Education Opinion


April 01, 2000 9 min read

Rich Irony

I read your article about teachers leaving the profession for high-tech jobs with great interest [“If I Were A Rich Man,” March]. I, too, am considering leaving teaching. Money, however, is not the primary source of my dissatisfaction. Although I love teaching, this year at our high school has been one terror after another. The problems range from a community that shows little support for education to a scarcity of resources for chemistry or integrated-science labs.

Still, the worst part of my job is the classroom climate. Most students won’t put in the effort that it takes to learn chemistry, and they belittle others who do. The few good students are depressed and angered by this, making my job all the harder.

Recently, my youngest daughter said that she wanted to become a teacher. I told her, without realizing exactly what I was saying, that I would not help her with college expenses if she chose to throw her life away.

Susan Melton-Piper
Cloverdale, California

I am a Title I science teacher in a community north of Boston and came to this position after 17 years as an information-technology director and a computer programmer. I don’t believe teachers have to give up the classroom to chase the high wages offered in technology jobs. For instance, I supplement my income with summer work as a computer consultant. This will never bring me to the pay levels of my previous career, but it gives me the freedom to teach.

Steve Buccieri
Arlington, Massachusetts

The Rating Game

In “How The States Rate” [March], you list Colorado as a state that does not require student teaching. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No one can get a teaching license in Colorado unless they complete a minimum of one semester of student teaching. In fact, I have had several student teachers in my building this year.

Vaughn Griswold
Milliken, Colorado

Editors note: Our Colorado data was verified by Gene Campbell, director of teacher licensure for the state. Currently, Colorado does not have a student teaching requirement, although many colleges of education may have such requirements. In July, a new law will go into effect requiring 800 hours of supervised field experiences.

Chalk Talk

“Ciao, Chalkboard” [March] speaks of the popularity of markerboards, but I am one who mourns the demise of the chalkboard. I am a handwriting specialist and find demonstration on a markerboard difficult. The tactile aspect is terrible. I have learned to manage, but students who try to control the marker’s tendency to slip are at a disadvantage. And how much damage can be done by chalk dust? Is it more of a problem than the chemicals in markers?

Nan Jay Barchowsky
Aberdeen, Maryland

Take Responsibility

I agree with Ronald Wolk’s premise in “Quiz Show” [February] that many students and adults cheat. But I don’t believe that cheating occurs because of a flawed public education system.

When did we eliminate parental and personal responsibility? I’m sick of hearing about people—including parents, students, celebrities, and leaders—who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Nancy Harris
Surgoinsville Middle School
Surgoinsville, Tennessee

Mother Librarian

My mother, Gladys Freeman, was the school librarian at Peirce Elementary School from 1969 to 1973 [““Libraries On Life Support,” February]. In those days, the library was a safe haven for kids, and they used to love to come for classes with Mrs. Freeman. It was the one place where they never got yelled at or hassled.

My mom was vigilant about weeding out what was found on her shelves, always showing me titles that she found inappropriate, outdated, or shocking before she tossed them. I remember that she once came across a book called In Ole Virginny, written in dialect about the “happy” slaves on the plantation. This was in the late ‘60s. Into the garbage it went, along with others equally dreadful. She also always brought home books she thought I should read. I remember discovering Harriet the Spy just that way.

My mom, now 82, has dementia and doesn’t recall much about anything from her past, so it was bittersweet to connect her to the Teacher Magazine article.

Judy Freeman
Children’s Literature Consultant
Highland Park, New Jersey

As an elementary school librarian in a rural school district, I am not at all surprised at the conditions of the libraries in Philadelphia. Americans spend more money on entertainment than education, more money on athletics than on libraries. The problem is the lack of leadership and direction from the top. In my school system, libraries get a lot of support from the superintendent and the city council. Libraries are worth fighting for.

Laura Brown
Selma, Alabama

Aide Impact

What a way to cast blame [“Lemon Aides?,” February]. There is no doubt that trained, certified teachers can make an impact in Title I classrooms. After 30 years in education, I have found that people have the greatest impact on students, regardless of whether they are teachers or aides. As aide Carmen Flores suggests in the story, the decision by Pueblo, Colorado, officials to replace aides with specialists means there will be less daily support for high-risk students. Support is one of those intangibles that “research” has a tough time proving.

