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Accounting for Teachers' Time

March 6, 1992



Regarding the Opinion page article "Year-Round Teaching," Feb. 27: It is surprising that a person like the author, who is obviously familiar with the school system, does not consider "planning periods" as "work time." The author and many others like him believe that only classroom time is work, and therefore, unless a teacher spends eight hours a day actually teaching, she is inefficient and unprofessional. Even reviewing previously covered material should be banished, he argues.

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Unfortunately, there are two problems with this model. First, it is still true that repetition is necessary for learning. In fact this is how advertisers and politicians operate in shaping our needs and opinions quite effectively, if not always ethically. Second, ideas, science, and the everyday world change at a fast pace. A serious educator should spend more time educating and informing herself than actually transmitting this material once. Even old material needs to be presented in a current context. Teachers may be already spending too much time in the classroom perpetuating obsolete thinking and attitudes because they lack the time to learn and reflect.

Out-of-classroom time is essential whether or not schools operate throughout the year. The author's narrow-minded "efficiency" will only succeed in cramming young minds with out-of-date and devalued currency - a foolish and dangerous investment. Maria Comninou, Dexter, Mich.

The author ignores the fact that teachers are giving up their personal time with every hour spent on campus, not merely the time spent teaching. More importantly, he forgets that teachers spend time planning classes, grading papers, calling parents, and sitting with kids in detention.

In the teachers' lounge the talk is about how hard the work is and how much stress there is in comparison to the reward. I doubt more pay in exchange for more stress would make anyone happier. Also, most teachers feel they cannot serve the large number of students - often 160 for a high school teacher - that they deal with each day. Many of us have switched to private-school teaching. The pay is far less but the real rewards are much greater. In sum, most of us want more satisfaction and less stress.

If the author values us for our time spent in the classroom and nothing else, then that is exactly the kind of "respect" we do not look for. If he measured the value of all professionals the way he proposes we measure it for teachers, he would probably find judges and college professors are "on-task" less than we are. George C. Gastil, Rindge, N.H. Social Studies Teacher, The Meeting School

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.