I’ve worked with many teachers. I’ve been taught by many teachers pre-k through 12th grade, under-graduate, graduate, and throughout my doctoral education-related degree programs. I work with students aspiring to be teachers, student-teachers, cooperating teachers, and their associated administration teams. I’ve been a teacher for most of my adult life myself. Over the years, the observations that I’ve made about the “other side of the classroom” have led me to believe that a number of the teachers that are currently teaching are either doing it for the wrong reasons or have developed such a cynical and jaded attitude to their profession that they probably should consider changing their career path or, at least, -their teaching perspective(s).
One of the RISKS that anyone takes when putting out this kind information is a back-lash from those that have TRULY been forced into strange, odd, and unusual circumstances that have created their own individual situations and/or “plight”. There can be no doubt that there are public records of some school systems that have shown signs of favoritism, nepotism, un-called for bureaucracy, elitism, dis-proportional spending, and special interest lobbying that affect the teachers’ ability to actually “be good or better teachers”. Other than recognizing these and other factors ahead of time as variables that do and could come into play with regard to a small number of teachers’ perspectives, I do not intend to focus on some of the “more legitimate” arguments that might have brought a teacher(s) to these particular perspectives…
When anyone looks at a list like this (including myself), they begin to immediately begin a series of comparisons as to how they are like/not like these points and/or how others they know are like/not like these points. It is always a good exercise to re-evaluate ourselves, our goals, our current state of mind, and our current views about “why we are the way we are” or “why we think the way we do”. There are many articles and lists available that detail the “traits of good teachers” and thoughts about “what makes a good teacher”. Interestingly enough, I have not come across many articles like the subject of this one –the flip-side of those other lists. After talking about and “bouncing” my list off of a number of current teachers, I’ve decided to go ahead and post this on MusTech.Net to enter it into the body of discussion that surrounds this topic.
There are three quotes that I find particularly inspiring with regard to education and teachers that are appropriate to go along with a post such as this, the first from J.F. Kennedy, the second from William Arthur Ward, and the third from Kathryn Patricia Cross:
“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” –J.F. Kennedy
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” –W. A. Ward
“”The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate ‘apparently ordinary’ people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people.” –K. Patricia Cross
SIGNS THAT A TEACHER MIGHT WANT TO RE-THINK BEING A TEACHER OR THEIR CURRENT TEACHING PHILOSPHY:
- The Teacher really doesn’t care about teaching or the students’ ability to learn.
- The teacher doesn’t listen to the students when they ask questions or simply doesn’t provide any time for the students to ask questions.
- The teacher doesn’t spend time preparing for their lessons.
- The teacher doesn’t care when the majority of their students are failing a class, test, etc.
- The teacher looks at having to talk with a student’s parents as only a required obligation -nothing more.
- The teacher goes through the lesson without engaging any of the students or gauging whether or not the students are following or interested.
- The teacher frequently ends lessons early, talks about other off-topic subjects, and rarely gives any type of feedback when assessing (if they assess).
- The teacher is the last to arrive in the morning and the first to leave in the afternoon.
- If the students weren’t “assigned seats”, the teacher wouldn’t know their students if they “bumped” into them outside of class.
- The Teacher doesn’t care to learn more effective ways to teach his/her subject, or learn more about it himself/herself.
- When a teacher is not passionate about what they are teaching they typically will just go through the “motions” and rarely get excited about any recent developments in their field that could make them better teachers or more knowledgeable in their subject areas (a lack of teaching passion). Consequently, no passion develops in the students that initially want to learn what is being taught.
- When opportunities present themselves for further learning in his/her subject he/she, typically, will not act on them. He/She often complains about having to go to a required meeting or seminar, and often puffs himself/herself up as already knowing everything about the subject… or, they simply pass on the opportunities to do something (anything) else.
- The teacher can take the most simple of concepts and turn them into hard to understand complexities. What he/she needs to be doing is to take the new and complex concepts and present them to the students in simple, easy to understand ways -make the complex simple, and not vice-versa.
- Many times a teacher will not be well versed on the subject he/she is teaching and are often only “one chapter ahead” of his/her students. Sometimes they have no business even teaching the subject due to a lack of education or background in it! If a teacher does find himself teaching an unfamiliar subject, he/she spends very little time prepping for it.
- The classroom and lesson plans (if there are any) are completely un-organized and without structure.
- Teaching with newer computer-based technologies is something that he/she doesn’t have the time to explore (even if the funding and instruction is available) or explore simply because he/she doesn’t want to learn something “so different”.
