby burb for better working conditions. This usually means that a teacher will have some teaching experience in that grade or subject.

  32. @LfB – I totally agree. And it’s somewhat local/state level, no? I don’t know how much influence I want the Feds to have on public K-12 education, honestly.

    In private school we had a number of career-changers with mixed success. A few were kooks or people looking for something new that weren’t great at teaching, and a few were fantastic & brought a great outside perspective.

    In our public school, we have only had one career-changer so far, and she is an exceptional teacher. She is an Ivy grad for both undergrad & grad school and burnt out on consulting. Man, is she a fabulous teacher, and she is really great at keeping 6th & 7th graders engaged. It is really a skill.

    I agree that there is a huge difference between elementary (K-5) and Middle/HS where deep subject matter knowledge helps along with classroom management/teaching skills. Teaching kids how to read, number literacy, all the building blocks is a completely different animal that requires knowledge in human development, multiple learning strategies, and a breadth of knowledge in many subject areas. (S&M – Including learning styles or whatever you want to call it.) El Ed and Secondary Ed are two completely different things. I think it would be much easier to do the quickie certification for older kids if someone already has a depth of knowledge.

  33. I know NY is an outlier, but teacher salaries are not depressed in the tri state region. NJ, CT also offer fair to above average compensation for teachers. My friend is in northern California and her district offers subsidized housing and free onsite day care for teachers.

    “As the map shows, six-figure median salaries have become the norm for teachers in the vast majority of New York’s downstate suburban school districts.

    As of 2018-19, more than half the full-time public school teachers in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties had salaries exceeding $100,000 a year. Median salaries were just over $90,000 in two other downstate counties, Dutchess and Orange, as well as in Ulster County.

    The highest median teacher salary was reported for Nassau County’s Jericho School District, at $148,888, followed by Scarsdale in Westchester County at $143,057, Syosset in Nassau County at $138,389, Cold Spring Harbor in Suffolk at $136,733, and Carmel in Putnam County at $136,609. Haverstraw-Stony Point teachers had the highest median salary in Rockland County, at $123,934.”

    Keep in mind that theses figures are for working ten months of the year. The public pays for their pension contributions too.

    https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/median-pay-levels-in-new-york-public-schools/

  34. “I think we’ll find out soon enough if discovery learning works. That seems to be the basis of my elementary age child’s virtual learning.”

    Gah, it needs to be both!! Most subjects are taught best by a combination of tightly focused, short lectures, and active learning assignments that should be somewhat structured.

  35. “Why doesn’t your school have a text book if we live in similar neighborhoods in the same county?”

    Because, and I am sure you know this, we don’t have a county-wide district. We have microdistricts and each microdistrict makes their own textbook and materials determination. My DD had very few textbooks in middle school – mainly just French and one year in science. SHe has never had a math textbook, and still doesn’t this year.
    Some of the things you describe in your district are suprising to me. Different districts…

  36. The certification route makes it easier for women who have been out of the workforce to rejoin the workforce through teaching. A few of my kids friends mothers taught elementary school at their school once their own kids were a little grown up. One of my neighbors went this route as well. The SAHMs take this route in times of economic crisis as well, if the spouse loses their job.
    There are career teachers as well but there is a part of the teacher population that is in the revolving door.

  37. MM, I hear you, but both of our districts are part of the Trip State Consortium. School districts in the consortium usually work together on benchmarks, teaching standards and programs/practices. Also, the regents exam usually leads to similar coursework in the high school classrooms.

  38. To be clear, Direct Instruction does not consist of a robotic teacher lecturing with no input from students. It includes input from students, but usually after a teacher has provided clear introduction and explanation of the lesson. It offers a structured framework that works and importantly is more efficient than the “throw them in the water to teach them how to swim” discovery method of teaching. It’s not only for below-average teachers. I know a very smart teacher who applies DI and finds it the most effective way to teach.

    I do– Teacher Modeling, Teacher Directed
    We do– Guided Practice with Support and Structure
    You do– Independent Practice to Demonstrate Learning

  39. What is the Trip state consortium?

    I agree that the Regents leads to standardization of content. And our district does very well with the Regents. But 8th grade social studies is not a regents course, nor was 8th grade science. She is in Regents level science this year, but there is no text book. Her math is Regents, but no textbook
    Her history course is an AP (we split AP Global into two years here) so they do have a textbook.

