Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's All About the Teachers

There is nothing better in the world than a wondrous teacher, one who inspires, instigates, challenges; one who makes a 7:30 AP US History class worth getting up for or an honors music class another highlight of the day. Our daughter has a few good teachers this year, each different in approach but focused on making the classroom a place worth coming to, through their passion for teaching.

In high school I was blessed with some memorable teachers, including one mighty fine, young English teacher who helped me hone my writing, kept class interesting and taught us so much. There were teachers I wasn't impressed with, or just didn't like, too. But I always respected them, for the work they did and the knowledge they were -- for the most part -- imparting.

I remember even back then hearing people say that teachers had it easy -- shorter days and summers off! We all know that is nonsense. Good teachers work long hours, whether in the classroom, working with students after class, grading papers, improving their study plans. Yet in the U.S., we really don't respect teachers, do we? We tend to respect those who make lots of money. And then in New Jersey towns like ours, we really twist things, because we link our astoundingly/embarrassingly high property taxes with teachers' salaries. It just shouldn't be.

There's a new study out that looks at test results of 15-year-old students in more than 50 countries. U.S. students were outperformed -- 15th in reading, 19th in science and 27th in math. This is not good.

The report urged the U.S. to employ common academic standards, use better test to diagnose learning problems immediately and train better school leaders. The No. 1 recommendation: raise the status of the teaching profession.

Maybe by the time our children have children we'll see better outcomes -- for students, teachers, and ultimately, our country. We are falling behind fast.

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