Two teachers on respect for the profession Regarding "Bridging the great teacher gap" (Aug. 27): After 25 years of teaching, I have opinions about several points in your article.
First, teachers can come from any sector, and indeed they should. The criteria for certification need to be expertise in and commitment to your content area, a deep love of children, coupled with an appreciation of the marvelous gifts each individual student brings into the classroom.
Schools of education do not impress me. Experienced teacher-mentors are fully qualified to teach management skills, lesson planning, and scope and sequence in the curriculum. They are right there with those new teachers, and they know what works, what the best practices are, and how to implement them.
My second concern is respect for teachers. Far too often teachers have the impression they only hear from angry parents and only rarely do the parents who value the work you do with their children communicate their appreciation. Your publication emphasizes positive trends in education, marvelous educational experiences, and great teachers. Our local newspaper seems to delight in negative commentary and articles about teachers and education. This one-sided approach needs to change in every publication in America.
There is not enough money in the world to keep you in teaching if mentoring and professional collaboration are not a substantial part of every teacher's experience. Without respect and the involvement of parents, teachers founder. The time and energy that goes into teaching is truly phenomenal and that commitment deserves support and respect. Respect will do more to keep new teachers in the field than any other factor.
Susan Small, Steilacoom, Wash.
Your story mentioned the quality of a teacher's life and the quality of learning in the classroom, but didn't give much insight into these areas. This may be my fourth and last year as a teacher. Here's why.
In a recent back-to-school meeting, a school district representative presented California's new "Retention Law." Depending on how districts implement the law, a student's promotion to or retention from the next grade could be based on her/his standardized test scores.
Standardized tests are normed, or adjusted, until results fall into a bell curve. In other words, they are designed so half of the test-takers pass and half fail. You can draw the logical conclusion here. Even if districts opt to consider a student's other achievements, test scores will play a key role in the decision.
The "Retention Law" and the tests are linked to our new state curriculum "standards." (I always imagine I can hear the angels singing the hallelujah chorus after the standards are mentioned. They often are discussed as if they were the solution to all of society's evils.) The standards mandate precisely what a child should learn and precisely when. At my school, we are told that soon all textbooks will align with these standards. (The angels' voices crescendo.) They will be so easy to follow, the instructions on the teacher's manuals very well may read "just add teacher."
Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." I wonder where we will find room for imagination and the development of a curious intellect in this new educational setting? Where is the room for children to pursue a subject they are curious about until it exhausts them? Despite incentives, bonuses, on-site childcare, and every other carrot imaginable, soon educators may be leaving the profession in tidal waves.
Michelle Madgett, San Jose, Calif.
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