  40. Quite often here we get into the “fairness” of teacher pay. When you add the school days and extra teacher work days, you get somewhere around 190 working days for teachers. Most other people work 250 days a year. The main argument follows the lines of a teachers’ hours per day is more than 8 with all the grading, lesson planning outside of the planning period, parent contact, etc. with the counter being, you need to work the equivalent of 60 days to put in the same as other people.

    All that to say, it is hard to say if teachers are fairly paid without some sort of detailed analysis that no one seems to want to do.

  41. The undergrad economist in me says all the people who are working as teachers are being paid fairly, otherwise they would be doing something else. Ref LfB above, if some districts are unable to fill all the slots, then they need to do something about pay, working conditions, benefits, perhaps all of the above. I don’t know what the right comp level is for teachers. A quick playing with the link Lauren attached shows me the lowest paid teachers in several counties around here are in, for lack of a better term, special ed and ‘industrial’ (wood/auto/metal shop as curriculum) vs the regular schools populated by the ‘everyone’ (else) who are on the “should” get a 4yr degree track.

  42. Ref LfB above, if some districts are unable to fill all the slots, then they need to do something about pay, working conditions, benefits, perhaps all of the above.

    Wouldn’t another option be to simplify the job? In the old days (pre 1913) all cars were hand built buy a few skilled craftsman. When demand got too high, the only option was to break vehicle assembly down to many discrete steps that could be taught to relatively unskilled labor. The end result much higher quality cars at a much lower price.

    To me that’s what DI and scripted instruction is about. How can we effectively teach kids if we don’t have enough gifted history PhDs to go around.

    The main issue in both cases is that skilled craftsman hated the assembly line and teachers hate scripted instruction.

  43. “Clearly, the sound at the end of pizza is more like the “u” in bug than the “a” in apple.”

    But more like the “a” in “a” (or “apply”) than the “a” in “apple.”

  44. “Math Education”

    DS’s MS assistant principal has a PhD in Math Education. He helped design the MS math curriculum.

    DS’ junior physics teacher was an intern, teaching under the guidance of an experienced teacher. He (the intern) left after that year to pursue his PhD in physics education.

  45. “To be clear, Direct Instruction does not consist of a robotic teacher lecturing with no input from students. It includes input from students, but usually after a teacher has provided clear introduction and explanation of the lesson.”

    This sounds like DD’s engineering classes this year. They have videotaped lectures on the content. Then their in-person class time is basically a work session, where the kids work through various problems with a TA or professor for help. And then of course there are the tests, where they’re on their own. DD does much better in that kind of structured environment, with lectures on concepts and illustrations, and then supported group work time.

    “All that to say, it is hard to say if teachers are fairly paid without some sort of detailed analysis that no one seems to want to do.”

    Well, I’d say that the results speak for themselves. If you have well-qualified people beating down the door to do the work, then they’re fairly-paid or more. If you can’t find anyone to take the job, or you are attracting only mediocre candidates, then they’re not. I mean, I’m sure those Eastern CO teaching jobs are decently-paid compared to the other jobs in the area. The problem is that’s why those areas are dying — because there *are* no good jobs, and people who have the attributes to earn more than $20K/yr are going somewhere where there are jobs available that pay more than that.

    It’s really just a question of what you see as a top teacher, and how much you actually want that and are willing to pay for it. Because unfortunately, if you want the “best and brightest” to teach your kids, those are the same people who are going to have the most alternative options that will allow them to make a lot more money, too. Comparing average pay works if you want to attract average teachers — or if you just want to hope that you will attract above-average candidates who value the time off more than they value the money (e.g., a mom married to a higher-earner who can afford not to chase the highest buck).

    I also don’t know the “right” answer, and I suspect it varies from district to district and even school to school. I’m just not a fan of whining, as if people have no control over what they get. Don’t like your pay as a teacher? Get another job. Don’t like the quality of teaching you’re attracting? Pay more. Tired of watching your best teachers burn out and leave within a few years? Change the working conditions. Etc.

  46. “A quick playing with the link Lauren attached shows me the lowest paid teachers in several counties around here are in, for lack of a better term, special ed and ‘industrial’”

    Interesting.

    Locally, I’ve read/heard many times that special ed teaching positions are the hardest for DOE to fill, even though there is a pay bump for those positions.

  47. “Most other people work 250 days a year.”

    I don’t think so.

    250 days/year would be 5 days/week with 10 holidays and no vacation or sick time. I think many, perhaps most, other people have somewhere between 10 and 30 paid days off per year between sick leave, vacation time, and other sorts of paid time off.

  48. “a mom married to a higher-earner who can afford not to chase the highest buck”

    I’ve mentioned before that DD has told me that if she married someone rich, she’d like to be a teacher.

