I would like to defend teachers. Up front, you should know, I am a teacher, but instead of this biasing me, I feel I have an insight into teachers many of you do not have.

First, teachers are not absent 15 days out of a 184-day school year. Teachers may be allowed 15 days, but, if you check teachers' attendance records, you will find very few take them all. If we are being honest here, are there some malingerers? Sure. Do they exist in every walk of life? Sure. But the majority of us have a strong work ethic, love our jobs, and love your children. Not only are your children not receiving a 90 percent education - they are getting 150 percent!

If teachers did not love teaching and love children, it would be impossible to do our jobs. If the critics of the teaching profession spent one week, no, make that one day, in the classroom, trust me, their attitudes toward teachers would change dramatically. You know what it is like at home with your own children. Well, multiply that by 20 different personalities and learning styles and you will learn the meaning of patience is a virtue. If I am not feeling well, I can't sit down and have a cup of tea because I am with your children. If I am waiting for an important phone call, I have to wait until a prep or lunchtime because I am with your children. I can't be a minute late coming back from lunch because your children are waiting for me. That being said, I go to work every day looking forward to teaching and learning from my students and I think I can speak for most of my colleagues.

Teachers also live on Long Island with high mortgages, spouses on unemployment, and children in college. Many of them are your neighbors in Port Washington. We are not all making six figures. Again, as in any walk of life, you are paid for time and experience. Teachers are also required to have masters degrees and continue their educations throughout their careers. This is paid for out of each teacher's own pocket.

We are not looking for anything special. We are giving your children an excellent education which is not only proved by the awards they receive and the colleges they attend but, in partnership with you, they are happy, well rounded citizens. We take excellent care of your children.

I will close with a quote from Senator Charles Schumer at a recent conference. He thanked teachers for all they did for him educationally ..., and what they do for the state's children. "Our goal in this country should be to make teachers - as doctors and lawyers were in the 20th century - the exalted profession of the 21st century."

Marie Jo Spinella

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