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My view: Better teachers, equipment won't improve schools as long as students avoid work

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  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 1, 2012 9:03 a.m.

    Well said. Parents send children to school to be educated and many think sending them out the door ends their responsibility.

  • E & EE PROVO, UT
    Sept. 1, 2012 7:03 a.m.

    The reason for this problem is that education is public. People don't pay for it directly at all and therefore they don't value it. I believe that Brigham Young opposed public education for this reason.

    I also think that extracurricular activities have overridden learning in high school. Getting rid of the public in public education would likely solve this problem as well.

  • been-there Dallas, TX
    Aug. 8, 2012 7:28 a.m.

    I think this is a great and truthful article. I've been a teacher and I think there is a lot of irresponsibility on the part of many parents dealing with their children and school Principals and coaches mistakes forcing absurd techniques to teachers while not focusing on the origin of the problem, which in most cases is not on the teacher. Too many almost useless teachers' in-services! Tackle the source of the problem. Teach parents to be good responsible and respectful parents. Too many good teachers in the US are looked down. Help teachers become better as well, don't burn them. Don't bluntly blame them for this social issue. Even their necessary recess time is reduced and looked down in the US schools. In successful Finland they go the other way around in most mentioned things. Lack of student attention is not allowed in China.
    I agree with: one old man, clutch, Be byebe and disagree with Eric S.
    100% of new PHD candidates in silicon valley are foreign born.
    Unfortunately we cannot place a link here, but I could have given you a great web site that analyses this problem and where it starts.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Aug. 7, 2012 4:20 p.m.

    As an educator and coach and counselor for 27 years this author is spot on. We have lost the concept of requiring our students to learn responsibility and accountability. Students today will lie and cheat and even when caught will say "I didn't do that". They know mom and dad will bail them out. They know that in today's society "kids can do no wrong", even when they do. Who is to blame for this? We all are to blame.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    Aug. 6, 2012 11:27 p.m.

    Having taught for 38 years in two different high schools and subbing in a dozen more, I can whole-heartedly agree with the author. It's difficult to instill the importance of an education to the average teenager who may have everything he or she wants: an iPhone, an iPod, a nice car and stylish clothes, but who has the attention span of a gnat.

    On the other hand, we have great kids who enroll in AP and IB classes and who have the support of interested (and usually educated) parents. I once told my daughter before her first year of teaching not to stress over her job. "Those who want to learn will learn in spite of the poorest teacher, and those who don't won't, no matter how hard you try or how much you care."

  • gudnuf4guvwrk Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 6, 2012 8:57 a.m.

    You can't make the observation that these kids just don't work as hard as they used to as if the world is the same as it was 25 years ago, as if kids are being fed the same messages they were then. Why aren't we asking what it is that makes students balk at the prospect of a multi-step math problem? Is it that their teacher has no ability to show them how or why knowledge of something like this would be important or valuable to their future careers? Is it their uninvolved parents? Is it media and pop culture messages focused more on shallow fluff than on profound substance? Likely it is a combination of all of these things. Lets call for more qualified and better compensated teachers. Lets teach children to have more responsibility and accountability for their own direction and why that would be important. Lets encourage parents to be more responsible for what their children are exposed to and more thoughtful about the messages they send. Lets point out the hollow shell offered by pop culture and sports culture instead of praising it even promoting it within our own schools.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Aug. 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.

    I agree with the letter writer. Many times a better performance would be likely if only the student would put forth some effort. I once volunteered to do free tutoring in the sciences for Jr and Sr high school and had not a single taker because the after school extra-curricular activities were deemed more important. Instead of really understanding the subject the student is left to just get by. Not only does that leave the student with a poor grade but it makes subsequent grades harder to improve because of the poor foundation that is laid.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Aug. 4, 2012 6:59 p.m.

