Clinical Teachers: Armies of One / #edchat #criticalthinking #education

just call me Bill
6 min readNov 21, 2017

It is not the responsibility of empty vessels to create the motivation to learn, but rather, the prerogative to teach, the very responsibility of it, must be entrusted to the teacher. It can be so, that according to a child’s social-economic status, a affluent upbringing can be infused with a ‘comfort space’ of human development not generally experienced in the life of the child who hails from a low-income community.

This juxtaposition in the human development and daily experiences of the affluent child and the child who lives at or near the poverty line bring a different array of positive and negative forces which impact their general well-being. As these two general sets of children age, the difference becomes more contrasted and is clearly evident at the time both reach middle school years. One need only look at children who receive private schooling as opposed to those who receive public school education in low-income neighborhoods. A child who attends private schooling and then enters a public school mostly populated with children from low-income communities will find themselves needing to develop a whole new set of skills to survive socially in the new environment, and it is a harsher environment. Likewise, the child who moves from a low-income public school to a private school fro affluent children, will find the educational culture more ‘refined’ and devoid of much of the happenings the child was use to in their previous schooling. Class sizes tend to be smaller, teaching becomes more personalized, parents and teachers have greater communication and a love for learning is promoted in the ‘school spirit.’ Back in the low-income public school, teacher salaries are less, the modernity of resources are not kept up, class sizes tend to be bigger, behavioral issues more prevalent and a drop in the quality of instruction more evident.

The public school receives its funding from a centralized government that oversees budget, and the school’s physical renovation and its administrative offices cane found geographically distant from the school itself, whereas the private school is for-profit and receives its funding directly from parents. Its administrative offices are on the school grounds and synchronized to the life of the school community. One school is capitalistic in nature and the other is socialist-progressive. These two foundational constructs literally impinge on instructional approach, student learner experience and educational culture. Charter schools recognize with increased awareness that greater individual administrative power over how money is allocated and how the school staff (from the principal to the teacher) can create its own educational culture of teaching and learning success, simply represents an acknowledgement that shifting towards more individual school control and away from centralized town/ city government control directly impacts student performance.

In the private school settings, teachers are motivated to teach at an increased rate and students are motivated to learn exponentially more than in those in the low-income public school setting. A continuum of educational success for each school is experienced in between. For example, affluent children in a public school in an affluent neighborhood will have access to constantly modernized resources, teachers who are paid well and a school administrative staff that has great oversight over its own school culture, even as they receive their budget from a town government.

The Affluent Public School,

  1. The practiced awareness of identifying and addressing instructional and learning issues as they crop up are dealt with systematically.
  2. Higher teacher pay makes teachers feel more valued and so they bring ‘more of themselves’ to their work. They try harder because they feel the compensation for their efforts is being rewarded well. That said, their salary requires a solid twenty years of work to approach six digit figures. Teachers have limited say, if any, on calling for greater salary increases and may rely on teacher unions to do their salary bidding.
  3. Parents and teachers have greater communication, thus, a more united support team for the child-learner.
  4. Focus on modernization of resources is important and prioritized.

The Low-Income Public School

  1. Though not the case for every student, instead of teaching straight academics, teachers have to increasingly work on modifying behavior to bring students to optimal learning mindsets first.
  2. Lower teacher pay sends a message to teachers that greater instructional dynamism is not rewarded monetarily. Low pay creates lower teacher morale and passion. This impacts student learning.
  3. Parents and teachers have significantly less communication, especially the bigger the class size.
  4. Budget constraints impact the modernity of the school resources.

For-Profit Private School

  1. The practiced awareness of identifying and addressing instructional and learning issues as they crop up are dealt with systematically. Teachers also have smaller class sizes and focus on learning strategies. They become more ‘clinical teachers.’
  2. Teachers get paid very well and receive better benefits. Greater degrees of instructional energy and imagination are clearly seen.
  3. Parents and teachers have greater communication, thus, a more united support team for the child-learner. In fact, the teacher tends to work closely with parents and when compared with other school cultures, as those listed above, become more familial with the student’s parents.
  4. School funding for modernizing resources is vital. The details are important. New additions to buildings are created, the latest resources are purchased and teaching becomes more dynamic.
  5. School culture is more united and a sense of family is crafted by all. Parents become more involved given their direct investment in the life of the school with their child and their money.

So it is, that getting paid well makes us feel more valued, and for-profit schools understand that in order to run their business well, they must be very open to the feedback of their investor parents. The general well-being of their students is of utmost importance. Private schools, more so than any public or charter school, take it upon themselves to create a learning climate that is customized, familial, and inviting. Teachers enjoy greater degrees of job satisfaction and feel as if they are part of something special. All this trickles down to the student and they do better in school. That said, even the most affluent private school’s can be insulated from an understanding of what makes a passionate student who is motivated to learn. This happens all too often in private and public school educational culture. Teachers and administrative staff in all school settings live and work in a kind of cultural bubble, according to each school. It is hard to see fine congruencies from a pedagogical standpoint (pedagogy is the understanding and practice of the best instructional strategies and practices).

The best ‘clinical teachers’ approach their work as independent professionals seeking to place the onus of developing and customizing their teaching and approaches as if they were scientists seeking to create, balance and unearth new discoveries. This kind of teacher is not common, yet seems to have greater parallels with teachers in for-profit private schools. The difference though is that they clinical teacher approaches their work from a sense of greater humility and honesty that is exercised on purpose. That is to say, they put it upon themselves to look inwardly as to how they are reaching every one of their students and never blame the student for a learning deficit. These type of teachers view themselves as constant learners and value staying open to changing their ways, if it means facilitating the empowerment process of their students.

The child who is not motivated to learn is not the problem then. A student who is not motivated to learn is a teacher and school culture problem. It is unprofessional and a lack of true instructional understanding to conclude that the reason a child is not learning is because THEY are not motivated to learn, and THEY are not meeting the standards of the school. This sort of default thinking happens even in the most elite private schools and it is negligent, lazy thinking. For example, if we were to take a group of children from low-income households who are profiled as ‘underperforming’ in a public school and then place them in a private school instructional setting, the clash in instructional culture, if not understood by the private school staff as one in which the children shift from a ‘social-progressive’ to a more capitalistic instructional culture, would create a dearth of unmotivated students. Only ‘clinical teachers’ would be able to surmount this common instructional obstacle due to their toned sensitive ability to rapidly ‘read’ the ‘atmospheric feedback’ of the students and make dynamic instructional approach changes outflanking the common teaching approaches.

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just call me Bill

Dad, Special Educator, Political Scientist, Writer. Instagram & YouTube: @CoachBill007