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A Place Called School Chapter 6

In Chapter 6, Goodlad focuses on his findings from his survey of teachers, painting a picture of the circumstances in which teachers teach, and the challenges they face in fulfilling their perceived roles and functions. His findings reveal that most teachers enter the profession hoping to engage in satisfying work in teaching. Circumstances associated with teachers’ beliefs of their role in the classroom, their perceptions of problems within/out of their control, and their overall satisfaction, are discussed to present the challenges that affect teacher effectiveness and quality of education provided. Goodlad presents some of the challenging circumstances based on findings and calls for improvements to be made in the school workplace to provide the maximum opportunity for both teaching and learning to occur in schools. Particular circumstances discussed from findings include: teacher preparation gaps (especially lacking in special education), teacher isolation (lack of infrastructure to encourage communication and collaboration), and teacher autonomy (perceived lack of power in issues related to the school as a whole). Throughout the chapter, Goodlad alludes to the low compensation that teachers receive, as well as the difficult work conditions (i.e. no lunch break to find rest) that teachers face as problems that remove the motivation to teach well. In his discussion, Goodlad indicates that the challenging circumstances observed in the school extend beyond the school and into the way students approach the world around them. Thus, according to Goodlad, overcoming these challenges necessitates agendas for both school-/school-district-based and societal reform, as all of these partly determine the circumstances in which teaching occurs. Goodlad suggests that changing the circumstances of teaching is an important step towards creating a school environment where personal growth and fulfillment in learning can flourish.

Key Passages:
“If teachers are potentially powerfully influential in the education of children and youth in school but the circumstances of teaching inhibit their functioning, then we need to modify these circumstances so as to maximize teachers’ potential. The directions of school improvement become reasonably clear: diagnose and seek to remedy the impeding conditions; improve teachers’ knowledge and skills” (p. 168).

“Teachers quit, it appears, for the same kinds of reasons other people move from one line of work to another. The teachers in our sample chose such reasons for leaving as being frustrated in what they wanted to do or disappointed in their own performance…If one goes into teaching with expectations of being able to teach and be of service and then is frustrated in realizing these expectations, dissatisfaction sets in and quitting becomes an alternative” (p. 172).

“My interpretation is that teachers, aware of the rather crowded box in which they and their students live each day, see the need to be in control, to prevent unruly students from dominating, as a necessary condition for student learning—even though they might prefer simply to act on their beliefs about good pedagogy. A class out of control and a teacher’s giving praise generously for student accomplishment are incompatible. A class out of control is not a class engaged in academic learning” (p. 175).

“We must give attention, then to the workplace. The circumstance of teaching must provide optimum opportunity for teaching and learning to proceed. When teachers find themselves restrained and inhibited by problems of the workplace that appear to them not to be within their control, it is reasonable to expect frustration and dissatisfaction to set in. Undoubtedly, teacher effectiveness, in turn, is constrained and the very problems frustrating teachers are exacerbated. Students’ perceptions of the quality of the education being provided decline. It is reasonable to assume that the actual quality of this education declines also” (p. 180).

“The responses at all levels regarding special education warrant attention. The percentage of teachers expressing inadequate preparation increased quite markedly from the elementary to the senior high school level—from 4.5% to 12.5%. Overall, significant segments of our data suggest growing difficulty in meeting students’ learning problems and needs with upward progression through the level of schooling” (p. 185).

“Improvement of those circumstances that transcend individual classrooms no doubt will require the allocation of time and rewards for nonteaching activities, a differing perception of responsibility on the part of teachers, and job preparation extending beyond pedagogy and classroom management. To date, this proposition has been largely ignored by those seeking to improve schools through intervention from without” (p. 188).

“Teachers’ professional skill in transcending the circumstances inhibiting students’ learning in academic learning extends far beyond schools and classrooms. Our young people must receive from the surrounding environment more powerful reasons, incentives, and role models for academic learning and intellectual development than now prevail. Particularly important, it appears, is the need for home and school to be close, for the mutual purpose of all children and youth learning more about their world and their relationship to it. We still fall far short of viewing students as the real clients of schools and of doing what we can to make schooling fulfill the function of individual development and responsibility” (p. 193).

Important Terminology:
Circumstances (of teaching/schooling)- the conditions that determine the environment in which teachers must fulfill their roles; the factors that affect how teachers perform their jobs.

Discussion Guiding Questions:
1. How do you find the survey findings from Goodlad’s study regarding the circumstances of teaching to reflect your own experiences as teachers now? What do you think are the most difficult obstacles teachers face in fulfilling their role today?
2. Describe the puzzling school that Goodlad highlights in this chapter. Why does Goodlad highlight the data from Rosemont High School? What is puzzling about his findings?
3. What are your thoughts on the possible solution described by Goodlad on pages 194 and 195? How do you see this as a possible solution to the challenging circumstances discussed in the chapter? Does it seem realistic?
4. How do you feel about Goodlad’s call for an increased societal role in creating an environment that provides incentives and role models for academic learning and intellectual development for children? Can home and school be close with a mutual purpose? How can this be achieved?