In the fourth part of this series, I am going to chat about Why the “best” teachers are needed to teach our "middle level" students.
NOTE: Part I was, "Which students deserve our school’s best teachers?" Part II was, "Why our "best" students deserve our "best" teachers" and Part III was, "Why our "most challenged" students deserve our "best" teachers." Coming soon Part V: A review of the discussion and a exploration of what I think I’d be forced to do if I were a principal trying to figure out which teachers to assigned to which classes.)
Why the “best” teachers are needed to teach our "middle level/average" students.
Who are the kids most short-changed on campus?
I'll take it at face value that no one really thinks the AP/Honors/GATE crowd is the most short-changed. Are they short-changed? Well, in today's schools, most every group can make a meritorious claim that they are being slighted somehow, but the "best" kids being the "most" short-changed? Nah.
That dog just don't hunt.
Is it the lowest performers on campus? Uhm, I don't think so either. I mean, face it, they get special monies spent almost exclusively on them, special programs designed to meet their special needs, special attention from the district office all the way on down to the purchasing of special materials to try and meet their academic and socio-emotional needs. Really, what other student crowd on campus has people actually considering the whole child aspect of education today outside of our lowest performing kids? (Seriously, take a moment to think about it. With "low" kids, the whole child aspect of education is self-evident yet with all other kids, that's just fluff stuff. So stoopid!) Sure, the lowest performers may certainly have disadvantages but as the most obvious squeaky wheel on campus, they also don't get thrown into the broom closet -- they get some grease.
But the middle level kids, the average kids, those are the ones who you'll find in the broom closet.
Kids with a 2.0 - 2.9 grade point average are the invisible masses on campus. They don't stand out because of their exceptional academic performance on the positive side of things and they don't stand out because of their horrific academic performance on the negative side of things, either.
They are bland. They are mediocre. They are average.
And they are the majority! (Unless you live in Garrison Keillor's world where all the children are above average... so clever!)
Face it, we are spending so much darn time trying to coddle the outer ends of the student spectrum, we absolutely leave the largest swath of kids -- the ones in the middle -- to... well, to remain in the middle. And the thing is, the kids in the middle are the kids with a high likelihood of reaping the greatest benefits from having the "best" teachers.
Why? Because the "best" teachers get kids to reach deep. To try hard. To plumb and explore and probe and rise to the challenge. You ever see a kid try to rise to a challenge, really take ownership over a school project with all their heart, soul and intellectual determination and... earn a C? Almost never. That's because the Middle Level students are the ones who most often only need the right button pusher to convert them from being average and mediocre to be above average if not flat out hot-diggity-dog.
But do we push the middle? Do we challenge the middle? Do we set our schoolwide attention to the fact that if we focused our best efforts on our greatest population of kids -- the ones in the middle -- then we would, it stands to reason, make the most gains simply because we'd be so positively affecting the greatest numbers of students on campus.
Of course not, that would be almost too logical.
We've got the top 20% over here. We've got the bottom 20% over here. That means we've got 60% right smack-dab HERE and yet, where's the love? We give it to the outer extremes.
And to just flat-out take the gloves off for a minute, could it not be claimed that spending the efforts of the "best" teachers on a school's "lowest" performers is a bit of a waste of resources since these kids often do not value education as much as they should, do not meet the teacher half-way nearly enough of the time and often end up squandering the golden opportunities being presented to them. (Like I said, the gloves are off and I am tossing political correctness out the window right now to give voice to an argument I know is out there.)
Could it also not be said that to have the "best" teachers teach the "best" students is merely an unfair replication of the ugly part of capitalism whereby the rich just get richer? (And oooh, don't the rich feel entitled to be and stay rich, even if it comes at the expense of others who appear to be kinda deserving of at least some of their resources?)
How about the kids in the middle, huh? Just maybe they'd rise up if only they were being educated by the "best" a campus has to offer -- as opposed to the most mediocre a campus has to offer.
Imagine if we resented the notion of a student being average. We just loathed it. Like we found it far more repugnant than we find a kid with all F's.
Imagine if we carved a moat in the middle of the school and said, you will either earn a 3.0 average or you will fail. No C's, no D's. Either A's, B's or F's.
I'd venture to say that well over 90% of our C students would find a way to step up. And why? Because they are able to. Low expectations are the pandemic plague on the middle level kids but if you force them to be really solid or be nothing at all, they will roll up their collective shirt sleeves and apply some good ol' fashioned elbow grease so that they can make the grade.
Our best teachers know how to get kids to reach for that aim. Our average teachers do not. Average teachers settle. This is why, if you put our "best" teachers in the rooms of our middle level kids, you will see a sea change in performance. It might just be the greatest difference between these two groups of teachers. Some teachers settle and other refuse to.
BTW, all this "serve the middle" stuff this is not just my own little theory. Maybe you have heard of a small little program called AVID
Give the middle the "best" teachers on campus. So what if they are the most quiet. Only in education will what is most obvious and most sensible be so clearly overlooked.