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Published in Print: September 12, 2001, as Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning

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Educators Here, Abroad Express Similar Sentiments

Teachers and school administrators in Australia, England, New Zealand, and the United States share the same joys and frustrations about their profession—in an era in which policymakers in all four countries are pursuing a standards-based agenda to improve schools.

A random sampling of more than 3,000 teachers and administrators reveals that most derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping children and are challenged by the work they do, according to the report, "I Love Teaching But ... : International Patterns of Teacher Discontent." The study appeared in the August issue of the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives.

The respondents also find themselves overworked, underpaid, and given little respect, the report says. Moreover, they are unhappy with the pace and changes in their countries' education policies and have felt an "erosion" of relationships between colleagues.

Modern teachers are "bouncers, child counselors, animal trainers, army sergeants, school nurses, and megaphones," one Australian teacher told researchers from the University of Western Sydney that worked to compile the interviews.

Much of educators' angst, the report concludes, is derived directly from the lack of societal supports provided to youngsters and their families by their governments. Without adequate medical care, social security, and other such services, children suffer at home and then bring their troubles to school, it asserts.

Single-Parent Disadvantage

Children from American single-parent families have a harder time keeping up with their classmates academically than children in similar households in other countries do, a study suggests.

The achievement gap between children who live with one parent and who live with two is higher in the United States than in any other country studied by the team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park and the European University Institute in Firenze Ferrovia, Italy.

For the study, the researchers compared the math and science scores of 9-year-olds on the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study for 11 nations with similar cultural traditions, and found that U.S. children in single-parent homes scored further behind their peers than in any other country.

One reason that children living in single- parent households in the United States tend to slip behind their classmates may be a lack of the level of financial and child-care support to low-income families provided in other industrialized countries, says Suet-ling Pong, an associate professor of education, sociology, and demography at Penn State and the lead researcher.

Autoimmune Fatalities

Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues instead of infections, are more likely to be fatal in teachers than in people in other professions, according to a recent article in The Journal of Rheumatology.

For More Info
Read an abstract of the article, "Excess Autoimmune Disease Mortality Among School Teachers," July 2001, from the Journal of Rheumatology.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington studied 860,000 death certificates provided by the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health for an 11-year period from 1985 through 1995. They looked for 13 specific autoimmune diseases as the cause of death, including multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

Mortality rates were 2.3 percent for teachers, compared with 1.7 percent for people in other professions. That number rose to 4.1 percent for teachers between the ages of 35 and 44, compared with 1.9 percent for other professionals in that same age group. The researchers also found that high school teachers were more likely to die from such diseases than were elementary teachers.

The article speculates that, early in their careers, teachers are exposed to infections that increase the risk of contracting an autoimmune disease, which are generally chronic but not fatal.

Growing Their Own

The Chicago school system is working to curtail a teacher shortage by recruiting its own high school graduates into the profession even before the students have paid their first college-tuition bills.

The "Grow Our Own" program, unveiled this past summer, offers alumni either a $20,000 college scholarship and a three-year teaching contract or a $1,500 grant to help fund the cost of college, provided students pledge to work in the city's public schools after they've become full- fledged educators.

"There is a critical shortage of minority teachers" in Chicago, said Carlos Ponce, the chief human-resource officer for the 432,000- student district. "This program gives us an opportunity to talk to the minority community and ... develop that sense of mission. Who better than someone from a [minority neighborhood] to come back and teach kids in those communities?"

In addition to that shortage area, Chicago has a hard time filling vacancies in mathematics, science, and special education, among other fields. This year alone, the nation's third-largest district will need to hire 3,000 educators to complement a teaching force of 26,000.

To date, four students have taken administrators up on their offer, at a total cost of $25,000 to the district, Mr. Ponce said. The money for scholarships is provided by grants and foundations and is not limited to students of color, he added.

Firsthand History

"Had I never heard the name of liberty or seen the tyrant lift his cruel hand to smite my fellow and my friend, I might perhaps have dragged my chains in quietude to the grave, and have found a tomb in a slavery-polluted land; but thanks be to God I heard the glorious sound and felt its inspiring influence on my heart, and having satisfied myself of the value of freedom, I resolved to purchase it whatever should be its price."

The price of freedom for Henry Brown, a slave from Richmond, Va., was postage and the 27 hours it took for the 3-foot box in which he enclosed himself to be mailed to Philadelphia. The news of his amazing flight from slavery in 1849 spread quickly, and Brown became a celebrity among abolitionists in the North.

His own account of his experience, as well as the biographies and autobiographies of more than 200 other slaves, are now available online.

Most of the full-text narratives are out of print or in special collections and have not been widely available until now. The texts, some accompanied by illustrations, pamphlets, and book jackets, are part of a digital project documenting the American South being produced by the Davis Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Slave narratives are our most accurate source of information about slavery from the standpoint of the people who actually lived it day to day," William L. Andrews, an English professor at the university who directed the project, said in a statement.

"The more of these narratives we're able to preserve and make available, the more complete our understanding will be of what slavery was really like as a human experience."

—Julie Blair, Michelle Galley,
David J. Hoff, and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 21, Issue 2, Page 16

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