What makes a teacher incompetent

The law knows no idiot paragraph

Teachers who are wrong in their profession have a fatal effect on students and suffer enormously themselves. One should advise them against school service at an early stage. There is a model for this.

"Teacher bashing" is sterile. One must beware of denigration. Every profession knows brilliant representatives and failures. But when students suffer, it is only secondarily from the burden of the lessons or the abundance of material. It depends on the educator. If he succeeds in inspiring the class with the style of his teaching, then even the most difficult hurdles will be overcome. Anyone who has ever attended school knows this experience: the subject teacher changes, and suddenly students blossom and bring home better grades. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Incapable teachers can permanently ruin the biographies of their protégés. They influence career paths, block life chances. So shouldn't only the best always teach our children? After all, education is the most important resource in modern societies, and the future depends on the young. But "incompetence" is a harsh word. It sounds like failing teachers are their own fault.

Every third teacher is overloaded

Compassion is appropriate: teachers have a hard time. No other profession seems to be so threatened by mental illness. A representative study for the whole of Switzerland will not be published until autumn. Figures for Zurich have recently become public, according to which extrapolated one in ten teachers is at risk of burnout. This is the result of a study led by Daniel Frey, the former director of the City of Zurich School Health Services. The situation is similar in Germany. Early retirement due to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression are common. In the absence of more precise terms, burnout is also the most common illness among teachers there. Every third person feels overloaded.

Too much compassion is harmful: covering up weak teachers harms students. There is no getting around the fact that some teachers are wrongly appointed to their post. This includes the boys who have decided to study teaching due to indecision and then suddenly suffer the "practical shock" at work, as well as the veterans, long petrified, who teach according to the scheme F, do not care about didactics, see students as opponents and The blame for below-average learning performance can optionally be found in «laziness», «stupidity», «neglect» or an alleged constitutional disinterest of the children and adolescents.

In early June, a judge in California issued a - not yet final - judgment, according to which schools may fire incompetent teachers. The fact that such a decision has to be made by the courts at all shows the difficulty that it makes to correct incorrect appointments when teachers are civil servants or are in employment relationships similar to civil servants. This is in Germany, where high school teachers have had to take a state examination since 1810, because allegedly only civil servants vouch for the legally valid dignity of the Abitur, no different from the USA, where the unions declare that teachers must not be terminable because this is the only way to guarantee academic freedom guarantee. This makes evictions for incompetence practically impossible. To paraphrase the Berlin professor Hans-Peter Füssel, a specialist in control problems in modern education systems: "The German civil service law knows no idiotic paragraph." There is no civil service in Switzerland, but the situation is analogous. To be fired as a teacher, one must have committed a serious disciplinary offense. Bringing a gun to class or sexually harassing students will hurt your career. Inability does not.

At the Ruhr University in Bochum or the Technical University of Munich, candidate teachers have recently started studying at so-called Schools of Education. You are there among yourself. It is undoubtedly an advantage if those who want to become teachers no longer have to share the seminars with other graduates and are not scattered across all faculties. This makes it easier to develop a common educational self-image. However, the Schools of Education, like other universities, are subject to the Bologna Process and its modularization of studies, and the education ministries of the federal states, which set the curricula, are primarily concerned with the acquisition of specialist knowledge. In relation to this, the number of credit points that a student teacher has to achieve in pedagogy and didactics is all too low.

“The teacher should, however, be more of a pedagogue than a specialist,” says Norbert Seibert, who holds the chair for school pedagogy at the University of Passau and, as a school researcher, grapples with conventional training. One shouldn't react only when teachers fall into burnout, vent their frustration on the students in class or retire early. According to calculations by the Bavarian Teachers' Association - ten years old but not outdated - each early retired teacher costs the Free State 375,000 euros; Overall, the annual costs for retirement due to incapacity in Bavaria amount to around 250 million. That is a considerable sum that would be better put “in front” into training and further education than “behind” into the curative system.

In addition, both in Germany and Switzerland, it is not the high school graduates with top grades who take up the teaching profession. Now one might find that top grades are not the deciding factor, since schools today need educators who “can deal with the most difficult students and the most original parents”, as Norbert Seibert says. Personalities are required who do not despair at the first insolence. The same German study, however, which ascertains that mainly mediocre high school graduates are turning to the teaching profession (Hochschul-Bildungsreport 2020), also speaks of the fact that it is precisely the people with little self-confidence who want to become teachers. What can she attract? The prospect of official authority? That nobody contradicts them? The saying “teachers are right in the mornings and free in the afternoons” hardly applies anymore.

It must be thought that in Germany up to forty percent of students studying for the teaching profession drop out of their studies unsuccessfully if the motivation to do so was weak from the start. Since the admission restrictions are low, it is possible to pursue the teacher training course as a solution to the problem. But this profession should also be a calling. In order to separate the wheat from the chaff among the candidates at an early stage, the University of Passau, on the initiative of Norbert Seibert, set up a kind of aptitude test called “PArcours”.

Unfortunately no compulsory test

The participants go through several exercises with relatively little preparation time. They have to explain their motives for the choice of course and the combination of subjects and reflect on why their personal characteristics predestine them for it. In group discussions, they weight the demands on the teaching profession and defend their assessments. A film documented student-teacher conflict should be analyzed and possible solutions should be shown. The aim is a realistic view of the job and yourself. In the end, there is blunt feedback from the professional observers, which has advised many students to change their training. However, participation in Parcous is still voluntary and the jury's vote is not binding. In order to reduce the number of failures in school service, the Passau model would have to be compulsory for all student teachers everywhere. That would be for their own good - and that of the students, who were more likely to be spared from failures.

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