Newsweek's Nov. 28 edition contained a wonderful editorial written by the well-respected Anna Quindlen, titled The Wages of Teaching. In it she described the day she spent at an elementary school in New Jersey. She taught three classes and was thoroughly exhausted by the conclusion of her experience. She came away that day with a touching respect for the important tasks teachers perform every day. She also noted, sadly, that too many people do not share her appreciation for the sacrifices teachers make or the devotion they give to their students because these critics misguidedly believe that education is a business. Quindlen writes, "Unfortunately, the current fashionable fixes for education take a page directly from the business playbook and it's a terrible fit ... it is a concept that works fine if you're making widgets, but kids aren't widgets and good teaching isn't an assembly line."
Port Washington is a community that has prided itself on having a public education system that has produced National Merit scholars, Intel Scholarship recipients, Middle State accreditation because of its innovative practices, national debate champions, award-winning school newspapers, scholar athletes, graduates who go on to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Brown ... and the list goes on. It's public education has made Port Washington a highly desirable place to live on the North Shore. None of that would have been possible if it were not for the teacher who comes in at 7 a.m. and many times goes home at 6 p.m., or the teacher who eats lunch at his/her desk every day in order to tutor students, write college recommendations, or calls parents in between classes. What about the teacher who comes in on Saturdays to complete his/her students' Intel applications and provide course and writing guidance to students.
The public does not see this and more because of destructive elements in the community. It has become much easier to scorn and vilify. In this negative view, teachers are not worthy of a fair contract and common respect for the profession is no longer afforded. Let me close with a final quote from Ms. Quindlen: "In recent years teachers' salaries have grown, if they've grown at all, at a far slower rate than those of other professionals, often lagging behind inflation. Yet teachers should have the most powerful group of advocates in the nation; not their union, but we the people, their former students."
Renee M. McClean
Schreiber High School