January 22, 2009

No Apologies!

At the risk of over-reacting I have to share my irritation with Kaplan’s advertising and what it claims about educators and education. The second half of this video is right on the money, education needs to change, and it will. I will write later about my vision for more student-focused learning and how I think public education can and will step up to the task. I won’t fault the marketing department at Kaplan for their shot at the current state of education, it’s broken. However, I will not, nor should any teacher, ever apologize to any student for “failing” them.

Teaching is one of if not the hardest jobs one can choose. I don’t know a single teacher who does not pour their hearts and souls into their work. Sure, some are more effective, and some others are more dynamic, but no one who stays in teaching past the first few years is there for the “great pay,” or, “summers off.” Working with students to develop their skills and abilities takes immense patience, careful and accurate lesson planning, a compassionate and caring heart, an above all, a willingness to reach down and help up those in need regardless of circumstances.

Do teachers fail their students from time to time? Of course. But the proposition that today’s educators have “failed” to educate this generation is simply offensive to me. I suppose that it is easier to blame educators for the problems today’s young people are having in the world. After all, today’s students spend on-average 6 to 7 of their 24 hours at school mostly participating in instruction. The balance of time, upwards to 8 or 9 hours daily are spent, with friends, at home, completing homework, or with family. Unfortunately, school is falling lower and lower on their priority lists.

Perhaps this advertisement for a commercial educational institution is aimed more squarely at the colleges and universities, and not so focused on K-12 public education. Perhaps I am too sensitive. If you read my posts here then you know my heart. I just hate it when educators are blamed for the failings of their students. Ideally every child taught by every teacher would excel in every subject ever taught. But this is not what happens. Thankfully, the American public education systems has been part of the backbone of the success of our country and will continue to grow and thrive.

I’m sure that I have now ruined my opportunity to ever become a Kaplan instructor. Well, that’s ok. I will continue to implement my own educational reforms from within my own classroom with my own students every day that I stand in front of them and teach. And to be clear, I will never, ever, apologize for not bringing my best to the classroom and not teaching every student I am assigned to the best of my ability. I will draw out their talents, and educate each individual to confidently venture out into the world and be wildly successful.


  1. I didn't take it as a direct insult to teachers, I took it more as an explanation of what educators face as "the system" tries to figure it all out. On a light note, I couldn't help but notice, was that the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's dad in the ad?!

  2. Well stated! Perhaps it's because I'm an 8th grade teacher, rather than college professor, but I agree with you---I felt "jabbed at" by Kaplan's ad.

    When are we as a society going to put SOME responsiblility for learning back on the parents? This school year I changed work locations, moving from a "D" to an "A" school. Though we have more parent conferences, and more parents available via phone, I am still shocked by the number of parents who are NON-RESPONSIVE to attempts to reach them to discuss their child's education. And still others who attend and participate in conferences, only to blame the teachers for the students' lack of progress. Maybe I'm on a soapbox, but it seems like the creators of the Kaplan ad just don't understand what it's really like to be in the classroom trenches. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I think your right. In addition to noting that teaching is a difficult job, I think it's important to realize also that anyone who does their best at a job has no need to apologize for failure. You apologize when you could have done something differently and chose not to- this is not the case of most teachers. Furthermore, even if the system does suck that is an administrative failure, not a teaching failure.

    However, as an adman I have to say that this is solid ad. It plays right up on the emotions of highschool aged children who have grown up in a cynical environment and blame everything on the system. (I know- it wasn't too long ago that I was there). They probably tell this tale to their parents twice a week as well so I'd wager this advertisement is pretty effective.

  4. I'm tired of teachers being lobbed into the group of those who "fail." It's the larger system, the very one that we work so hard to reform. Teachers ought to have the loudest voice, because we can smell the difference between commercial bullshit and authentic learning. We are the ones leading the change and groups like Kaplan are the ones who get the attention. Probably because we spend more time on things like inpsiring young minds to learn and less time on perpetual self-marketing.

  5. As a college student studying to be an English teacher, I don't have all of the experience that everyone else is bringing to the table here. I do think, however, that after being exposed to everything that teachers are trying to do in order to make the schooling and teaching system better, that this ad is very high handed. The system may be faulty, but teachers are doing everything they can to improve it.

  6. I ran from public education after my first education class in college. Seeing the frustration in the teachers I observed and the lack of resources for their students left me frustrated. Our society has chosen to point fingers rather than join hands and hearts with regard to our young people's education.