Teachers' importance

A feeling of dismay settled over me as I read the article which described the contest instituted in the West Haven, Conn., schools [``Where's my teacher today,'' Feb. 5]. At a time when as a nation we are supposedly engaged in serious attempts to upgrade our public school system, a community offers its teachers the ``carrot'' of a week in Hawaii or a weekend in Boston. Ludicrous! We need situations that enhance the importance of the teacher's job, not trivialize it with silly lotteries. Teachers should desire to be in school to get their jobs done, not to vie for a chance of a free vacation.

Letters of praise and encouragement are necessary, as they promote a sense that one is being acknowledged for honesty and dedication. But we must also ask why there are teachers who do abuse the system. Whether due to the fact that many teachers work second jobs and may feel these days off are necessary, or the feeling that sick days should be used because they are a concession won at the bargaining table, the reward system described by Mr. Criscuolo is, in my opinion, just another simplistic ``surface'' attempt to repair one of the most vital aspects of our society.

The already-low salaries of teachers need to be raised, especially as more is demanded of them. In turn, all teachers should exhibit excellent control over their classrooms and their subject matter, they should reach beyond the framework of their curricula to explore and expand, and they should feel a sense of unity with both their administrators and their community; as though traveling the same high road together rather than at odds. Teachers must feel less like underpaid underdogs and more like respected professional members of our society. It is possible that these sentiments are unrealistic or idealistic but teaching can be a fascinating and rewarding occupation and there are many participants in the field who could act easily in the scenario I describe, without the enticement of a week in Hawaii in exchange for showing up to work. Evangeline Abbott Rockville, Conn.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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