  49. “This sounds like DD’s engineering classes this year. They have videotaped lectures on the content. Then their in-person class time is basically a work session, where the kids work through various problems with a TA or professor for help. And then of course there are the tests, where they’re on their own. DD does much better in that kind of structured environment, with lectures on concepts and illustrations, and then supported group work time.”

    That is officially a flipped classroom, with lots of active learning. It is the opposite of DI.

  50. Re. the amount that teachers work: Note that although I might work more days than my DH in any given year, my DH is not spending any of his workdays posting on blogs like I am. Most days he barely has time to go to the bathroom while he’s at school. I would say that in general, his average work day is way more intense than my average work day.

  51. NoB, that is an excellent point. My teacher friends are appalled at how much work I do afterhours, on weekends, and on vacation. They may work a bit in the evening, but they aren’t bringing their laptops on vacations, checking email all day, and responding to “urgent” issues. But, they are way more focused between 8-3 than I could ever be. Today I washed some dishes while on a call, did a load of laundry, and took my daughter to get a haircut, not to mention check FB and comment here.

    I actually feel guilty emailing the teachers during the day because I know they are getting bombarded by 8 year olds.

  52. Oh, and I also spent 45 minutes on hold with the Specialty Pharmacy about an error in their shipment (medication shipped without cold packs). A teacher wouldn’t have been able to do that.

  53. Off topic, I saw something I’ve never seen at the grocery store. As I walked out they had a cart full of 5lb bags of fruit flavored taffy.

    On the cart was a big sign, “Free! Take one!”

    I guess due to COVID the shittiest of all the Halloween candy completely failed to sell.

  54. Group has recently become convinced that instruction that benefits students with dyslexia also benefits all students, something reading scientists have long known.

    This makes me crazy. My dyslexic and dysgraphic kids went to a school that used whatever the program was where you just surround kids with books and they magically read. I didn’t know enough about dyslexia until the damage had been done. Teachers treat bright, articulate kids who struggle to read as willfully disobedient. They are obviously bright, so they are clearly just choosing not to read. Know what will fix that? Humiliating them by making them read out loud in front of the class. They move toward phonics for a while then right back to whole language.

  55. you just surround kids with books and they magically read.

    This is related to the general worship of books. It is middle-class and upper-middle-class America’s big idolatry, and like all idolatry, it is a sin. People gush on and on about how many books they have, how their bookshelves are sagging, how great they are because they love books, how great their children are because they love books. Everyone is self-congratulatory and tickled pink because they loooooove books.

    I like books fine. I have a PhD in philosophy. I’ve read books. I occasionally remind people that not all books are created equal; Ulysses and Fifty Shades of Grey probably don’t have the same literary value. Usually I just sit back and wait for everyone to quit orgasming over how brilliant they are because they loooooove books.

    From this idolatry comes, in part, the view that books are mystical and divine and their value will manifest itself if you just surround children with them. How many people in the group have rushed to inform us that their children taught themselves to read in utero? At 13 months? Etc. In fact, someone (and I have a guess as to who) will follow up by announcing that their child taught itself to read (and it’s always critical that the child taught itself; if there had been outside instruction, the mystical manifestation of the divinity of the book would be less…divine) at 18 months.

    Why is it important that your child taught itself to read? Ask yourself that. It’s the same reason that it’s important that Jesus manifested to Saul on the road to Damascus.

    Anyway, it’s repulsive and it’s an abomination unto the Lord. The Lord alone deserves this worship.

    Reading is a skill. It can be taught.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  56. Oh Becky, that is horrible. I love to read, but terrible at reading out loud. In 4th grade I was forced to read a chapter out loud and through the whole passage said “garbage” instead of “garage”. The teacher made me feel like an idiot when I finished. After that I refused to read out loud.

  57. The main issue in both cases is that skilled craftsman hated the assembly line and teachers hate scripted instruction.

    The problem with you comparison is that kids have a wide variety of learning styles. Teaching a kid isn’t the equivalent of assembling a car.

  58. DD,

    You’re assuming the median teacher is currently crafting their lessons to the specific needs of each individual student. Becky’s experience would say that’s not the case.

  59. We always had to read out loud in front of the class. I was a good reader but I was very shy and could barely croak out the words. I don’t think the practice has anything to do with phonics vs non-phonics though. I think it is a “tradition” that teachers thought they had to uphold.

