Kenny, I would like to hear your thoughts on the tenor of the debate surrounding teacher salaries and how to get rid of "bad teachers" and motivate "good teachers." I personally imagine that the character of the lazy tenured-teacher is a rarely realized as the myth of the welfare queen, driving around in her pink Cadillac fueled by government handouts and the tax dollars of true-blue hard-working citizens. Is this scapegoat a threat, Kenny, or a smokescreen?Since I am a big fan of comments, I try to address requests made therein, either further along in the comment stream or in an... eventual... post of its own. This one seemed worthy of the latter.
Let me first note that I may be guilty of the same arrogance in success of the ex-smoker scoffing at how addicting cigarettes are, but no matter how personally invested in their classes my teachers seemed, they seemed uniformly willing to encourage my exploration if I showed an interest in the material. As my sister recently reminded me, I had a class where I would turn in an entire semester's worth of work two weeks before the end of the semester, because it was accepted late up until that point, but in that same class I would enjoy the discussions, ask questions, and learn quite a bit. This, perhaps, colors my view of merit based pay and apathetic tenured-teachers.
I think that it is much more important to motivate students to learn, something a teacher has limited control over, rather than to motivate teachers to teach. However, I would like to change some aspects of the teaching profession. Most fundamentally, I would make teaching qualifications much more demanding than they apparently are. Requiring mastery in a subject before one is permitted to teach it would serve the purpose of giving teachers greater ability to explain to their students in a coherent and well informed manner and, as with any increase in standards, serve to weed out those who view teaching as an easy, fall back, career.
Along similar lines, I think making salary decisions based on demonstrated mastery of their subject, rather than highest level degree achieved in general, would be beneficial. My impression thus far, having spent the better part of 20 years in scholarly settings, is that the only people who don't consider Education classes a joke are people who teach Education classes. Encouraging deeper knowledge in a applicable field seems more useful and likely to further weed out roustabouts. Replacing pedantic Education classes with some manner of apprentice/mentor relationship seems like a worthwhile consideration as well.
Of course, considering that we experience teacher shortages as it is, one might ask how is it even possible to continue raising the bar? And here the issue of salaries come in. If we want to attract more people with a good educational standing into the teaching field, we need to better compete with the opportunities that they have in other fields. Granted, the calling to be a teacher may, in some measure, balance against the money one can make in other endeavors, but being able to support one's family is pleasant.
There you go Max, I hope you feel better soon!