Teaching… or Managing?

Again, Diane Ravitch has led me on a saddening path. She links to this post, by a young Teach for America (TFA) trainee. For me, the most disturbing part is not the post itself (which is frightening enough) but one of the comments, one made by someone called “CAT.” In response to concerns about progress at the training institute, CAT writes:

Perhaps if I said to you – hey, what basic management skills have you gained this summer? – you might reply in terms of BMC, or tracking, or anything along those lines. Taking this a step further we could say – well how would you apply those skills to the last few days of class? – where I assume the obvious answer is 1. Keeping the class ordered 2. Meeting the objectives you have time to meet in an orderly fashion, and 3. Taking something away from this experience yourself to grow as a manager.

I don’t know what BMC is, but “management skills”? Certainly, a teacher has to be able to “manage” a classroom, but the skills necessary for that are quite different from those of the management one finds in business. Meeting “objectives” has little to do, as anyone with any real teaching experience knows, with educating students. It removes the students from the center of the process (where they belong, and where they must be if the education is to succeed), replacing them with artifice.

It is this distinction, the one between managing and teaching, that the education “reformers” don’t understand. One does not become a better teacher by becoming a better manager. The two sets of skills are distinct. Keeping the class ordered and meeting “objectives” do not lead to good teaching or to learning. “Growing” as a manager has nothing to do with growth as a teacher.

I don’t know what TFA does in its training, but if this post is any indication, there’s not much pretense of preparing teachers. Only of building managers.

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