  60. I think it is a “tradition” that teachers thought they had to uphold.

    I think the idea was to try and get kids comfortable with speaking in public. Most good jobs – tenured prof, executive, lawyer, management consultant, research scientist, etc. require at least some public speaking.

  61. You may be right Rhett, at least to some outdated thought. I do a lot of public speaking (now from the safety of my home), so my humiliation from back then didn’t have long term effects. The key to my public speaking is to enjoy the topic and know a lot about the subject. No reading required.

  62. Finn -can you give a brief overview of Speech and Debate since you judged those competitions ?

  63. I googled around a bit and discovered that most sites on early reading are very much against reading in front of the class (aka round robin reading, popcorn reading, whole class reading). There seems to be one person who wrote a book that is influential in charter schools (Teach Like a Champion) who is a proponent of this practice, particularly popcorn reading (no student knows when he or she will be asked to read aloud so they all have to stay on their toes). The author, Doug Lenov, is evidently affiliated with Uncommon Schools. It is actually really hard to find much that is concrete about practice that seemed at one time to be so universal.

  64. RMS, I have three kids who were all over your spectrum – one who taught himself to read at 4, one who didn’t learn to read until first grade but rapidly caught up, and one who was in reading support pullouts in first grade. By middle school all were strong avid readers. I am honestly not sure, though, that “teaching” made the difference for any of them. Kid#2 came in with severe hearing impairment and speech delays which put him at high risk for reading struggles. Phonics didn’t work well for him because he couldn’t hear phonemes that well. His first grade teacher told me, at the end of the year, that he had learned to read and she didn’t think she had anything to do with it. Kid#3 continued to struggle with reading until she was put on ADHD meds, at which point she quickly caught up.
    I honestly have no idea how any of my kids learned to read.

  65. You’re assuming the median teacher is currently crafting their lessons to the specific needs of each individual student. Becky’s experience would say that’s not the case.

    I know they aren’t, and that’s one of the big problems with schools currently. My point is implementing a system whereby no teachers would be able to do that would be a big step in the wrong direction. Education is much different that manufacturing and moving to an assembly line approach would be a huge mistake, IMO.

  66. Both my kids have confirmed that they don’t do round robin reading (popcorn would have give me extreme anxiety!). I’m glad they didn’t have to suffer like I did. Listening to DD2 pull out reading help is really interesting. I feel like I’m learning phonics for the first time.

  67. I think this is only political in China. I’ve been oddly fascinated with the buildup to, and then sudden collapse of, the Ant IPO.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-president-xi-jinping-halted-jack-ma-ant-ipo-11605203556?mod=hp_lead_pos5

    China’s President Xi Jinping Personally Scuttled Jack Ma’s Ant IPO
    Senior government leaders were furious about wealthy entrepreneur’s criticisms of regulators; rebuke was the culmination of years of tense relations

  68. Louise, if you have any questions about debate, I’ll try to answer, or see if my kids can provide an answer. Both kids were in debate for 4 years, but only participated in speech during MS. Not many kids did both in HS.

  69. Louise, I doubt your kids have an FFA chapter at their school, but if they do, they have a really good program to teach public speaking. Freshman start with a recitation contest, sophomores, juniors, and seniors do impromptu, extemporaneous, and prepared speech contests. There is also a team sport called Parliamentary Procedure.

    If you’re interested, I’ll try to find a clip of the kid who won the freshman contest at Nationals. She’s a Californian.

  70. Oh the reading aloud in elementary was so painful for everyone – no matter the reading level or confidence.

    @Cass – I had friends in FFA, and I agree. We also did some of those things in DECA which is something I never hear about around here. (Here being both IRL and on this blog.) Is that also more of a small town thing?

    @RMS – As the parent of a kid where reading did not magically happen in preschool, I chuckled at your post. (I do believe 100% that his early elementary teachers made a huge difference because I failed miserably at trying to help him learn to read.) Also, I love mysteries and other kinds of non-literary fiction. So meh.

  71. I don’t know who is benefitted by making everyone read aloud. My son is a good reader, and he hates it too. Used to ask me why people “kept their voice the same” (monotone), and didn’t change their inflection for different speakers or for emphasis. Now he gets it that it isn’t easy for everyone, but still doesn’t enjoy it. Most recent example—his class reading “Raisin in the Sun”. The “best” part was all the various accents from around the Commonwealth.

  72. Rocky, that’s funny. Like Mooshi, I have no clue how my child learned to read. But once he could, the best thing to help him improve was more reading. I really believe that differentiation is absolutely necessary to be a decent teacher, and many we encountered did precious little in that direction, preferring to punish a kid for not doing his assignment a second time over coming up with something for that kid to do (or permitting him to read quietly in his seat). It was miserable. He was treated as Becky describes her kids—assumed to be misbehaving intentionally and shamed/punished for it.

