In Defense Of Teachers

Readers write

March 15, 1992

From: Patricia May

Bel Air

I am writing in response to Christopher Boardman's letter in which he states, "I was shocked and saddened to read that Christine Hagget, president of the Harford County Education Association, had to resort to physical violence to make her point" (The Harford County Sun, March 1).

I, too, am shocked and saddened -- that Mr. Boardman did not retain enough of his eduction to remember that one needs to be sure of his facts before shooting off his mouth.

Obviously, Mr. Boardman was not even present at the Harford County Board of Education meeting where this alleged physical violence took place.

If he had been, he would have known that in fact, Ms. Hagget calmly delivered a factual speech expressing the betrayal felt by teachers due to the board members bargaining in "good faith" and then changing their minds at the 11th hour. She capped off her remarks in a symbolic gesture bytossing a small bag of coins onto the table to illustrate this senseof betrayal. The fact that the bag inadvertently knocked over a glass of water in no way suggested to anyone present that this was an intended act of harmful aggression. There is no conceivable way that anyperson in the room could have mistaken Ms. Hagget's "bad aim" for physical violence.

As educators, we try to teach our students not toignore the facts for the sake of the sensational. Mr. Boardman obviously did not learn this lesson either.

What saddens me the most isthat this is just one more attempt to blacken the eye of the educator. As a teacher of nearly 20 years, I can honestly say that my love and enthusiasm for teaching remains untarnished for only one reason --the students.

In his letter, Mr. Boardman expresses "total disgust" with teachers' attitudes and states, "Teachers are treated well." He should have supported this premise with examples.

Mr. Boardman,in fact, teachers are not treated as well as you may think. For example, most people operate under the false notion that teachers are paid for their two-month "summer off." In fact, teacher are paid for the190 days they work. Many of us teach summer school or take on other part-time jobs to supplement our incomes and support our families.

In addition, I wonder if Mr. Boardman has a job where he must returnto work in the evenings to perform up to nine unpaid chaperoning duties. Can he leave his job place to go to lunch or make a quick run tothe bank? I can't. Is he required to spend a portion of his day sitting in a bathroom observing the activities of others? Having my weekends and evenings absorbed by grading essays, making lesson plans, andconstructing tests is something I bargained for when I entered this once-respected profession.

Having students call me in the middle of the night because they just got thrown out of their homes and have no where else to turn is also part of the deal. Being treated as a subhuman is not.

Mr. Boardman, you should also know that educators are aware that "times are tough." The fact that we are one of few counties who did not receive either a pay raise or a step increment, or that we rank 22nd in per-pupil spending in the state's 24 jurisdictions, is certainly bothersome. But the combination of refusing salary increases and then tacking on an additional four days to our work calendar is simply rubbing our noses in the mud.

We were also told thatif we even requested a raise, we risked the possibility of being further penalized by a reduction in the APEX fund.

I know "tough times," Mr. Boardman. I also know that the Harford County education budget was never fully funded even in the "good times." This aside, believe it or not, the pay raise is not the major issue for me, nor is it the primary concern for most of my colleagues. Salary increase is justone of the issues in this year's "begging session," otherwise known as negotiations.

Of paramount importance is the opportunity to be given the means to teach effectively and to prepare our students to face tomorrow. As teachers, we are tired of being the scapegoat for society's ills. When our children turn out badly, it is assumed that the teachers have failed.

Mr. Boardman proudly states that Harford County schools do not tolerate physical fights. Has he taken a look atschool policy recently? For example, Mr. Boardman, do you know that if a student is suspended for fighting or given 25 days suspension for drug use, that teachers must prepare material and allow him to makeup all work he missed for his misbehavior? What lesson is being taught here?

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