Dale McGowan‘s daughter came home last month and was gushing about one of her teachers:
“We started evolution in science today.”
A tickle of dread went down my spine…
“And it’s awesome. He’s teaching all about it, just like you would. He explained what theory really means, and said that the evidence is incredibly strong for evolution, and when kids started saying, ‘But the Bible says blah blah blah,’ he just put his hand up and said, ‘You can talk about that with your minister. In this class we are learning about science, about what we know.”
We’re so used to criticizing bad science teachers that it’s easy to forget how to react when you hear about one who teaches it correctly!
After taking all this in, Dale offers excellent advice (emphasis his):
… we’ve got to get just as good and consistent at complimenting the good as we are at complaining about the bad.
It’s not just a question of good manners. If we really care about quality in the classroom, it’s a practical imperative.
Imagine you’re a biology teacher. The evolution unit is approaching, again, and you know for certain you will get a half dozen scolding emails from angry parents the moment the word crosses your lips. Again. If you’ve never received a note of thanks for tackling the topic honestly, it’s easy to feel isolated and beleaguered. Who could blame you for gradually de-emphasizing the topic until it disappears completely? Even a teacher with the best of intentions can be worn to a nub from years of self-righteous tirades.
Coming from a teacher’s perspective, I can tell you the whole mood of our office changes when one of us gets a positive email. (And CCs the boss on it.) It doesn’t happen often — because, again, parent are generally more used to tearing apart bad teachers instead of praising the good ones — but when it does, the teachers are on a cloud the rest of the day.
It makes you want to rush back into the classroom and do an even better job with the kids.