I recently wrote about the teachers’ crisis in Israel and how I think it should be resolved. I am pleased that the teachers’ union has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Finance and that the teachers will receive a significant raise, which was one of my proposals. However, there is another point in the agreement that I believe does not contribute to good teaching, but rather creates a distortion in the system: the teachers will receive financial bonuses for excellence in teaching. That is, the teachers’ performance will be graded and they will receive extra money if their grades are good.
I wholly agree that quality teaching must be encouraged, that teachers must strive to be the best they can be, and that good teachers should be appreciated. I also agree that teachers’ performance should be graded. Where I see the problem is in the type of reward that they receive in return for good performance.
Financial rewards would make them think about the money while teaching, instead of focusing on the education they are giving to their students; it would turn them into “sales persons” who think about the bonuses they get in return for more sales, rather than about the customers, namely the students. If teachers adjust their teaching so that it earns them bonuses rather than thinking about the needs of their students, it will not produce good teachers and certainly not good teaching.
Another point we should consider is who should participate in grading the teachers. Under the new agreement, the school principals will decide who is a good teacher. In my opinion, the students, too, should have their voices heard on that. First of all, they are, after all, the ones who spend the most time with the teacher. They are the ones who feel firsthand if the teacher’s teaching is clear, if the homework is appropriate and reasonable, if the grades they give are fair, and if the teacher is patient or not, etc. Therefore, they know better than anyone how well this teacher performs.
Another reason why I believe that students should be involved in evaluating their teachers is that it will be an effective educational tool. It will make students think about teaching, about the role of the teacher, about the teacher’s work, and about themselves as students. They will be able to discuss these issues with each other, develop interpersonal communication, and enrich each other with different perspectives. Being able to view the other side’s perspective is one of the key elements in emotional maturation, and putting themselves in the teacher’s shoes is a great way to help students achieve that.
Photo caption: Israeli school teachers