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Admissions 101: Can Acerbic Students Make Good Teachers?

In his Friday column, Jay Mathews wrote about Michele Kerr, username Cal_Lanier on the boards, a California teacher who was nearly thrown out of Standford University's Teacher Education Program (STEP) for blogging about her anti-progressive (thus anti-Stanford) ideals during her time there and for her overbearing attitude toward her peers in the program. So in Admissions 101 this week, Jay asked readers what they thought: should the most acerbic students be discouraged from becoming teachers? So far, he's received a flood of feedback.


Frequent commenter drrico had this to say:

"Students ought to be, and 97% of the time are, encouraged to express themselves inside and outside of class without fear of reprisal. If a teacher is truly concerned that one student has, or may have, a dominating and chilling effect on discussion, then the teacher has the obligation to control the discussion so that that doesn't happen. This might take the form of speaking with the student outside of class, then speaking with the student along with a third party like a dean or department chair, then dealing with the issue in the classroom itself. Teachers in a program that teaches teachers should recognize such a thing as the golden pedagogical opportunity that it is. ("How would you deal with this situation as a leader? How would you encourage peers to act?")...
Let me get back to the putative question here. Should we discourage ascerbic students from trying to be teachers? It's clear that some people wanted to discourage this one ascerbic potential teacher. But it's also clear that other people encouraged her.
Some people will say that children are too fragile to deal with an ascerbic teacher. (Actually, it's not clear that Kerr was intimidating or domineering with students, though intimidating peers doesn't exactly help a teacher's career.) My favorite high school teacher was much reviled because he was considered to be "mean," but I never had a problem with him because I worked to meet his high standards and never challenged him. Some people would have been happy to get rid of him, but I think he helped many students.
School systems work to promote conformity among students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The nail that sticks up gets pounded down. I'm not surprised that a nonconformist ran into trouble."

onestring took that even further, calling the situation an example of the problems with modern education:

"The Stanford response is perfectly indicative of how the failed education industry, and its failed leaders operate, and how they fail.
100% of the problems in education today are the fault and responsibility of the education industry. They have controlled all of it, have removed any curiosity or inspiration from the learning experience, and coddle mediocrity, passive aggressiveness, and outright failure.
End tenure and fire all of the baby-boom era teachers who are still destroying educations, and sapping students of the desire to learn.
Teaching university leaderships need to evaluate their failed methods. They are responsible for failures like new math, ebonics, whole language reading, etc., etc., because they allow the mindsets of failures like Kerr's supervisors to persist."

By Sarah Mimms  | July 28, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Admissions 101  | Tags:  Stanford Teacher Education Program, blogging  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: AP Wars: School Board Member vs. Teachers
Next: Harvard Schmarvard: A Small College Shines

Comments

Dollars to doughnuts says that the same folks screaming about Kerr's rights, and the horrors of stifling speech at universities, thought the students deserved what they got at Kent State. Just sayin'...

Posted by: daweeni | July 28, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I suspect the real problem with Kerr was not her personality but her politics. Had she been more in sync with the school's politics, she would have been described as having strong leadership potential.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 28, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Drrico points out what's really important: "Actually, it's not clear that Kerr was intimidating or domineering with students, though intimidating peers doesn't exactly help a teacher's career."

The big question is not how a teacher (or education student) interacts with his/her professor or fellow students. It's how he/she interacts AS A TEACHER with pupils. Interactions among teachers and students in higher education is different from that in secondary school, so it shouldn't be assumed that a student's actions in one setting should be a predictor of his/her actions in another.

Posted by: SherryLP3 | July 29, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Drrico points out what's really important: "Actually, it's not clear that Kerr was intimidating or domineering with students, though intimidating peers doesn't exactly help a teacher's career."

The big question is not how a teacher (or education student) interacts with his/her professor or fellow students. It's how he/she interacts AS A TEACHER with pupils. Interactions among teachers and students in higher education is different from that in secondary school, so it shouldn't be assumed that a student's actions in one setting should be a predictor of his/her actions in another.

Posted by: SherryLP3 | July 29, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Most people aren't that much different in their interactions with their instructors and with their students. Often, the only information the college has to go on is how the person acts as a student. In this case, this lady knew what she was getting into when she signed on at this particular college. Everybody would have been better served by her finding a different program that better fit her needs.

Posted by: margaret6 | July 30, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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