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LETTER: Teachers should emulate the work ethic of craftsmen

To the Editor:

We spend millions on education, but our local schools continue to fail. Their students, our children, face a forlorn future, yet no one is alarmed. This has endured for too long.

Perhaps our situation is similar to the Russian farmer, who during an especially cold winter had to bring his cow inside his home. Although initially unpleasant, after a while, the family became used to it.

Taxpayers and especially the parents of school-age children should be outraged, but are not. Teachers, although embarrassed, should be determined to succeed, but are apparently neither embarrassed nor determined.

Teachers appear to have accepted their failure and have become willing to endure what might be slight criticism, while they continue to enjoy secure employment and the promise of a profitable early retirement.

There is a faint hope: Auburn schools want to institute Inevitable Mass Customized Learning, a new system of teaching, successfully used elsewhere. But there is a hindering problem. The two hours a week requested for teacher training cannot be found.

School administrators proposed delaying the start of school for two hours every Wednesday. Educators favored using these two hours of their student’s time, but a few parents—finally aroused—didn’t.

Perhaps it’s time to hold teachers accountable. If a loose brick is found after a brick wall is completed, a responsible bricklayer will return and reset it; a carpenter will return to correct mistakes; and a shoe worker will rework faulty shoes or they will not be paid for their work. Unfortunately, teachers, their individual qualities debased because they are united as a group into a union, aren’t imbued with these commendable attributes.

Instead, they individually produce illiterate and innumerate students, then carelessly and falsely promote them, all the while continuing to blithely cash their paychecks.

Years ago, students had to stay after school for misbehaving or for academic help. Perhaps it’s now time for teachers to stay after school for one or both of these reasons. However, teachers will not willingly lengthen their 36-hour maximum work week; they certainly won’t do it without extra pay.

And why shouldn’t they expect to be paid for the additional time? They’ve become accustomed to being paid more and more for less and less. And, when they are unable to obtain larger wage increases, they ask for and receive greater benefits.

The teacher’s contract, modified every two years, is a document whose form and purpose has come to be a means to expect less from teachers while providing them with increased benefits and increased wages. Accordingly, it benefits teachers at the expense of their students. Consider this contract section:

“The use of teachers as substitute teachers will be avoided whenever possible. At the secondary level, teachers will not be asked to give up their preparation period to substitute except in an extreme emergency.”

Thus, when the regular classroom teacher is out on sick leave, he or she will likely be replaced by a non-teacher; this deprives an entire classroom of students of a day’s learning. It should be noted that the contract annually provides teachers with 17 days of sick leave.

The contract generously allows teachers to leave work for an hour each day; they only have to sign out. Has anyone considered using these hours for training?

The teachers need training; their present abilities have proven to be insufficient, and their students can’t possibly benefit from their teacher taking an hour off. Or, if during the next contract negotiation, the teacher’s 17 days of sick leave could be reduced to seven, the hours saved could be used for training

Teachers should do the right thing: they should emulate the work ethic of responsible craftsmen and voluntarily extend the school day by two hours on Mondays through Thursdays, then use this extra time for training or helping students.

Teachers shouldn’t be expected to do this forever, just until 85% of their students become proficient in mathematics, reading and writing.

Dick Sabine


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