School of knock-knocks

Let's say you're training to teach in a tough inner-city school. Where do you go for advice to help you succeed? Veteran Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews, who for years has written about high-quality high-poverty schools, turned to top-notch teachers such as Jason Kamras, Rafe Esquith, Mike Feinberg, and Dave Levin, who showed themselves to be a wellspring of practical ideas: Teachers should make themselves readily available to students before and after class, reward students tangibly for good work, and streamline homework grading to save time for teacher-student-parent interaction. Our favorite, from KIPP and from Kamras: teachers should make unannounced visits to students' homes to update parents on their progress. But here's the real question: why do teacher candidates have to read the Washington Post Magazine to find these common sense ideas, instead of encountering them in ed school? One professor's reaction to these ideas illustrates why. "No one wants someone just showing up at their home unannounced," he told Mathews. "Teachers must treat parents with respect." And, Mr. Ed School Professor, how exactly do you know that families don't want their child's teacher coming to their home to talk about their precious? Maybe the AERA should do a study. In the meantime, future teachers of America: we recommend skipping ed school and just reading Mathews.

"Learning from the Masters," by Jay Mathews, Washington Post Magazine, August 6, 2006

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