  73. Thanks Finn and Cass. One kid did not choose Soeech and Debate, second kid is considering it. I just offer to find out information, they can make a decision on whether to do it or not.

  74. I joke that my city has the FLA and FBA (made up acronyms for Future Lawyers of America and Future Bankers of America). FSA or Future Scientists of America reside in Raleigh. I am sure our more rural schools have FFA – N.C. State is a land grant college.

  75. Any Grey’s Anatomy fans? The show is popular with tweens and teens so DD and her friends were watching together last night because it was the season premiere. Many of the kids (including mine) watched 16 seasons of the show long before the pandemic. I wasn’t even watching last night because there was a special on NBC about Law and Order. I heard the commotion at 11 and then she came in to see if I was watching. She took my phone and told me to stay off social media until I saw the entire episode. It is rare that a show can still be this good and have a major surprise in season 17. It was hard to watch the show because they tried to demonstrate what it is really like in a hospital in April 2020. One of my friends that is a gastroenterologist watched with her daughter and she said the episode was very accurate about life inside a covid hospital.

  76. Milo, of course you do. You have made the point many times that your kids are aggressively NT and you just can’t relate to other experiences. My kid is not typical, but he isn’t *that* unique either. Teaching in ways that focus only on “normal” learners hurts all the kids who differ in any way. in any direction from that norm. They all deserve to be supported in who they are and how they learn.

  77. I have no idea what “aggressively” NT means. I also have a close relative who is not at all NT, and will likely be unable to live independently.

    All I did was agree with RMS’ post about idolization of reading. If you want to attack someone, go attack her, although I don’t think she said anything about the value of different teaching methods that you’re blabbering on about.

    And please leave my kids out of it.

  78. “We also did some of those things in DECA which is something I never hear about around here. (Here being both IRL and on this blog.) Is that also more of a small town thing?”

    I’m surprised to hear of another totebagger who participated in DECA. When I did, it was more of a vocational track and not college prep. We attended school half days and worked half days.

  79. DECA is a popular club in DD’s high school. The kids pushed the Superintendent to figure out a way to keep the club open this year. Several of the HS officers are also regional and national DECA officers. I never heard of DECA when I was a kid, but the kids seem to learn a lot of useful skills. Debate was popular when I was in HS, but lots of the same kids seem to track into Model UN or DECA as a substitute for the debate team.

    Finn, many of my former HS classmates are FB friends of mine. I would estimate that 80% of them are lawyers or professors now. The peer group thing was true for this crew from my HS because several of them are life long friends. They used to travel together and they spent a lot of time together BITD because there was no way to prep for the debates except for face to face.

  80. Milo, talking to each other as parents means there’s no way to leave our kids out of it. My response was to the suggestion that my son somehow did not deserve the support that other kids get, because of learned to read “early” rather than “late” (both of which are silly labels; kids learn to walk, talk, read, and do pretty much everything else at different rates, each in their own time. The important part is that they learn and that they aren’t crushed in doing so). I already replied to Rocky above. I am well aware that you have zero understanding of “aggressively normal” or of difference, despite this relative you refer to.

  81. I don’t know why you keep asking Milo to stop writing how/what he wants on the Totebag. I would much rather learn about Milo’s typical experience vs hearing about one poster’s experience over (and over and over again) when it isn’t relevant to me.

    So, just skip his comments if you don’t want to read his comments. Skip vs attacking him.

  82. Despite what other people may insinuate, I have never posted about my son’s experience with reading as a brag. Any time I have mentioned it has been in conjunction with discussions on teaching or child development, as an example of the ways schools are structured along rigid norms. In our state, the common practice was an illegal policy of waiting for a child to fail before offering any support. That isn’t fair to any kid, no matter where they fall on any spectrum. No matter how many times I’ve repeated this, it seems some of you still think that early reading =smart= school is a breeze. That is absolutely not the case. I don’t have any clue how else to explain to you that it isn’t. I’m really surprised by the way Rocky called me out with a sneer. She is one regular I had thought got it that my kid’s school experience has been miserable, and that it might’ve been better if his light was just a bit dimmer. Is racism part of the problem? I assume so, but that isn’t the kind of thing you can definitively prove. So I’ll say it one more time: I have used my son’s experience as a way to demonstrate that more teachers need to differentiate their teaching to make sure all kids are included.

