There has been a lot of talk around the water cooler about what makes a “good” or “bad” teacher.  Many people have been on the attack, calling for the ousting of all the  so-called bad teachers.  It has become a witch-hunt in search of the worst teachers.  What’s with this vilification process?

“Scapegoating teachers has become so popular with policymakers and politicians, the media, and even members of the public that it has blurred the reality of what’s really happening in education. What’s more, it’s eroding a noble profession and wreaking havoc on student learning,” said Kevin Kumashiro, author of Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

Bad Teacher

Are “bad” teachers the real problem?
Image: Shutterstock

“First, it’s really easy to scapegoat teachers because common sense prompts us to see education on the individual level… When you then talk about the problems in education, all eyes turn to the teachers – they aren’t working hard enough, or they’re too greedy, or they’re not accountable. Rather than focus on education as a broken system, the debate becomes about fixing individuals teachers – how do we incentivize them, how do we get rid of the lazy ones, how do we weaken their union ‘bosses?’” said Kumashiro.

There are many factors that affect a teacher’s ability to teach.  There are issues such as lack of school funding and supplies, narrowing restrictive curriculum based on standardized test mania, and students coming from backgrounds of poverty, hunger and violence.  There are also those who seek to profit from the privatization of schooling.

“Public education is now a $500 to $600 billion enterprise, being outsourced and privatized more and more each day. By pointing to low test scores and blaming teachers for them, there’s a justification for dismantling public school systems and outsourcing education, and a lot of profits to be made by doing so,” says the National Education Association.

Are there any bad teachers?  There are some, but no more than in any type of employment. Perhaps it’s time to reframe the debate and focus on the issues not the individuals.