Someone who has not taught public school nor had children attend a public school criticized what she believes is being taught in public schools. She quoted excerpts from textbooks, and she used them as a basis to assert that teachers are not teaching facts. She was conflating the information in a textbook with what effective teachers do. They are not the same things. 

Individuals who are not trained public-school educators may not understand that effective teachers do not teach the textbook. Effective teachers use a plethora of sources when they plan lessons guided by the Georgia Standards of Excellence. The textbook may serve as a resource, but it is not the basis for the information in a lesson. Educators have access to the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, museums, libraries, primary documents such as Supreme Court Rulings, science labs, scientists, and historians, to name a few. Public educators are highly educated professionals. 

Effective teachers create an atmosphere where learning occurs, and students think for themselves. Deduction is used as students evaluate documents such as the Declaration of Independence as well as other sources from a specific time. Student inquiry is encouraged as students explore different topics. Students use skills acquired through coding and apply them in different academic areas. Students are taught to use the engineering process to solve complex problems that do not have one specific answer. Document-Based Question (DBQ) projects are used to give students opportunities to examine primary documents and to extend their learning. Students are not told what to think. They are given opportunities to utilize evidence to deduce answers and to think for themselves. Effective educators teach students to question and to evaluate sources and references for reliability and validity. 

If someone believes young minds are being swayed in any one direction by educators in today’s classrooms, they have not been in an effective teacher’s public-school classroom recently, and they have not been around young people of today. Good teachers do not see themselves as the “sage on the stage.” Those days are long gone. Students, parents, and educators demand much more. They expect facilitation of individual learning. Effective teachers respect the opinions and diversity of their students as well as their students’ parents. 

Look around at public schools and public-school educators. If you listen with your heart and mind, you will see that educators in public schools are amazing! For individuals who choose to criticize, perhaps they have not been in a public school recently, and they do not have a true level of understanding. To borrow words from President John F. Kennedy and to apply some of my own, “Ask not what [public education in this community] can do for you – ask what you can do for [public education in this community].” My children are products of rural South Georgia public education, and they are well educated and highly successful. Public education and public educators need support now more than ever. 

Terry Wetherington

Moultrie

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