  83. Lauren, we were posting at the same time. You think I “keep telling” Milo how to post? That sure seems backwards to me. I addressed him only because of his response to a comment calling me out. Should I just hear y’all talking about me and ignore it?

  84. Lauren, there are ways your experience isn’t “normal” that you have me filmed many times. I’m interested in them, as they give me windows into experiences I’ve heard of but never had any direct touch with before. I see now that you don’t feel the same way.
    As far as me me think g my kids reading experience—don’t blame me, blame Rocky. I was planning to sit out that part of this conversation, because I assumed you were all already aware that some kids don’t float along the standard path. Turns out I was correct in that impulse. So go tell her to leave me out of it.

  85. Mentioning.

    Cant type that word to save my soul. I think I hit “space” instead of “n” and then Siri has her way with the result.
    Anyway, my point above should be clear. If you’re going to talk about/mention me, don’t be surprised when I respond—and go dump your attitude on the person who me ruined me in the first place.

  86. I went to the DECA website thinking I could get an answer to my most fundamental question: What do the D E C A stand for? I learned plenty about what the org does etc.
    On the topic of learn something new every day, I had never heard of DECA until today.

    Mentioning FFA (which I had heard of), made me think of Walter Saul HS: W. B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences is located in the upper Roxborough section of Philadelphia on the rolling hills of the Wissahickon Valley bordering Fairmount Park. The multi-building complex is located on a 130-acre campus. On one side of Henry Avenue are Academic, Agricultural, Greenhouses, Physical Education/ Health, and Small Animal Laboratory buildings bordered by an arboretum and athletic fields. On the opposite side of Henry Avenue is the working farm which houses our poultry, dairy, swine, sheep, horses, and our Food Science program. These buildings are bordered by the school’s golf course, nursery, field crops, and pasture area for the livestock.

    It’s a public school. I drove by there accidentally once and couldn’t believe the Philadelphia City Schools had such a place.

  87. I had google DECA too. I’d never heard of it either.

    Other high school club that does public speaking type contests is FBLA, which might be in Louise type high school.

  88. I also had to look up DECA. I’d never heard of it. Chicago Public Schools has an Agricultural High School as well.

  89. Folks, differentiation sounds lovely, but a teacher with 27 kids, who is responsible for getting everyone ready for state tests, keeping the kids in class engaged so they aren’t zoned out on their phones, tracking assessment data to send upwards, filing lesson plans, making sure all the grading is fair and no one is complaining, and nowdays, managing remote students on top of live students, simply does not have the time or bandwidth to differentiate. Pretty much every kid needs differentiation of one kind or another – how do you manage that?

    Kim will argue for tracking as the solution, and it can be helpful but doesn’t really solve the problem. Either you end up with a rigid, unbending tracking system like in our school district, which merely deals with kids with learning differences by tracking them to the bottom, or you end up with a high stakes testing scheme like in NYC, which penalizes kids with test anxiety or who don’t have coaching. And if you did create an inclusive tracking system, now you will end up with classes of high performers in say math, some of whom can’t get their assignments in, some of whom are bored by repetitious work get all fidgety, and some who are neat and organized and do all their assignments perfectly but freeze on exams. In other words, the individual learning needs that you guys want differentiation for are still going to be present in that class of 27.

    Also, the point at which differentiation is most needed is early – when kids are learning to read and do math. I truly believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach, especially with reading. But you can’t really track kids at that age because you just don’t know enough about them.

    If we want differentiation, we need a different educational model. Stuffing 27 kids into a room with a teacher who may only have a couple of years of experience is not going to get there. There are other approaches, notably Montessori, which may have the answer but we are not structured for that kind of approach.

  90. “My response was to the suggestion that my son somehow did not deserve the support that other kids get,”

    Absolutely no one said that ever. Not Rocky, not Milo, not anyone. Rocky ranted about how society worships reading, and particularly self-taught reading, as some mystical arbiter of all things right and good, even though we’re mostly reading total crap and acting like it’s Shakespeare. Milo agreed. You responded by going after Milo’s kids.

    I do not get how Rocky’s post could possibly be viewed as suggesting that ‘Saac didn’t deserve support in school, since she literally didn’t even mention school (other than to note that its *absence* is the key feature in the philosophy she is discussing).* But whatever you saw in Rocky’s post as a dig against ‘Saac, going after Milo’s kids as a counterattack was out of bounds.

