Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Only a phone call away . . .

This morning's paper had a huge picture of ladies in India working a call center that helps U.S. children with their math. The gist of the article was that  India has boatloads of good engineering schools, but no jobs for their graduates. Ergo, many of them tutor math to American kids who have to phone in for help halfway around the world.

What is wrong with this picture? I  find nothing wrong with engineering grads earning money tutoring. In fact, it's a great idea. But are there no math tutors in the U.S.? Is there a famine of math-savvy U.S. grads who can help children understand what's going on with Euclid? (Don't ask me, I hated Geometry.)  And that leads me to another question: Why is there a need for a big call center for math tutoring in the first place? Why aren't kids learning this stuff in school, and if they aren't, why aren't teachers helping them after school?

Wait, I forgot about one of my daughter's English teachers in public high school. My daughter slaved over a paper, turned it in on time, and never got it back. Never got a grade on it. The teacher didn't have time during her contracted in-school hours to read and grade the papers, so no big deal. It didn't matter that my child really put her heart and soul into that paper. When the teacher departed school after her contracted classroom hours, she baked pies to sell. It seemed baking was more her passion than teaching. Besides, her contract specified how many minutes she was at work in the building, and that was all she performed.

This teacher was in stark contrast to the same daughter's Algebra teacher who met with her after school in eighth grade to help her. As a result, that was the one stellar year of math for my child. She understood what was going on.

She didn't have to phone India for someone to explain equations.

So many teachers sacrifice so much to help our children learn. I stand in awe of their dedication.  Yet what's happening in our system, with standardized testing taking over real teaching, is criminal. Teachers must file mountains of paperwork, teach to the standardized test, and somewhere along the line, many lose their passion for real education. I get it.

But phoning India for tutors? Come on people, are we really incapable of teaching our own children?

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