I am a first year teacher, temporarily in a 3rd grade class. I'll move to kindergarten in January.
The sad fact is that teachers are being asked to do so much more than ever before. We need to teach the curriculum well enough so that EVERY child in the room learns enough to do well on standardized assessments. And it had better be individualized to each student. And it had better be quick enough to move on to the other topics that need to be covered that day. We need to be sensitive to EVERY situation and respect the decisions made by parents, even when those decisions negatively impact the student's learning. We need to be social workers and nurses. We need to figure out how to effectively communicate with parents that speak a language we have never heard of before.
Yes, we need to "motivate" our students. But shouldn't these children come to school already motivated by their parents as well? How "motivated" to respect the classroom can a student be when they hear their parent's go on and on about the bad teachers?
School isn't just for learning core curriculum. It is for learning how to follow directions (including how to sit quietly), how to work with others. It teaches children how to handle transitions from one activity to another. It teaches how to take responsibility. The list is endless, and totally unconnected to math, or science or language arts.
Grown up life causes us all to be held responsible for the behavior of others. Ever worked with a screw up or two? Not too much fun is it? And it causes the entire work environment to suffer.
Yes, there are absolutely bad teachers out there. But they are actually fairly few and far between. The rest of us care deeply about what we do and work very, very hard to provide the best education possible.
Sue, I would be willing to bet that if your niece's parents asked the teacher to not provide candy as a reward, the teacher would be more than happy to comply. Have they already made that request, and been ignored? You're right, it is cheap. But after sinking our own money into classroom learning materials, cheap is often the only choice left. Feel free to provide your niece's teacher with the exact type of reward you think your niece should get. The teacher would probably be more than happy to hand that personal reward out at the same time the rest of the class gets the candy. I personally have three children in my 3rd grade class that have unconfirmed allergies to just about everything, so I make sure that during birthday parties, holiday celebrations and rewards those children only get the pre-approved food items the parents have provided. And I keep a stash I paid for and brought in myself for those times when the parents don't respond to my e-mails or phone calls that their student has been out of their special food for almost a month.
As far as having the whole class lose out in a privilege, etc.? Next time maybe the students sitting near the main offender won't laugh and giggle when the student does whatever it is. And if they don't get the encouragement from the peer group, the behavior usually stops. The giggles and admiring looks from a peer group (especially with middle school kids) are all a part of the same disruptive behavior.
So, the next time anyone complains about the "bad teachers", demand that the term be strictly defined. Is it a teacher that you just don't like? Is it a teacher who has failed in teaching your student anything? Is it a teacher you don't agree with, but who is over all effective? Is it a teacher who looks like a teacher you had in 6th grade, who shamed you or made you feel less than capable in some way?
You would be surprised how loosely the term is used.