- The teacher assumes that anyone failing his/her class is simply not smart enough and other problems that might exist (his/her teaching -for example) could never factor into his/her students ability to express what they’ve learned on an assessment…or they just don’t care -see number 1 above.
- The Teacher looks at his/her job as a pay-check and a series of vacations from working.
- The teacher looks at the act of teaching as a type of job where he/she would show up to work, put the day in, and check out (completely) when it’s all over. Using his/her “outside of class time” to work on something that might be of benefit to him/her, the school, or the students is tantamount to working without pay.
- There are many teachers that teach their 1st year 30 times over. What they should be doing is making every year an improvement over the previous one.
- The teacher allowed the entire year to be the proverbial “joke” for the students and one of the few times that his/her teaching was observed by an administrator ended up with him/her pleading with the class ahead of time to “be good”, “pay attention”, and “ask good/smart questions”.
- Weekends and the summer are simply a time to “turn off” and deal with everything and anything that is not related to the education process rather than using the time to rest, recover, and re-charge to make himself/herself more prepared AND a better teacher for the next year (at least some sizable portion of the time in the summer). See number 2 above.
- The Teacher looks at the students as an obstacle that they need to deal with on a daily basis.
- The teacher views the students as a necessary part of his/her day that must be dealt with so that he/she can reach the end of the day with as little problems and aggravations as possible.
- The teacher quickly becomes very impatient with regard to any questions or creative ideas that any of his/her students may have.
- The teacher uses Sarcasm as a primary “teaching tool”. By employing this tool, he/she frequently will embarrass, make fun of, and make public spectacles out of the students.
- Learning time often becomes “study hall” time.
- The Teacher looks at the administrators as people who are constantly finding ways to intrude on his/her life rather than helping him/her become a successful teacher.
- The teacher looks at any criticism from an administrator as a direct threat to his/her continuation of employment. Any problems brought up by the administrators regarding his/her teaching, whether it’s parental concerns, other teachers’ concerns, the concerns of his/her students, or simply constructive criticism is brushed aside and not taken in a serious manner.
- The teacher never looks to an administrator for help, guidance, and ideas about how to make him/her a more effective teacher, his/her students better learners, or ways to facilitate the educational system as a whole.
- The teacher uses his/her limited time with other teachers, during the school hours, to continually talk in negative ways about his/her students, fellow teachers, administrators, and/or the school system.
- Lunch time or any time he/she is not in a class is filled with gripe, gripe, and more gripe about every aspect of his/her teaching situation.
- The teacher doesn’t have any long term goals or ideas for himself/herself, his/her students, his/her department, or his/her school.
- The teacher doesn’t have a professional relationship (or perhaps even know the other people…) with other teachers that are teaching the same subject in their school district.
- The teacher doesn’t take the time to develop/talk-about a department-wide approach to teaching his/her subject.
- Subject matter may be assessed per item, but overall understanding of the subject matter is never assessed because long term goals are never considered.
- Any outward abusive and/or deviant signs of a teacher are inexcusable.
- Teachers are TAUGHT and KNOW the difference between appropriate interactions with students and ones that are not appropriate. Parents bestow their complete trust into the people that educate their students…there is nothing more tragic to the teaching profession and society than when this trust is nullified by the betrayal of it by the people that call themselves “teachers”.
Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D., is an industry innovator, educator, clinician and lecturer, trumpeter and conductor, and the creator of many music and education websites. He is currently the Vice President of Innovation and Engagement at Keystone Ridge Designs, Inc. After twenty-three years as a professor and administrator in higher education, he made the move into industry in 2018.
As one of the youngest full professors in Grove City’s history, he served in many capacities during his tenure including Professor of music, Director of Music and Fine Arts Technology, Technical Director of the Pew Fine Arts Center, Associate/Assistant Chair of Music and Fine Arts, Director of Jazz Studies.
He finished his tenure at the college as the Director of Bands, where he directed the college’s Symphonic Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Marching Band, Pep Band, and various smaller ensembles. He continues to guest direct bands, consult with music programs, and adjudicate ensembles and programs today.
He has been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award, the PA Citation of Excellence, and named a “member for life” of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators, an associate member of the American Bandmasters Association, a past President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association, and a member of various education and music honoraries.
He has written for numerous publications including DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, SBO, and was the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine for eight years; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications.
He is an active conductor, trumpeter, clinician, and educator. Find out more at his website: jpisano.com.