Explaining the teacher drain

The Monitor's July 17 article "America's widening teacher gap" and the accompanying editorial, "Finding quality teachers," hits the shell of the nut, but misses the meat. As a teacher at all levels of the education system, including elementary, middle, high school and university (in special education/teacher education) for the past 20 years, I can honestly tell you that most teachers go into education for the satisfaction of seeing children (and adults) learn, and not for the money.

I would submit to you that many of those who leave teaching early do so because of the disenchantment that comes with their experience in the classroom.

Teachers are often treated as incompetent and unprofessional. They are given little real power and responsibility. Because school boards micromanage teachers' choice of textbooks and teaching procedures, and states mandate curricula, teachers are rarely able to choose the basic tools of their profession, and often pay at great cost to themselves if they dare to choose them.

In addition, teachers are not often trained in the tools they actually need to teach well. Much of the instruction in teacher-education programs is done and constructed by individuals who have never - or have not recently - had the responsibility of standing in front of a class and ensuring that children learn. It is not at all surprising that teachers are frustrated after a few years' experience.

W. Corry Larson Berea, Ky.

I am a teacher and have seen part of the reason many teachers leave the field.

Many teachers leave school systems because they didn't have enough money to foot the bill for the requirements for recertification without putting themselves in unmanagable debt.Most do this at the five-year mark. Others I talked to who managed it were married, on loans, or strapped.

In business, many companies pay all or part of additional education required for the job. We want qualified, life-long learners as teachers.Why don't wehelp them get the education they must have to stay in the teaching profession? I think that would help the shortage problem.

Linda J. Snorek Cassopolis, Mich.

Qualified teachers who might want to enter or remain in the profession should not be faced with impossible hurdles that encourage them to leave the profession and exacerbate the teacher shortage.

Teaching is one of the few professions that does not reward or even fully acknowledge the expertise one builds over a career.

Christopher T. Cross Washington President, Council for Basic Education

Divided by education

While I agree with the views expressed in your July 13 editorial ("Being joiners, not loners") on factors that contribute to or inhibit a sense of community in today's America, I think some important elements were missed.

My wife and I live in a neighborhood we can afford, but our community is found elsewhere, among friends we have made at work or in amateur musical groups in which we perform. Our income may be the same as our neighbors', but our level of education is generally higher, our political views are much more liberal, their involvement with religion is greater, and our recreational interests are radically at variance with theirs.

A now-common disparity between education and income for those of us in the humanities and social sciences is producing neighborhoods in which community is sought away from where people live. We're finding it, but at quite a high price.

Neil R. Hughes Athens, Ga.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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