    *She did snark about parents who brag about kids’ teaching themselves to read as if that is the sole indicator of brilliance and human worth. And it was really funny and really true, and I’m one of the people who falls into that line of thinking, so I have to chalk one up in the Rocky column there. Because she got me, and it was funny as shit.

  91. Either you end up with a rigid, unbending tracking system like in our school district, which merely deals with kids with learning differences by tracking them to the bottom, or you end up with a high stakes testing scheme like in NYC, which penalizes kids with test anxiety or who don’t have coaching.

    Or option C, that is one thing I actually like about our HS, where can can easily shift between honors/AP and regular classes with a lot of flexibility.

  92. “I’m really surprised by the way Rocky called me out with a sneer. She is one regular I had thought got it that my kid’s school experience has been miserable, and that it might’ve been better if his light was just a bit dimmer. Is racism part of the problem? I assume so, but that isn’t the kind of thing you can definitively prove.”

    Saac, I say this with love, because I appreciate what you contribute here, and over the years have come to care about you and your son. I didn’t read Rocky’s post or Milo’s affirming post as related to you at all. Sometimes people post things that are not about you and you interpret it as a slam against you or your son. I only remember people celebrating the fact that Saac was an early reader. Rocky’s post was about worshiping books. Milo agreed. That was all it was. Absolutely no one here has slammed your son for being non-neurotypical. Please don’t hear what no one is saying. It just makes you unnecessarily stressed.

  93. “Or option C, that is one thing I actually like about our HS, where can can easily shift between honors/AP and regular classes with a lot of flexibility.”
    DD, I think I addressed that when I mentioned “inclusive tracking system”, which your schools system may be an example of. But you are assuming a kid’s need for differentiated teaching can be solved simply by moving the kid to an easier class or to a harder class. But it doesn’t, because most of these kids have needs that are independent of the class level. Plus it can make things harder for the teachers because the needs flow back and forth with the kid. And finally, you can’t flip kids back and forth in math and to some extent science because the material builds so much.

  94. “Or option C, that is one thing I actually like about our HS, where can can easily shift between honors/AP and regular classes with a lot of flexibility.”

    There seems to be a lot of flexibility in the schools around here too.
    The high stakes testing system is really unique to the NYC area and perhaps Chicago and a few other metro areas with such dismal public school systems that parents are desperate to get their kids into a safe school with a good peer group.
    Our experience in Fairfax County was that the schools bent over backwards to accommodate learning differences, sometimes to the detriment of the non-super gifted, well-behaved student cohort without any special needs.

  95. Our school district accomplished differentiation at one point through the use of paraprofessionals in the classroom in addition to a teacher. So DD’s 5th grade class had 5 kids with dyslexia and during writing assignments the para would focus on those five kids and provide guidance and help where needed. Math classes had the same. Budget cuts eliminated those positions and moved the coordination for accommodations to a central office person who the teachers could email for guidance. Obviously, this was much less effective for the kids. When I moved each of them out of the district, one to Catholic school and one to a charter, they got marginally better help. I essentially homeschooled at night for a decade or more. I am keenly aware that lots of families cannot, so plan to copy off Louise and look into volunteering time in schools.

    I feel for teachers – I think differentiation must be extremely challenging. And schools are budget constrained. I believe they would like to do more than they are currently doing. My state values low taxes over all else, and i don’t blame teachers (except the 2-3 specific mean ones) for the unsatisfactory results of that prioritization.

    On teacher salaries that people were posting yesterday – Oklahoma pays $38K. They keep removing requirements for new hires because they have such trouble hiring. It is my understanding they some districts removed the background check. What could possibly go wrong?

  96. @Kim- When I was in DECA there was definitely both a vocational element and a college-track one within our chapter. But my school was not Totebaggy at all – it was a small town HS so very socio-economically diverse, even if 100% of the kids were white. Some of the non-college-bound kids did do internships through DECA like you described – mostly bookkeeping type jobs.

    It stands for Distributive Education Clubs of America or something – which is why you probably can’t find it. Doesn’t make as much sense in 2020.

  97. “What could possibly go wrong?”
    Not sure if I’ve mentioned this on here before or not, but Hillsborough country (Florida) uses Kelly Services for its substitute teachers. One of them was arrested the year my son was in 7th grade; deputies had him open his trunk, which contained a large amount of meth. They handcuffed him in the parking lot and took him away.

  98. Where TF do you people see me going after Milo’s kids? And how on earth is this not slogging after me & mine? How many people in the group have rushed to inform us that their children taught themselves to read in utero? At 13 months? Etc. In fact, someone (and I have a guess as to who) will follow up by announcing that their child taught itself to read (and it’s always critical that the child taught itself; if there had been outside instruction, the mystical manifestation of the divinity of the book would be less…divine) at 18 months.

