The Best Teachers Around
Overheard at a dinner party this weekend (all dialogue guaranteed approximate):
NWP (Nervous White Parent) “I ended up sending my kid to private school. The public school seemed okay but it has a lot of students who are just learning English. I was afraid the teacher would spend so much time with them that my child just wouldn’t get a good education. What do you think about that?”
UPSP (Urban Public School Principal) “Actually, in my experience, teachers in that kind of classroom are often the best teachers around. Because it’s such a challenge for them to communicate with their students, they end up being very good at it—and the whole class benefits.”
Amen. This kind of thing comes up all the time in certain mostly white, mostly college-educated, mostly upper-middle class circles. (Note: It may come up in other circles as well.) And it’s not just public schools. I once knew a community health center director who dealt with it so often, she had developed a finely honed, passionate, almost evangelical short speech on the topic. (It came in handy when she was persuading the local chamber of commerce to support the health center’s expansion.)
“Our doctors are better than most doctors out in the suburbs. Because our doctors treat people who really need a doctor. If our docs aren’t good, they don’t last—whereas a doctor out in a place like Sunnyvale Fields (name changed to protect the town) can get by without being at the top of his/her game, because most of their patients really aren’t that sick. And their patients will cut them slack because they have a nice office and a polite manner. ”
And then she’d give examples of doctors and nurses from her health center who conducted and published cutting-edge research, and who were acknowledged leaders in their fields.
Are there exceptions? Sure. There are urban teachers, doctors, social workers, nurses, cops, fire fighters, etc. who’ve figured out how to coast and slide by, just trying to make it to retirement. But they’re the exception, not the rule.
And folks whose primary source of information about city life is the 6:00 TV news rarely learn that. So they end up spending $XX thousand dollars a year (in addition to their property taxes which pay for the public schools) on private school tuition for teachers who—on average—aren’t as good as the teachers at the public school down the street working with all those kids learning English…and so much more.