    Eric Samuelsen:

    Let's look at a great teacher like Jaime Escalante. As great as he was teaching the toughest students around, he didn't get ALL of his students to learn. He had to kick out scores of students because they wouldn't sacrifice and do the work. I think teaching at BYU where the average ACT score of an incoming freshman is 28, is much different than teaching at Provo HS across the street. Do I believe inspiring and hard-working teachers make a difference? Most certainly. But there are students who won't work or don't have the skills to work or don't have the support at home to model a work ethic. And sure it would be great if all the teachers in our schools were Jaime Escalante or you, but that isn't a real situation either with the salaries and benefits given to teachers. Plus public school teachers are hamstrung by government regulations, something a private school college professor would not be. Plus, not too many professors get bombarded by parents only concerned by grades and telling their own children it's okay not to do the work.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Aug. 4, 2012 6:47 p.m.

    There is a lot of discussion about the low test scores in math and falling behind other nations etc. I can't help think that learning math requires work beyond the classroom. It takes practice and outside time. I think the fact that so many of our students refuse to study, refuse to do homework has contributed much more to this "crisis" than the curriculum choice or teacher prowess.

  • clutch VERNAL, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 5:27 p.m.

    @Eric Samuelson: You are misinformed if you think that teaching college is the same as teaching K-12. I'd say about 95% of my college professors did little more than lecture while students were responsible for taking down the notes and doing additional reading/research outside of the classroom. A college professor is not responsible for a student’s learning, the student is. Do you think students or parents would stand for this model in K-12 education?

    I imagine that you are a dedicated educator. Have you ever had a student who was paying for your class, but still didn't do their work? Sure, there are lazy, uninspired teachers out there, but do you think that can really explain the entirety of the issues we have in our schools? I would urge you to PLEASE spend some time teaching or volunteering in the K-12 environment (in a title 9 school no less) and see where you can help teachers learn from you. I assure you that you will find many dedicated professionals who want to better reach their students.

  • twells Ogden, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 4:41 p.m.

    I too believed at one time teachers were not caring. I became a public high school teacher. I was determined to not be like the teachers I had in school. I think I did a pretty good job. I would tell the students what the test questions were and we would go over the answers. You would assume the class scores would be high. Not even close. I then realized there are students, people and socities that do not value education. We have watered education down to be a system of day care. We teach to the lowest levels of readiness. Course work becomes boring.

    We as a society have decided that everyone wants the same thing. That is a very wrong assumtion. There are people who want to get ahead and there are people who want someone else to do and get it for them. Education is a privilege. If a person is not interested in learning stop making them go to school. We are wasting everyone's time and resources. High school should now be college and college should be graduate studies i.e. PHD course work. The system has not improved in the last 50 years.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 4:19 p.m.

    Yes I think it is the students' faults and that of the idiotic generation{s} that raised them,bearing in mind that the teachers are a part of those generations. Associated with these failures are the false educational philosophies which permeate the minds of those parents, philosophers and teachers who have failed to sufficiently teach basic morality to their charges.

    There are, howoever, honorable exceptions in the form of good teachers,parents and students.

  • JP71 Ogden, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    Amen brother! I would add that parents have a major part in building a students work ethic. I have a garden, a big one. My grade school kids are out there with me pulling weeds. My kids will not be afraid of work. I would also say that poor work ethic is now a national problem. I think Americans in general have gotten spoiled because the US is turning into a welfare state. We have been too rich for too long.

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 2:39 p.m.

    >One old man
    Not at all. I've spoken to many colleagues at the college level, who describe their students precisely the way this letter writer does. Exactly the same complaints. Generally, they were pretty poor teachers.
    I certainly remember when I was a student. Bored, frustrated, wouldn't do homework, wouldn't do in-class assignments. All my kids went through the same stages. In every instance, the common denominator was a poor, uninspired teacher.
    There's no such thing as a bad student. There are, however, lots of bad teachers.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    Aug. 3, 2012 2:25 p.m.

    I've had inspiring teachers that were undeterred and teachers that gave us crossword puzzles with subject vocabulary as if that were learning and not time killing.

    We need republican officials to stop trying to kill public education with sensless mandates and testing that doesn't achive anything. I do agree that conservative government can't do anything right.

    Under republicans the only meaninfull education our youth will get is in the military.

  • Mamma C HEBER CITY, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 2:17 p.m.

    Good article. Educational success is not about more money or more pressure ("accountability") via high stakes testing on teachers and students. It's about the love of learning that begins at home.

