After reading the "uncut" articles by my fellow residents, Will Fessenden and Scott Lansley, I feel I need to address some of the issues they raise, plus a few others.
One family sends their children to a private school and another sends their children to a public school. Why did each family decide differently?
Possible reasons might be better education perceived at a private school; fewer drug and alcohol problems; or a feeling that they could afford to send their children to a private school. Perhaps they felt their children would have a better chance of getting into a better college, or a private school would keep their children away from problem children. Or a feeling that they are paying extra money, so they expect outstanding results.
Like any profession, there are going to be three tiers of employees: outstanding, good and poor.
Do students deserve the outstanding? For sure, but who decides whether a teacher fits one of those categories? If recent graduates or the kids themselves were asked to be honest about their "best" teachers, it would be far more reliable than the system(s) used now.
Higher degrees of education don't necessarily make better teachers. One of my children had a "teacher" who had a doctorate in his subject, but was one of the worst "teachers" because he couldn't teach.
I taught for 37 years with a master's degree. Did that degree make me a better teacher? No.
Would merit pay make me a better teacher? No. How would merit pay be determined? Would merit pay attract better teachers? Would it create jealousy among the ranks? Would it apply to administrators, too?
How many parents spend quality time with their children during the preschool years, reading to them, coloring with them, teaching them the colors and numbers, taking them to explore different environments (orchards, oceans, playgrounds, movies, etc.), providing them with educational toys, playing with them, hugging them often and letting them know that they are important and loved?
In my opinion, those are the children who have a greater chance of success.
What kind of role models are we as parents? Far too many troubled families send their children to school so the teachers can "fix" them. What are the chances? If they are fortunate to find a teacher they can become close to, then things might change for them. Teachers must love kids, and vice versa.
The federally funded Maine School for Excellence, at a cost of $16 million, may be a good idea until 2015, when localities will need to find a way to fund it. Education amounts to 50-to-70 percent of property taxes for those who pay. Some won't pay, or can't pay, their taxes, especially with the poor economy.
Wasn't the Maine State Lottery supposed to have partially alleviated that problem, but somehow the money ended up in the general fund?
Until education is taken off the property tax, I see no solution.
The bottom line with unions in general is a lack of trust between employers and employees. One is afraid of being taken advantage of by the other. Aren't educators — teachers and administrators — in this business for the betterment of the children?
Doesn't seem to be that way.
Is burnout in education real? It sure is. Some say that young (new) teachers are more enthusiastic and relate better to kids. Others say that because they are young, they get taken advantage of by the kids because many young teachers can't draw the line between being liked (personality-wise) and being the children's mentor. Both would be nice.
Some say that older teachers can't relate to the younger generation, or can't adapt to new ways.
The bottom line is that no one can tell who is an outstanding teacher until they are in the trenches. Did I improve with experience and become a better teacher? Absolutely. Mentoring young teachers is a great idea, but who should do it?
On one hand, we preach individual differences in personality and learning styles, and then bureaucrats come up with a totally ineffective No Child Left Behind. What a joke. Kids are expected to master a foreign language when half cannot be proficient in English.
Maybe all children aren't destined for a four-year college. Are more technical schools a necessity? I talk with young people who want to be registered nurses, but the waiting list and costs put their goals on hold.
Many teachers complain that testing, rather than teaching, limits their effectiveness. With all students having their individual differences, can anyone devise tests that are fair to all?
Recently, I went to a football game that had an admission charge of $3. I gave the gate person $10 and said I was paying for two. He gave me $2 back and then another dollar. I finally said that one more dollar would complete the transaction. How sad is that? Are we getting too far away from the three R's? Are computers limiting the ability of the children to think and reason?
I would beseech Fessenden and Lansley to get on the list of substitute teachers for both the public and private schools. See how difficult it is for a teacher with many hats, firsthand. Do it for a couple of months and then write about their experiences. Would their perceptions change?
Take a walk in my shoes.
George Ferguson is a parent and a former educator and coach. He lives in Sabattus.