As a resident of Celebration, a teacher, and a parent of children at Celebration School since its inaugural year, I was appalled by the excerpt from the Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz book, Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town [“Nothing To Celebrate,” October]. True education reform is an arduous, challenging process, a journey that we at Celebration have chosen to make knowing that the future is at stake. Our successes are joyous; our “not yets” (verbiage from our rubric) are frustrating. However, with our focus on the best practices in education, we have a compass that guides us through this journey.
In the past, TeacherMagazine has featured articles espousing the very practices that Celebration embodies. Often, those articles have served as encouragement and support for us. Yet this time, what could have been a wonderful opportunity to feature education reform in a world focused on test scores became nothing more than a sensationalistic headline.
I certainly hope the Fresno subs get what they’re after [“Substitutes Unite,” October]. Working as a substitute teacher for a year and a half made me determined to get a full-time position. The low pay for substitutes was a problem, of course, but the lack of respect was much harder to deal with.
My fellow subs and I have had principals and full-time teachers challenge our reports about incidents (“Well, Bobby may be aggressive, but you must have done something first”); shuttle us from room to room--as many as seven classrooms in a day--with no chance to have lunch or take a break; and fail to provide directions to the adult restrooms.
When I got a full-time position, I promised myself that I would always treat substitutes with respect. In addition to providing lesson plans and a daily schedule, I thank them for coming, leave them a snack, make sure they know the names of the teachers in surrounding rooms, and give directions to the faculty bathrooms and staff room. Furthermore, students who misbehave for a substitute have to write a note, which we mail, apologizing for their misbehavior. (I’ve never had a student have to write more than one.)
Substitute teachers deserve much more than they get. I know, because I’ve been there. The money is important, but the respect is invaluable. Go, Fresno subs!
Name withheld upon request
One issue that does not seem to be addressed in discussions of teacher and administrator short ages is the role of immigration [“Viva Las Vegas” and “The Golden Years,” October]. As a Canadian principal who holds California administrative and teaching credentials, I am surprised that no one has tried to make it as easy for Canadian teachers to work in the United States as it is for Canadian doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. Everyone seems to be missing an opportunity. I’ve tried the rounds, but the famous American enterprise system seems to fail in this area.
Chilanko Forks, British Columbia
I take offense at the tone of “Sex 101" [“Clippings,” October]. I do not believe that teaching abstinence-only sex education is necessarily bad. Do we really need to teach students how to masturbate? Does family planning double for abortion? The traditional abstinence-only sex education offered to our parents must have worked reasonably well: We’ve only had an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies since the “sexual revolution” of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Perhaps we want to have our cake and eat it, too. As adults who grew up during the sexual revolution, we want to have the freedom to do what we want, such as have multiple sexual partners or multiple marriages. To teach abstinence, therefore, would be hypocritical.
I also don’t believe that Ms. magazine is the best periodical for your magazine to be using as a source.
Hickory, North Carolina
Your article that focused on the Direct Instruction program [“Scripting Success,” October] brought to mind the way school is taught in Mexico. There is a single national curriculum and an accompanying teaching methodology. There are teachers within the public education system whose sole job is to travel and instruct other teachers in using that method. Though public education in Mexico terminates after the 6th grade for all but the best and brightest, it would be interesting to test the effectiveness of its system.
Rocky Ford, Colorado
The Key To Reform
I am amazed that Teacher gave absolutely no recognition to homeschooling in its 10th anniversary issue [August/September]. Homeschooling is truly an education phenomenon that came of age during the ‘90s. All 50 states now recognize its legitimacy, and it is an education option for well over a million students. Clearly, homeschooling is not a fad; it has become a bona fide school alternative for hundreds of thousands of American families.
Though schools struggle to improve in a host of areas-parent involvement, year-round schooling, individualized curriculum, alternative assessment, technology use-homeschoolers are already dealing with these challenges. Of course, home schooling will never be adopted by the majority, but educators should not dismiss its effectiveness out of hand. Rather, they should raise the question of how homeschooling’s best practices could be incorporated into the mainstream.
Your omission reminds me of the story of a man who is searching for his lost keys under a street lamp. When a friend asks where he last had his keys, he points to a darkened alley. But he explains that it is too dark to find them over there; the light is better here. By defining education in terms of schools and failing to consider homeschooling, you stayed in familiar “lighted” territory. In doing so, you missed finding the real keys to improved education.
Massachusetts Home Learning Association
Mandate To Whine
I just tried to read “Chicago Blues” and “Two-Step Reform” [August/September], but I could not get through all the whining. The articles criticize holding kids back, but something is wrong with our education system when we graduate seniors who, at best, read at a 3rd grade level. In my state, we are increasingly getting accountability mandates from the legislature, yet the district I teach in doesn’t hold back many students. Accountability mandates only come when administrators and teachers refuse to do their jobs--which is to help children learn.
You should try to balance the whining rhetoric with some focus on our own shortcomings in education. The longer we deny there’s a problem, the more someone else is going to tell us how to do our jobs.
Stop And Go
Ron Wolk asks who will step forward to reform schools, implying that it should be teachers [“Who Will Lead?,” August/September]. But it is difficult enough to be a leader when you are in a position to lead, never mind when you are at the bottom of the funding and support pyramid. Next time, ask the communities who shout “no more taxes” to step forward to reform schools. Ask the boards of education who forget that they are there to provide leadership and support to the people in the trenches. Or ask the administrators who only aspire to conform to budget restraints set by policymakers.
When you have asked them all to step forward, then you will see a difference. Teachers are just waiting for a green light that won’t turn red when they are halfway through the reform intersection.
Director of Technology for Educators Initiatives
Virginia Commonwealth University
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