Are you a bad teacher?

Well, are you? A new movie coming out on June 24th asks that very question.

I am so glad that spring break has come which has allowed me take time from grading papers, making lesson plans, and working on portfolios. I have gotten to pursue one of my favorite leisurely past times; the movie theater. I have visted it three times this week.

It was at one of these visits where the theater went dark and I hear an unknown actor ask, “Are you excited for tomorrow?” Cameron Diaz answers, “Why is it Saturday?” “No, it’s the first day of school.” “Oh, yeah, I’m not going to go to that!” “But it’s mandatory!” “Ohhhhhh”

The rest of the preview depicts Cameron Diaz as a bad teacher. She calls her students stupid, throws papers at them, and is asleep at her desk. [ I know a Ms. Diaz who is an excellent teacher and she would never do any of these things. I take offense for her. 🙂 This Ms. Diaz makes her look bad!]

Then, we get to the plot of the movie. This teacher is more interested in getting a man (Justin Timberlake) than in student achievement in her classroom. She thinks to get this man that she needs to pay for a certain physical augmentation process. Well, this process costs money and where will this teacher get the money?

Has anyone heard of a little carrot and stick motivator called pay for performance? This teacher learns that if her class gets the highest score on the state test, then she will get a bonus! Then, she can get her “process” which will make the man she wants fall in love with her! If this teacher performs in a certain manner, then she will get the pay. And the breasts. And the man.

The rest of the preview shows how the teacher is trying to turn herself around and raise test scores. An honest goal. However, it’s a bit terrifying that this obviously awful teacher could actually get the highest test scores in her school. This will in turn make her appear to be a GREAT teacher to politicians, parents, and educators who don’t work with her.

When pay for performance programs and financial incentives are being designed, are they being designed with goals that effective educators can meet? Or are they goals that any nitwit in a mini skirt can achieve? When educators learn of these goals, what are our main motivators? The carrot or student achievement?

I work at a school with three pay for performance programs in place. Two of those are mainly just paperwork with no real proof that I can see in my students’ achievement. The third has some good components that cause me to be more reflective and I have seen it impact my students in a positive manner. However, I worked hard one year and saw the best growth ever of my students but I was dinged because I did not meet their standards and did not receive the money. Now I am reluctant to participate as enthusiastically. I can go down the checklist and fulfill every requirement but does it truly make me a better teacher? Is it really causing me to perform better?

This preview has really stirred up alot of questions in me. Politicians and administrators need to watch this movie if they are considering a pay for performance program. Hopefully, they will ask this question. “Are we validating and encouraging good teachers or are we rewarding bad teachers?”


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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