    The solution I suggest is that people not post digs at unnamed individuals. Then no one will feel slammed.

    Laura, were you not here yet when PTM wrote his lengthy, beautiful screed about how it would be good for kid to learn to just sit still and be bored? Lots of applause. It was a very well written comment, as most of his were.

  99. “In fact, someone (and I have a guess as to who) will follow up by announcing that their child taught itself to read ”

    SM, there are any number of people on this blog to whom this comment might refer to. It could me and one of my kids. It wasn’t an attack on you.

    Rocky’s comment was witty and true, but that doesn’t make it an attack.

  100. And how on earth is this not slogging after me & mine?

    SM, I’ve posted here before that I think you take offense when none is offered. There is nothing to indicate that comment was directed at you. I did not think of you when I read it. So for those of us who just enjoyed Rocky’s wit and gentle ribbing of the Totebag collective, your response seems out of line. You are holding someone else responsible for your own personal sensitivity.

  101. “And how on earth is this not slogging after me & mine?”

    How on earth IS that targeting you? Why would you even begin to think that you were the target?

    Please re-read what HFN wrote. Rocky wrote a very funny and accurate pseudo-sermon poking fun at Totebaggers everywhere, you read it as a personal attack, you took the discussion in a very negative direction that had nothing whatsoever to do with what Rocky posted, and you still refuse to acknowledge that it is even remotely possible that you might have read it wrong. And that’s the last I’m going to say about it.

  102. “I feel for teachers – I think differentiation must be extremely challenging.”

    OTOH, as Mooshi points out, that is a core part of teaching, especially of younger kids. An important part of teaching very young kids is, IMO, teaching them to learn, not just teaching them how to read, write, etc.

  103. “I have never posted about my son’s experience with reading as a brag.”

    Whether or not you’ve done this, I think we’ve agreed here that such brags are OK here. We’ve often celebrated the bases for such brags.

  104. “Or option C, that is one thing I actually like about our HS, where can can easily shift between honors/AP and regular classes with a lot of flexibility.”

    IOW, kids and their parents can decide to have the kids try the harder classes, and downshift if those classes turn out to be too hard?

    I like that. I imagine there is a non-zero set of kids who are in the less challenging classes and not doing well for reasons other than not being able to handle the work, and who would do better in the harder classes. And often their teachers may not see that, and in systems that require prior grades and/or teacher recommendations to get into the honors/AP tracks, those kids would be placed in the wrong classes, to nobody’s benefit.

  105. IOW, kids and their parents can decide to have the kids try the harder classes, and downshift if those classes turn out to be too hard?

    Yes, exactly.

  106. Louise, I’ll put in a plug in favor of your kids trying debate. It’s not for everyone, but some kids really enjoy it, and it can also help them develop speaking and logical thinking skills.

    I’ve also alluded to the peer group. Locally it attracts a disproportionate number of NMSF/Presidential nominee type kids from all the schools that participate, and a disproportionate number of participants seem to go on to HSS.

    RMS might have some thoughts as well. Debate provides kids with a reason to learn some philosophy, as arguments are typically predicated on philosophy.

  107. My Dad and I were talking about how much I enjoyed debate and how he would have hated all the unnecessary school work. (He’s a jock, I’m a nerd.) One of the reasons I enjoyed it was because it gave an outlet to my competitive intellectual nature, because I sure as heck wasn’t athletically competitive in anything.

    My Dad spent a lot of time helping me develop basic athletic skills but he never expressed disappointment that I’m not a jock and supported me in my nerd activities. At the time, I didn’t realize how grateful I should be.

    I would only encourage your child to compete in speech/debate if (s)he enjoys it. There are other ways to develop a work ethic and public speaking skills.

  108. “how much I enjoyed debate and how he would have hated all the unnecessary school work.”

    Isn’t that kinda like considering, say, football practice for the HS football team as unnecessary school work?

  109. “ I think we’ve agreed here that such brags are OK here.“

    Are there brags that are not OK? Is reading a protected status brag?

  110. Thanks Finn and WCE. I encourage my kids by discussing the various options open to them and let them make their final decision.
    My kids with certain activities have been like the next post vacation child who can ski, doesn’t like it and would much rather do something else. I have come around to realizing that my interests or what I want for them, is not the same as their interests or what they want to be good at. It’s been an interesting journey for me.

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