Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Is it possible that there are math teachers out there that do not know math? The shocking answer to this question is YES! I 'm not talking about not knowing advanced math or even high school calculus, I'm talking about geometry, intermediate algebra and trigonometry. My AP said the new geometry course is going to be a problem because most of the teachers in my department don't know the subject and can't teach it. Little by little the old timers are retiring and those left behind are a sad bunch. (Not all new teachers are this uneducated in math, but lots of the ones in my school fall into this category.)
One of the young ones who will be around for a long time (and probably become an administrator) told me that if an answer is 3/2 and a kid writes 1 1/2, she marks it wrong. I tried to explain to her that she couldn't do that, the answers were equivalent. Her reply was, "my students know what I want and that is what they will give me." She taught the probability of picking a red and a blue marble from a bag of marbles and refused to recognize the answer had to be the probability of red and blue plus the probability of blue and red. It's her way or no way. My AP loves her. Even if he knew, he would probably not say anything.
There are teachers that go to the library for their C-6 tutoring assignment but who cannot help the kids with any math past the Math A regents. Even that is too hard for some of them. One teacher had to teach an SAT course over the summer and refused to learn the math. I have no idea what she taught but she will freely admit that she did not know the material and did not bother with it. The administration was just glad to have a body in the room and to be able to say the course was being offered.
A few weeks ago, my chairman brough a large part of the department in to watch one of the young ones teaching factoring. Her lesson consisted of doing the same exact problem (slightly different numbers) over and over. She never introduced coefficients higher than or lower than one or exponents higher than two. Don't get me wrong, she was excellent, but she doesn't know how to progress and there is no one to show her. She's a teaching fellow and her math education is limited.
My school is a good school. Attracting quality teachers should not be a problem. But, in a system that does not value senior teachers this does not happen. Seniority transfers are no longer available. Administrators want the newbies who take a much lower salary than the experienced teacher and jump to follow all their directives. Experienced teachers in the schools already are being harassed and told to transfer (as if some other school would take them.) Only the young are valued.
When I started teaching there were many experienced teachers around. I needed to learn and they were around to help. Sadly, this is no longer true. Sadly, even the older teachers still around are so overwhelmed with work that there is no time to help the new ones. Soon the only teachers left will be the ones who don't know the material and can't teach. These teachers will embrace the horse shoe seating arrangement and they will embrace group work so my guess is they will be embraced by the administration.