See 'u'

At least once a month, a query arrives in my e-mail at work. "Hi!" it begins enthusiastically. There's no mention of my name, but this is e-mail, and time is precious. "I am writing a paper on [X]. I read your story and was wondering if u could tell me where to find" books, articles, papers – whatever. The writers are having a good day if they include their last name, a great one if they tell me where they're from.

These queries often lead to some fun exchanges, but more than a few of them do make you wonder what students learn about doing research. I get queried most often about school prayer, having written 460 words on the subject – four years ago. My colleague Marjorie Coeyman gets asked for resources as well as her personal opinion on such topics as summer camps, how boys fare in school, and math curricula. We both field requests to respond to student "surveys" about our work – although why we get asked usually remains a mystery.

Still, contacts from students – especially good ones – are part of what makes the Learning editor's job a fun one. And my five years in the position have certainly offered plenty of engaging drama in the form of often-controversial reforms.

They've also provided plenty of inspiration. As I move on to become the Monitor's deputy World editor, I have greater appreciation for the challenge of trying to educate all children well, America's laudable target for its schools.

Starting next week, Stacy Teicher, a talented veteran of the Learning section, will help you negotiate the often-messy process of meeting that goal. As acting Learning editor, she'll keep you abreast of what educators are thinking, what's happening in classrooms here and abroad, and how learning continues well after school days are done.

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