Teacher To Burns: Try My Job YourselfOn May 23, Michael...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 27, 1993

Teacher To Burns: Try My Job Yourself

On May 23, Michael Burns felt qualified to determine the sufficiency of teachers' preparation time and discuss the

decision to cut eight half-days from their planning time.

I would like to propose that possibly newspaper columnists need more "planning time." This time could be used to research any column they plan to write so that they do not express an opinion in ignorance. I normally would not feel qualified to judge the amount of work involved in the profession of another individual unless I have some experience with that profession.

However, Mr. Burns felt that having attended elementary school was basis enough for his judgment of teachers' work load. Following this logic, I guess the fact that I read the newspaper makes me a qualified judge of the workload of a writer. If I were to judge all journalists based on Mr. Burns' column about teachers' time off, I can say that they obviously need more time to research what they write.

He insists on including many issues in his discussion about teachers' planning time, but when one examines his point of view on these issues, it is obvious that he is very out of touch with reality.

Take, for example, his insinuation that teachers abuse sick leave; "As any parent can tell you, there's no dearth of substitute teachers in the classroom." Does Mr. Burns (or the parents he refers to) have any idea what the statistics are for teacher absences? Did anyone consider that many times substitutes are in the class because the regular teacher is involved in professional development or because the teacher is forced to attend meetings?

In addition, Mr. Burns felt qualified in his eminent knowledge to judge teachers' pay to be adequate. Once again, the facts of the issue do not seem to be important. For example, he remarks that the teachers have not received a cost-of-living raise, but fails to .. mention the fact that for the past three years, Harford County teachers also have been robbed of the step increase in pay their contract promises. The future teachers who are student-teaching in my school express the fact that the word has gotten around: Harford County cannot be trusted to honor its contracts or treat its teachers with respect.

The removal of eight days of planning time is only a small example of the lack of support this county's teachers receive. Harford schools now have some tremendous teachers, but the future for the education of our youngsters is in jeopardy if the best and brightest graduates in the field of education are not willing to subject themselves to the Harford County way of doing business. The bargain you all have enjoyed in the education of your young will cease to exist.

If you do not believe you have been receiving a bargain, consider this statistic: Only three counties in Maryland invest less money than Harford per student in their school systems. If Mr. Burns had the time to research the issues he discusses in this column, I doubt that he would find very many individuals with 30 graduate credits beyond their master's degrees and 15 years' experience whose maximum income is less that $45,000 a year for the rest of their careers. Teachers are not only forced to beg for their own pay, but must also deal with a serious lack of supplies and materials needed to teach today's youth.

Does Mr. Burns have any idea of the reality teachers face every day? Today's generation has been raised on the constant stimulation that our high-technology society provides. Even the best lessons a teacher prepares will be considered boring to a child who would prefer to be watching MTV. Mr. Burns suggests that teachers be reimbursed for the out-of-pocket money teachers "inevitably spend for small books and rewards they buy to motivate their young charges." If he had the time to read the article printed in the same issue as his column, he would know that teachers today are supplying everything from file folders and cabinets to computers, TVs and VCRs. This is the '90s, Mr. Burns; motivating students with small books just doesn't get it. . . .

Do you really have any idea how much time teachers spend (at home) preparing for their lessons and checking papers? Do you really know what teachers are faced with today? Was this column a case of "I know my opinion, don't confuse me with the facts," or maybe, as I proposed earlier, Mr. Burns just needed a little more planning time to represent the issues fairly. If he would like to write another (more enlightened) column about teachers' preparation time, he should spend a week or two in the "shoes" of a teacher.

I would offer him the chance to take my classes for a week. I teach Spanish, and I doubt if he is qualified to fill my shoes; not just because of the bilingual requirements, but because he has no clue what a teacher must do in today's schools to be an effective educator.

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