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Stop Making Our Teachers Scapegoats

Education: National union forces use of techniques that bring down students' scores. Back-to-basics teaching would help.

January 25, 1998|EILEEN SPATZ | Eileen Spatz is a home school teacher and mother of three. She writes from San Clemente

Memories of my mother, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher for 30 years, writing her lesson plans and grading papers in the evenings, and preparing bulletin boards and art projects on the weekends, are deeply etched in my mind. As a child, I sometimes would visit her classroom after school and watch her buzzing around the room, picking up toys, running off dittos, and preparing for the next day's craziness.

I was so influenced by these images, and by her joy in performing those duties, that I grew up wanting to become a teacher too. I changed my mind while in college and ended up in an entirely different profession. I am now living that dream of being a teacher. I am a home school teacher of three.

Teachers take a lot of heat with regard to the problems in our schools. What easier scapegoat for the lousy student performances in math and reading than the teachers who teach them.

I admit that I have felt frustration toward my children's teachers, at their apparent lack of response to parent concerns. But blaming teachers for this nation's falling test scores is absolutely off the mark.

In reality, teachers have become unknowing accomplices in the huge, decades-long mission of the National Education Assn. Teacher candidates are brainwashed from the teacher college level onward into accepting the NEA-driven progressive teaching philosophies of this powerful union. Most teachers enter into teaching simply for the love of children and a desire to shape young minds toward successful adulthood. They don't realize that they are being sabotaged.

In my short experience as a home school teacher, I can vouch for how trying it can be to keep a child's attention long enough to teach him something. But one thing I can't understand is why teachers so readily accept such fads as "child-centered" learning or "multiple intelligences."

In only six weeks, I was able to teach my kindergartner to read using a strong phonics curriculum. I began the year with the goal that she would be reading by the end of the school year, and was pleasantly surprised at how fast it happened. Many teachers are still resisting explicit, systematic phonics in favor of the whole language approach, which was rammed down their collective throats (wrongly) as the superior method.

Math is another area in which they've been snookered. Direct math instruction, with plenty of practice and repetition, works, plain and simple. The progress I am seeing in my children is amazing. They are now confident in math and even seem to enjoy it!

Teachers need to look at methods and textbooks critically. If teachers would only question the motives of their unions, and stick to direct teaching methods (especially for K through 8) which worked for decades, they could turn the schools around. Common sense should be their guide, along with the research that proves what works.

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