Observation on Teacher Competency

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I teach. I believe that most teachers deserve a lot more support than they get. Having said that, I support more rigorous testing for those entering the teaching profession. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study of education in different countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2009, the U.S. scored 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and an abysmal 31st in mathematics. The causes for these pathetic results are many, but at least part of the problem is that we allow some people to teach who simply don’t know their material well enough.

I have sat in too many seminars with fellow educators and watched these people prepare posters for the wall as we all do our prescribed group activities. These are groups of teachers preparing materials for other teachers to view. The grammatical and spelling mistakes I see often make me wince. Admittedly, these seminars frequently include bilingual teachers whose first language is not English. But I am not talking about a mistaken preposition here or there — I am talking about incorrect spellings of words that are sometimes in the most commonly used 500 or 1,000 English words.

I actually quietly corrected a couple of mistakes last time, walking up to a poster and fixing a few words. One of the presenters looked at me oddly, but I simply could not keep still. Enough is enough. If you can’t spell, have a group member who can spell do the writing on your poster.

The scary part: I’m by no means sure that the teacher who prepared that poster knows she has problems with spelling. She passed her test to teach. Her Principal is probably ignoring her errors. Her elementary school students are probably learning her errors, memorizing whatever she writes on the board. Does she even know that that “absense” has a “c” in it? Or that “enviroment” has another “n” in it?  We all make mistakes, but I see far too many of them to believe that I am merely seeing absent-minded errors.