Letters: A Site (and Magazine) for Sore Eyes
As a teacher for thirty-two years who teaches in a semirural high school outside San Antonio, Texas, I was delighted by your March 2006 issue ("The Daring Dozen: 2006"). Having four jobs leaves me with very little time to spend reading professional journals. Your articles are well researched, timely, and visually interesting. Thank you for renewing my faith in the outside world's ability to understand, discuss, and offer solutions to the tortured world of students, teachers, and all others associated with education.
I have to send my deepest thanks for your Web site and magazine. In 2001, I started a program to link an upper-middle-class school with an urban school where 96 percent of the students qualify for free lunch. We raise money for collaborative projects, robotics teams, clothing, special events, and speakers, and we coordinate a one-on-one literacy program.
You provide me with endless ideas for enriching the education of both suburban and urban students. Thank you so very much for the encouragement and creativity!
Thanks so much for your wonderful Web site and publication. It's very refreshing and different from other professional journals I read.
Hard Times for Teachers
I am very concerned for the education the children of New Orleans are going to receive ("Hard Times in the Big Easy: Putting the Pieces Back Together After Hurricane Katrina," June 2006). I hope the schools do it right this time, but the former teachers, the ones dedicated to the education of disadvantaged children, are spread out all over the country and even the world -- one has even gone to Korea to teach English! It was not just the kids whose homes were washed away.
I think this kind of system can work as long is it is free of corruption, the buildings are properly repaired, and the schools recruit only professional educators and show respect for the teachers. It is not going to be an easy job, but I would like to have mine back.
I read the article on the Facing History School ("Candor in the Class: Looking Back to Go Forward," April/May 2006), and I want to commend you! Facing History is not an easy thing to get, but I feel as though author Fran Smith was able to really articulate what we are and what the school is as well as anything I've read to date. The article made me so proud to be a part of it all.
Blame Where Blame Is Due
Almost every educator I know agrees that what is "wrong" in education are things that are not very politically friendly, so they don't get the attention that, say, blaming the teachers or administration do. The list follows:
- Class sizes are too large.
- Students are not held accountable.
- Many parents don't support the teachers, administration, district, and community.
- Standardized testing dictates how we must teach to a test that we don't write.
- Many students do not complete homework. (In my experience, nearly all students who do their homework do better in class and on standardized tests.)
- Students have told me of their frustration when kids continue to be returned to the class after numerous behavior problems.
Teachers are forced to focus on the few that repeatedly behave inappropriately, and they lose the other twenty-eight in class.
In addition, the only time I see many parents is after the final report card has been delivered. Almost exclusively, the parents who show up on school-visit nights are the parents you really don't need to see.
Why don't these issues get addressed more often?
I think you ought to look much more at changing the parameters of education: so much is not working for so many kids. There should be a far greater focus on valuing imagination in all aspects of education -- students, teachers, school administrators, and lawmakers. A solid condemnation of those aspects of schooling that kill off the spirit, try to standardize students, and do not recognize the deep humanity of all involved in the process is necessary.
We also need to look at other possible reasons for the deterioration of students' respect for each other and for the adults in their lives (and I'm talking about young children, not adolescents), an increased unwillingness to let themselves enjoy school, and a growing refusal to acknowledge the value of learning.