Rick Powell
Washington Middle School
Miles City, Montana

Go For Gold

Reading “Gold Star Junkies” [February], I am somewhat disturbed by the comments of Edward Deci regarding the efforts of the Half Moon Bay, California, community to improve discipline and attendance. Deci seems to ignore the fact that communities set expectations, goals, and rules for residents. People do go overboard in pushing their children; but what’s wrong with wanting our kids to be successful? Balance in both intrinsic motivations and extrinsic consequences is needed.

Bill Punyko
Duluth, Minnesota

The only time we are not subject to extrinsic feedback is when we are alone; otherwise all interaction is feedback that educators can utilize. We all hope that the intrinsic value of education will sufficiently motivate students, but the value of extrinsic rewards should not be underestimated.

Jeff Frazier
Highland, California

Border Bravo

Thank you for “Border Rescue” [February]. The article about Runn Elementary, along with the photos, provided encouragement to me and probably other teachers who work with low-income students. As Ofelia Gaona, the school’s principal, said so well, poverty-level students cannot be treated differently when it comes to administering standardized test such as Texas’ exam. Gaona and her Runn Elementary staff have proved that achievement in education can be attained regardless of income or environment.

Ruben Evaro
Odessa, Texas


I found Wendy Kaminer’s article [“Martial Law,” February] on “school repression of civil rights” to be interesting. Kaminer identifies herself as a child of the ‘60s. Many good things were accomplished during this era, but it was also a time when young people sought to destroy the old without a coherent vision of the new. Our country can only stand so much “freedom.” Civilization requires some restrictions.

Guy Gilberts
Chadron, Nebraska

Bright Shining Lie

In “Schoolhouse Slur” [February], Kirsten Olson Lanier equates using the term “bright” with using a racial epithet. How absurd. I would expect much more of a doctoral student at Harvard. Based on her son’s experience reading a challenging book, she comes to the conclusion that effort creates ability. Effort does usually produce added satisfaction for the person making the added effort; it may increase knowledge; it can create the desire to do even more in the future; and hopefully it will be rewarded by those seeing that unusual effort is being made. But effort does not in itself create ability.

All children can learn, but they do so at different speeds and at different depths of understanding.

Peter Rosenstein
Executive Director
National Association for Gifted Children
Washington, D.C.

“Schoolhouse Slur” made some important observations, but as a teacher involved in education of the gifted for more than 15 years, I feel compelled to respond. Yes, labels can be hurtful; I find the words “bright” and “gifted” particularly offensive, and I rarely use them. But as many parents and teachers of the gifted know, the system often forces us to use labels in order to get appropriate educational experiences for students who do not fall in the average range. The label “gifted” is sometimes the only way that Mary’s parents have the power to say, “My daughter deserves appropriate instruction now.” The label should free the classroom teacher to demand that the school district provide for this special education, too. Obviously, our charge as educators is to provide appropriate education for all children in a way that appreciates all kinds of talent and celebrates all children. There will always be labels; adults—especially teachers—should be mature enough to handle them invisibly and sensitively.

Marcia Roberts Gregorio
Gettysburg Area School District
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

How right Lanier is to point out the diabolical nature of schools. So let us remove athletic programs because, when coaches choose teams, we know they merely want to remind those who don’t make the cut of their limits. Let’s cut out chairs in band. Debate teams? Do away with them. No art exhibits—unless every student’s work is showcased. And school plays? Of course not! Just think about what casting is really saying to all those who don’t get the lead.

Rachel Sytsma
Storrs, Connecticut

My son is a full-time college student, and he is 9 years old, a minority, and from a poor, single- parent family.

There is no way the archaic concept of the one-room schoolteacher could begin to educate gifted children. These students need intellectually challenging textbooks and teachers who majored in the field they are teaching. Remember: Our education and psychology textbooks don’t even mention children with IQs of 150 or higher.

Leila Levi
Venice, California

Go, Girls

I graduated 10 years ago from the Philadelphia High School for Girls [“All Girls, All The Time,” January] and believe that I was blessed to have such a fantastic education, both academically as well as socially. The learning was endless, with chances for personal growth, leadership experience, and rigorous academic coursework. Instead of fighting alleged discrimination by single-sex schools, government officials ought to look at how to provide this type of option to both young men and women. Although I no longer live in Philadelphia, I am considering relocating to the city to ensure that my daughter receives the same opportunity that I had more than a decade ago.

Kimberly Atiascheck
Coral Springs, Florida


In “Gold Star Junkies” [February], Curt Dudley-Marling was misidentified. He is an education professor at Boston College.

Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the “Comment” section fall under two headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages). All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail correspondence to Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. Letters also may be sent to tmletter@epe.org.

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2000 edition of Teacher as Letters