Education Letter to the Editor


April 01, 1995 7 min read

By the way, although the movie Up the Down Staircase was as disappointing as you say, the Bel Kaufman book it was based on is hilarious reading.

Also, on a different matter, after months of study and experimentation, I have devised an ingenious solution for the subscriber who complained in your January issue [“Letters’’] that Teacher Magazine is “so LARGE’’ that it would not “slip easily into [her] briefcase.’'

All this reader needs to do is follow these directions: 1) Place the magazine (closed, with front cover facing up) on a hard surface. 2) Grasp the two bottom corners with both hands and lift those corners upward and then push them downward, until they touch the two top corners. 3) Release one corner and then use that free hand to press your fist down upon the edge of the back cover nearest your body; slide that hand (while applying constant pressure) to the left and right several times each. 4) The magazine, now in a condition known as “folded in half,’' should be only 7 1/2 by 11 inches and, though thicker, will slip easily into any standard-size briefcase!

This exercise is an excellent practice “test’’ for all of your teacher-readers who commonly give directions to students all day long and often complain (justifiably) about students’ failures to follow directions!

Richard Siegelman
3rd Grade Teacher
Theodore Roosevelt School
Oyster Bay, N.Y.

Too Hard To Copy

As a library media specialist and former public relations executive, I am writing you today to request a huge change in your publication that will increase readership and probably save you money: Change your format.

This recommendation is prompted by continual frustration with attempting to copy and share information published in your magazine. The January article featuring Roger Schank is a case in point. In content, it is a great article. The information in it should be shared as widely as possible with teachers.

You are certainly aware of the need to get specific pieces of information into as many teacher hands as possible. Yet you make this very difficult, without a ton of cutting and pasting. Please consider this change.

James Marshall
Library Media Specialist
Olson Memorial Highway
Golden, Minn.

Editor’s Note: A few years ago, in the midst of the economic recession, we faced the choice of either cutting costs or folding Teacher Magazine. We chose the former, and that involved reducing staff and changing from a smaller glossy format to the larger tabloid. One of the reasons magazines like Teacher have financial difficulties is that many people copy articles and disseminate them to teachers throughout their schools, thus discouraging teachers from buying their own subscriptions. So, although preventing people from copying the magazine wasn’t the reason for increasing the size, it doesn’t bother us that people have to do some cutting and pasting.

Keep An Open Mind

My wife, children, and grandchildren laugh whenever I say, “This is the best yet.’' Maybe I do say it often, but I always mean it. I’ve said the same thing several times about Teacher Magazine, but I have to say it again about the February issue.

From the beginning, Teacher Magazine has been the most thought-provoking of all the papers and magazines I read and, of course, those I had to read in the profession. You have had the widest range of stories, including research, political, and professional news, human interest, and even some “how-to.’' Sometimes, I start at the last page, just to find the “Comment’’ section, especially the “First Person’’ essays. Half those times, I have a lump in my throat before I get to the features.

I have always liked John Dewey and his way of looking at the world. Even in college in the 1950s, I defended him against both his critics and his interpreters. I wish I had had Wolk’s and Ruenzel’s help then [“Connections’’ and “Looking for John Dewey,’' February].

The one sad phrase in that issue was in a letter: “My subscription is new,’' reader Anita Charles wrote, “but I am tempted to end it shortly.’' No! Please don’t! We need you. We need your compassion and courage. Teacher Magazine is reputable because it prints different points of view. Why read only words that conform to your point of view?

We recently witnessed the shameful treatment of a government historian because she suggested that the Nazis had a point of view. OF COURSE they had a point of view! (I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to shout.) We don’t have to subscribe to or condone their points of view, but we ought to know about them. Another fine public servant lost her job for suggesting that we ought to talk about legalizing drugs and for saying that masturbation is a part of sexuality and that we ought to include it in our discussion.

Anyway, keep reading and writing, Anita Charles of Windham, Maine.

Robert Johnson
Lamoni, Iowa

Roger Schank

Director of Yale University’s Cognitive Science Project, chairman of Yale’s Computer Science Department, and then head of Northwestern University’s Institute for the Learning Sciences--all by age 48; just think what Roger Schank [“Hard-Boiled Egghead,’' January] could have become if he’d had decent educational opportunities, instead of the U.S. schools he so criticizes.

Will someone save us from rude people (telling groups of teachers their school system is terrible is rude) who think they know how to run schools better than those involved.

Cliff Sumner
Cedar Lake, Ind.

I am a future teacher who has treasured Teacher Magazine for some time now. I am not hesitant to admit that I was initially scared to read “Hard-Boiled Egghead,’' by David Ruenzel, because I am extremely apprehensive of computers and where they are taking this world. The “human element,’' a term I often use, is being removed from our society with each passing year. Jobs are being lost to computers because they are faster and can “crunch’’ better than humans. I’m afraid that computers will eventually become the “teacher.’'

But, then, teaching isn’t just about knowledge and information. Teaching is about understanding children. It’s about encouraging kids to cultivate interests. It’s about loving and caring for a student when he or she believes nobody does. That’s what I’m there for. A computer can never do that.

Still, I kept an open mind as I read the Schank article, and I did find some useful information. I especially liked what Schank said about failing. I was always afraid to fail. And when I did, nobody told me it was OK and to try harder next time. I simply shut myself off completely. This shouldn’t be the case. Failure should be used as a building block.

The article also made me realize that I will want to have computers in my classroom. How else will kids put together a class newsletter? Times are changing whether I like it or not. I can look at the computer as a tool or an enemy. A good teacher, which I hope to be, will use the computer as a tool--a valuable resource.

Cathy Warwick
Santa Ana, Calif.

Right On Target

Thank you for the article “The Tragedy of Teenage Motherhood,’' by Robert Dizney [November/December]. It was well-written and expressed feelings that many teachers share.

Denise Lowry
Cairo, Neb.

Robert Dizney’s article was right on target, except for one sentence: He doesn’t go far enough when he asks: “But what can teachers do?’' He writes that there should be “no more baby showers in home economics class.’' But I do a lot more than that to help stop, or reduce, teenage motherhood.

As a home economics teacher who has never had, nor ever will have, a baby shower in my classroom, I have instead created several activities to help make my class aware of the impact of teen pregnancy. My students write two journal entries: One is titled “My Favorite Day,’' the other, “My Day With the Baby.’' Afterward, the students share their entries aloud. They quickly realize the impact that a baby will have on their young lives. We also act out a play, A Day in the Life of a Teenage Mother. In addition, our local Teens-to-Teens program lets teenage mothers visit my classroom (without their babies) to share their experiences. The teen mothers dispel any glamour while relating the real hardships of the situation.

For the past several years, my students also have completed the “flour sack activity.’' They take responsibility for a sack of flour for several weeks and then record their experiences and feelings in a journal and project report. Next year, in an effort to provide an even more realistic learning experience, I plan to introduce “Baby Think It Over.’' This involves a doll that cries at random intervals and can only be quieted by its “parent’’ through the use of an undetachable wrist key.

So, Mr. Dizney, there is a lot a teacher can do to discourage teenage motherhood.

Elizabeth Murphy
Home Economics Teacher
Sackets Harbor, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 1995 edition of Teacher as Letters