  • BYUalum South Jordan, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 12:40 p.m.

    Also one of the big problems is the feeling of entitlement. We see that all around as people want something for nothing. Children need to be taught a work ethic and not just handed expensive toys and electronics. Several hundred dollar gifts for birthdays is totally playing into this kind of mentality. This attitude is taught in the home before they ever get to the classroom. The parents need to keep tabs on children better. As parents we forget our first responsibility is our family and not social media, friends, exercise gyms, and the million distractions that take us away. Kids need parents who are involved in their lives, their education, and who actually back the teachers. Power today is with the kids. If there is something they don't want to do, parents tend to facilitate that attitude. We need to take more responsibility. We need to stay focused and get all the help we can in this crazy world to stay invested with our spouse and our children and our grandchildren. A caring, responsible parent would cure many ills with kids who feel they can say and get away with anything. From a caring parent, grandparent, and teacher.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:47 a.m.

    Correction - it was a commenter and not the author who offered their personal time, however it was still very presumptive to say that the author does nothing to inspire her students. Many, many teachers including my husband bend over backwards to inspire and help students to learn. And yes, it is vasty different teaching in junior high, high school and college. My husband has done both.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:36 a.m.

    Esquire - I think your comments do not apply to the suthor of this article. She is willing to give three hours of unpaid time to help students succeed. Would you be willing to do that? This is not the action of someone biding their time. Your assumption is offensive.

  • Navyvet taylorsville, utah
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:35 a.m.

    A big part of the problem is parents. Parents who are supportive of the student but who demand that the student (1) completes homework on time, (2) behaves appropriately in class and is on task and (2) comes in either before or after school for one-on-one help as need, have students who do well and succeed. Parents who make excuses for the student, who demand a better grade than what is earned and who blame the teacher for the students lack of effort have students who don't do well and who rarely succeed.

    Most teachers I know are willing to put in whatever time and effort are required for their students to succeed if the student is willing to work hard and meet them halfway.

    We have become a society where all too often the parents want to be "friends" with their children but are unwilling to be the "parent" when it is time for the hard decisions.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:07 a.m.

    Mr. Samuelsen -- didn't anyone ever tell you that there are some pretty significant differences between teaching at the college level and in middle or high school?

    College students are paying for the privilege of being there. Could it be that they are motivated by that and some other desires? They are also just a bit more mature.

    With all due respect, sir, that is one of the most idiotic comments I've read in a long, long time.

  • Winglish Lehi, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:06 a.m.

    "One of the greatest favors parents can do for their children is to teach them to work."
    "We never give our children a lift when we give them a free ride."
    -Elder Marvin J. Ashton

    "The parent who procrastinates the pursuit of his responsibility as a teacher may, in years to come, gain bitter insight into Whittier's expression: "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, / The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
    -President Thomas Monson, October 1997 LDS General Conference

    "It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings."
    -Ann Landers

    "The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find their roots in the teaching of children by fathers and mothers."
    "Parents, please do not attempt to shield your children from the consequences of their actions."
    -President Gordon B. Hinkley

    "Remember you can't teach your children to work unless you do. A loving
    father who never failed to involve me in the project of the day taught me my
    work ethic."
    -Dave Ramsay

  • Paul in MD Montgomery Village, MD
    Aug. 3, 2012 11:00 a.m.

    Eric, there is a difference between students in college and in elementary/middle/high school. College kids (or their parents) are paying for their education directly. There is incentive for them to be there, and the grades MUST be earned. Too many public school teachers are pressured/forced to give passing grades and not hold kids back.

    Others, class size has little to do with it. 30 years ago, elementary school class sizes in my area were 25 - 30 kids, and the problems the author describes weren't rampant as they are today. The problem is as Sikeli described - kids don't want to do the work, and parents are enabling that behavior. The same parents will then go after the teacher and administration when the child is given a bad grade.

    It doesn't matter one bit how engaging the material or the teacher is, if the children won't bother to do the work that is REQUIRED to actually learn the material.

    If our nation's farmers attended to their tasks the way many of our students do, how many of us do you think there would still be?

