Thank you for the article about Teen Ink ["All the Views Fit to Print," May/June]. That magazine is an invaluable classroom resource. For several years now, I have used it, often with amazing results.
Admittedly, many of my students at first submit book reviews and interviews to Teen Ink in fulfillment of an assignment, but they later submit pieces on their own. More than once, I have been surprised by the publication of my students' independent submissions, the most recent of which was an Educator of the Year essay that literally moved me to tears.
Sometimes, frankly, students' works that I wouldn't have selected are chosen for publication, which is a valuable learning experience for me, as well as a powerful affirmation for the student. The validation students receive in having their works published is immeasurable, and the power of writing for publication and for an audience other than their teacher is tremendous.
I also wish to send a public thank-you to Stephanie and John Meyer for inspiring young people to treasure the art of self-expression.
Jennifer Stark Fry
Wichita East High School
Affront and Censor
I am a teacher of many years and was highly offended by the cover of your April issue [ "Mouthing Off"], which said something to the effect that even though the school failed the student, debating saved her. Don't put an insult on the cover! It would have been just as effective to have said "debate saved this student."
I defaced the copy on display in my school by crossing out the offending phrase with a black marker. Teachers have a tough enough time without a magazine that is supposedly devoted to us belittling our efforts on the cover.
Michael Flynn ["Plot Twist," April] is a man after my own heart. When educators are so focused on curriculum, we forget the value of a student-centered environment and the amazing power of creativity. I applaud Flynn for raising eyebrows and stirring up the passion and curiosity of his students. I, too, have taken English classes—-4th grade!—to a cemetery and managed to borrow a casket for our unit on Egyptology. I know how much more I enjoyed teaching when I knew my students would be taken aback. Eat your hearts out, sensibly shod educators. Flynn is the kind of teacher for whom I would go back to school.
Oakridge Upper Elementary
Playing With Fire
I just finished reading Gerard Jones' "Weapons of Instruction" [April]. Great article! As a teacher, I follow district policies that are dead set against weapons. As a mom of two boys, I always have allowed toy weapons in the house for the same reason the author presented: Children need to work through their feelings. If children are exposed to these things, they will play with them and then move on to something else. If they are denied access, they will give in to their natural curiosity upon finding a real weapon. When children are given a chance to play out their fantasies, parents can use this as an opportunity to discuss what is real and what is make-believe. I have no intention of allowing pretend weapons into my preschool class, but they are welcome in my home.
Wow! Howard Good's article ["Bittersweet Memories," April] was riveting. As a pre-1st grade teacher and molder of the very young's first impression of school, I always have had the philosophy that for children to feel good about learning, they have to feel good about themselves. In accepting children as God made them, I find humor and electricity. My day always has been blessed with tender smiles and lots of hugs. An observing parent recently commented, "You have got to be the most popular teacher in this school!" "No," I said, "I just create relationships that stick." Truly, my compensation is not my paycheck. It is the assurance that to my students, I will be a warm and lasting reminder of school.
"Wow" is where I began this letter and how I end each teaching day. Your article was fuel for my tank. Thank you, Mr. Good!
Howard Good's experiences helped him recognize the students who may need a little extra time, a little extra listening. Maybe those experiences helped form who he is as an education advocate. Sometimes the worst things that happen can bring out the best in us. Good shouldn't let negative early experiences grow to become weeds that spoil the garden of his being.
Wiggs Middle School
El Paso, Texas
Kansas biology teacher Christine Pelton should receive a distinguished educator award for not playing ball with her whimpering school board when she attempted to fail 28 sophomores for plagiarism ["Overheard," April]. This incident points directly to one part of our failing education system: We are accepting everything from foul language and lewd behavior to cheating from our students. If the result of the past 20 years of decay in our education system brings us the likes of the Jerry Springer show, then God help us all by the year 2020!
Alexander High School
I share the opinion of Christine Pelton. I teach algebra and trigonometry at a high school in Atlanta. At the end of every semester, the principal and counselors ask me to pass several seniors. I think the seniors already know they will pass eventually, whether they work or not. I offer tutorials and after-school sessions, but few come. Most of them have no business being in these classes; I wonder how they ever passed before, especially when some lack basic mathematics skills.
Get the Picture?
I was really upset by "Picture Imperfect" [March] and the negative comments under each photo. One hundred years ago, schools did the best they could for their time. They produced the people who made America a great country. It is unfair for one person to judge these old photos and insert his own negative comments.
Isle of Wight, England
What a stunning group of photographs. The sensitive interpretations by Eric Margolis were reminders of how schools used to perform "a necessary socialization function." I refer to the comment Margolis made about a turn-of- the-20th-century photo of youngsters standing obediently, as they would for hours at a time in the jobs they'd perform in factories not long afterward.
One always expects an element of "staging" in photographs, but Margolis helps us view these pictures in light of the time. Who can't remember sitting or standing in similar classrooms as a child years ago, cringing at the discipline but learning, always learning, about other kids, classes of people, and new ideas. These pictures can still be reproduced today in many schools and schoolyards. The faces and postures are those of children making something of themselves while getting an inkling of the lifelong pleasures of learning.
Olympia Fields, Illinois
I disagree with your March "Perspective" column ["Sacred Cow"]. There is a valid place in the education debate for objections to homework, but I feel we need to gain some perspective on homework's purpose, as well as time management for children. I want kids to have downtime, too—to make clover chains, to run and play with the dog. I believe, if kids are not over-scheduled after school, there are enough hours in a day for both homework and relaxation.
Carefully chosen homework assignments are not busywork. They provide either practice on principles already learned or work that can be done independently by students, to be reinforced or corrected in class the next day. If the teacher throws in some fun assignments along the way, homework is not as much a chore as it is a mental exercise. And exercise of all kinds is good!
St. Martin's Episcopal School
Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the "Comment" section fall under two general headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run approximately 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages) in length. All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to Teacher Magazine, 6935 Arlington Road, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814. Letters may also be sent to [email protected].
Vol. 14, Issue 1, Pages 6, 62Published in Print: August 1, 2002, as Letters