Thursday, September 23, 2010

Waiting for Teachers (copy)

Everybody is talking about it. You cannot turn on the news without hearing something about it. Oprah devoted an hour of her talk show schedule to it Monday. WKNO is playing comparable pieces on the situation in California. I have even seen scenes and heard interviews on the Jon Stewart show.

I am talking about the heart-breaking documentary “Waiting for Superman.” The movie is set to air this weekend and it addresses America’s failing schools. The focus is in the District of Columbia school area where a strong reformer, Michelle Rhee, is shaking up the status quo for tenured teachers. She suggests that teachers’ pay be in direct correlation with student outcomes.

I applaud Rhee’s determination, but I refuse to be that negative about school education as a whole. Some of the most caring people I know are teachers with a passion for education. Even my parents are or have been teachers at some point in their careers. Teachers are good people.

After watching the movie, people will want to make a difference. Here are some book suggestions to get started.

Both stay at home moms and working mothers should properly prepare offspring for education. Talk to your child. Read to your child. Sing to your child. Statistics prove over-and-over that language is the key to a successful child. Try reading Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness or School Starts at Home: Simple Ways to make Learning Fun by Cheri Fuller.

New teachers pick up Jonathan Kozol’s Letters to a Young Teacher. Kozol has spent over 40 years as an educator in inner-city schools. He has also written over 11 books on the subject. In this, his latest, he reaches out to new and enthusiastic teachers with sound advice. One I use, never lie, admit when you do not know and go in search for the answer together.

The funniest people I know are also teachers. My mother could not wait to serve dinner and tell us “the funny” for the day. In The Art of Teaching, Jay Parini has written a very funny memoir of his life as a college instructor. Nuggets of wisdom fill the pages.

Finally, for teachers who need a little inspiration in the classroom, read The Essential 55: An Award-winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child by Ron Clark. The last rule, 55, says be the best person you can be. Be a teacher!

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