  • use the noodle Casa Grande, AZ
    Aug. 3, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    While I support teachers I think the most important thing is that teachers are engaging with the students. They need small enough classes and volunteers to help them do it.

    Teachers have to spend way too much time getting 30 kids all quiet at the same time to be able to interact with one student that really needs it.

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 10:08 a.m.

    Yeah, well, inspire your students, and they'll respond. I think a dull and uninspired curriculum (mandated by the legislature) couldn't possibly help. But I taught for thirty years (granted, at the college level), and I never once experienced the difficulty this author describes.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 9:42 a.m.

    @ clutch, I don't disagree with you at all. It just seems this is a teacher who is just hanging in there until retirement. Too many teachers are not inspiring or leading like they should. They can turn lives around. But biding time? Go away, then.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 9:17 a.m.

    I've always said, if parents cannot give attention to the kids they currently have, then how are they expecting to give the attention to the kids that they desire/will have?

    Here in Utah, we forget these important basic issues. Perhaps we need to cut down on the family sizes. QUALITY not QUANTITY.

    If you cannot motivate, educate, give attention to your children, then you obviously aren't prepared to be a parent.

  • Sikeli Herriman, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    I teach. 11 years now in a middle school. When I look at my students, I have to agree with the author. I can sum up all of my failing students into two camps. In one camp, the students are not in class. It is common that in a 45 day quarter, they are there 7 days or less. Usually it is the last week where they come to school and are overwhelmed with the work load they have in order to pass anything. The second camp are the students that do not do their work. I am willing to be at school 90 minutes before my contract time and 90 minutes after my contract time to help any of them complete their work. Parents tell me they can't do either. They can't get their kid up on time for 1st period, let alone early to complete assignments and after school the child has sports or dance. I had a parent look at her child in a meeting with me and ask if he wanted to do the work. He said no. She said he did not have to do it. No teacher can overcome these obstacles without parent support.

  • Bebyebe UUU, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 8:51 a.m.

    Teachers are not required to make every student work. That's their parent's job. Step up to the plate and make your kids study.

  • clutch VERNAL, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 8:26 a.m.

    @Esquire: I agree that a great teacher can make a difference, but only to a point. Learning requires work and attention on the part of the learner. A great teacher conveys their passion for learning, is knowledgeable, takes the needs of 25+ individual minds with varying abilities into account and tries to make the subject as entertaining as possibe, but--the learner must meet the teacher halfway at some point.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 7:35 a.m.

    It's true. School these days is 'boring' and 'dull'. Society doesn't expect much of students, and they deliver. Plus, with minds tuned to textng and gaming, they've got the attention span of a gnat. If I were a teacher, I would definitely try to cherry pick my class each year, focusing on the motivated ones.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 7:32 a.m.

    This is an absolutely GREAT column. Unfortunately, it is 120% correct.

    It needs to be read by every member of the Utah legislature. By every parent. By EVERYONE!

    But there was one big omission. A very large part of the problem is uncaring, lazy PARENTS.

    Yet in Utah, we will continue to try to penalize the teachers.

  • Paul in MD Montgomery Village, MD
    Aug. 3, 2012 7:18 a.m.

    Part of the problem lies with parents. When I was in elementary school, my parents brought me in to a meeting with my English teacher because my grade in his class was far below anything I had brought home before, and below all my other classes that year. I was brought with them to hear what I needed to do to improve.

    Nowadays, my wife and I meet with our kids' teachers, and they are almost surprised when we ask what we can do to help our kids improve their grades. The teachers expect to be berated by us if our kids don't perform well!

    Too many parents are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction, and protecting their kids from the consequences of their own bad performance. It is similar to the phenomenon we see in children's sports, where everyone receives the same recognition and awards regardless who comes in first place. Kids need to learn there are rewards for good performance, and a lack of accolades for poor performance.

    We aren't doing our kids or our society any favors by "protecting" our kids from that lesson.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Aug. 3, 2012 7:10 a.m.

    Better teachers can make a difference. A mediocre teacher may not be able to get a student's interest or inspire. Any teacher who says that better teachers won't make a difference should perhaps find a new career. The home environment is very important, but any teacher who does not think good teaching is part of the equation is perhaps part of the problem.