If you haven’t mastered the basics, you cannot master more advanced levels. If you take martial arts, play a sport, or take music lessons, you know this. We all know this. But this is not how it is done in our public schools. Khan says it better than I can, so just listen to him. He’s right.

If you work at McDonald’s, do you have to bring a bag of buns each shift to ensure you can do your job?

If you work in an office, do you have to bring in printer paper in order to print out your reports?

If you work on a road crew, do you have to bring your own jackhammer?

And yet, if you’re a teacher, you are expected to buy classroom supplies. You will have to buy your own Expo markers, paper for your printer, ink for your printer if your printer isn’t one whose ink is so expensive that you would actually have to fill out an expense report to get it, supplies for students, and so on. You buy everything you need to decorate your room at the beginning of the year, and that’s just the beginning of your expenses, which will literally go into the thousands of dollars. There’s even something called “Teachers Pay Teachers” where you pay to get ideas on how to do your job better — something the “specialists” are supposed to be doing. …

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The average student should have a C average.

By “average student,” I mean someone who has an average IQ — 85 to 115 — and does an average amount of work. Such students ought to be making a C. That would mean that something around 70% of students should be making a C, since a C is “average.”

Thus, by the logic of the above bell curve distribution, about 13% ought to be making a D and about 2% ought to be failing. …

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I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that students need to be “self-motivated” to learn, to behave, to be quiet, etc. Many educators absolutely resist rewarding students beyond grades — which unfortunately is not enough of a reward for some people. Schools that have experimented with actually paying students have met with success, but I don’t think you necessarily have to pay students money. A ticket system is enough, if the students can use them to earn rewards of some sort.

There are probably readers who have a gut reaction against this idea. But let me ask those readers this: do you go to work and do your job because it’s intrinsically rewarding and for that reason only? Would you do the work you do if you weren’t being paid? There are likely some artists or scientists who would do just that, but that kind of self-motivation is actually extremely rare. Most people are mostly self-motivated to watch T.V. or browse the Internet. Even teachers aren’t sufficiently motivated by their love of children and teaching to give up pay to do it. …

It is not uncommon for schools to have a variety of specialists whose job it is to support teachers. In elementary schools there are math specialists, reading specialists, and bilingual specialists. These specialists can really benefit teachers by providing them with resources and trainings they need to better do their jobs.

Ideally, say, a math specialist would have a Master’s degree in mathematics beyond their undergraduate degree. This same specialist would also have at least a decade of classroom experience. They would be given the job because they have demonstrated mastery at teaching as well as expertise in math.

Unfortunately, most of the time this isn’t the case. There are principals who are indeed this strict in choosing their specialists, but many use the position as a way to get a terrible teacher out of the class without having to go through the bureaucratic nightmare of firing them. The end result is an almost even split between extreme competence and extreme incompetence. …

You often hear about “the good old days,” and education is no different. You even hear it from people who you wouldn’t expect to ever like public education at any time. Yes, someone pointed out that linked article from a few years ago to me, and while I think there are some good points in there, it raises a number of questions.

One thing the author points out is that back in the 1950s, when he was in school, women had fewer options, and so a much higher percentage of teachers were very high quality, intelligent, and capable. What he leaves implied is that since women now have many more options in the economy, they don’t have to choose being a teacher, and as a consequence, the quality of teachers has necessarily gone down. Indeed, in my experience some of the least knowledgeable, least intelligent, least capable people I have ever met have been recent college graduates with degrees in education. The most capable teachers have been those who have received alternative certification. …

In elementary school, students are assessed constantly. Each day, for each subject, they are given things called “exit tickets,” which is literally an assessment of what they just learned. That way you can compare what you put on your board — that, say, 80% of your students will show understanding of the material — to what students supposedly learned that day in that subject.

Then there is supposed to be a weekly assessment of each thing they were taught.

Then there is your regularly scheduled quizzes and tests.

Then there are the standardized tests you have to give students periodically.

With all of this assessment going on, you don’t have time to teach. Literally. The younger the students, the longer each assessment takes because you have to be more one-on-one in giving the assessment. That means even less instruction. …

If you really want to outrage an administrator, ask for a raise.

You will, of course, not get one. Nobody gets a raise for the time you’ve spent teaching or for quality of teaching — the sorts of things you would get a raise for if you worked in the private sector. In the private sector, if you’re more productive, more successful, or been doing the job for a long time, you’re bound to get a raise. But in teaching, if you have been working for 30 years, 20 years, 10 years, or were just hired, you will get paid exactly the same. …

One thing I have learned about our public schooling system is that administrators absolutely love fads. Sometimes they stumble upon a good idea, but even when they do, it’s not uncommon for them to give up on it for the next big thing, and when they do stick with something, they invariably get the entire thing wrong.

A great example of getting everything wrong about a good idea is the public schools’ use of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

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Bloom’s Taxonomy is often used to structure students’ learning objectives. Because Bloom stated that Evaluation and Synthesis are “higher-order thinking,” while knowledge is “lower-order thinking,” the people who make up the curricula have made the mistake of thinking that “higher-order” means “the only things that are important.” …

If one could give a title to all of the Medium articles one intends to write, that would be my title.

I am a public school teacher. Obviously, my name isn’t Dr. Paideia. I chose it for a number of reasons. First, the word “doctor” actually means “teacher.” Second, “paideia” is the Greek word for “education.” Third, I wish to maintain anonymity. I wish to maintain anonymity because I am currently a teacher and I do not want to face retaliation for the things I’m going to write about. Also, I intend to tell not just my own stories, but the stories of other teachers I know. In a sense, all of those teachers will also be Dr. Paideia. …

Doctor Paideia

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