Teaching is a learned activity. As such, the act of teaching requires that the teacher have a mental model of what it means to teach. When teachers teach in ways which appear to an outside observer to be ineffective or poorly thought-out, it is because they are using a flawed model for understanding teaching and learning. Blaming teachers for having flawed models is like blaming students for not knowing things; it doesn't solve the problem, it may even exacerbate it.
Teaching is also incredibly complex. Once a teacher starts teaching, it can take ten years before they begin to plateau in terms of their expertise. Unfortunately, most educators work towards improving their practice in isolation, and receive little direct feedback on their work. Many of the colleagues I have taught with over the years have never received formal feedback on their teaching! Often the feedback educators do receive is inconsistent, haphazard, and hard to utilize. The best feedback most educators currently get about the effectiveness of their work is the direct impact it has on student learning in their classroom.
If we want to improve education, aside from continue to work on issues of inequity and division in our society, we must plan schools so that teachers are given more time to collaborate and plan their work together. We must also build in an expectation that the job of teaching includes the job of learning more about teaching, and that constructive feedback about one's work is the norm, rather than an oddity. We must embed learning about teaching into what it means to be a teacher.
David is a Formative Assessment Specialist for Mathematics at New Visions for Public Schools in NYC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, Bangkok, and Vancouver before moving back to the United States. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.