Great teachers already on hand

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On May 9, the Sun Journal offered a guest column by Stephen Bowen, the Maine commissioner of education, titled “We must encourage effective teaching skills.” I would suggest the title, “We must effectively encourage teachers.”

His guest column coincided with Teacher Appreciation Week, but if a thank-you sentiment appeared anywhere in his ruminations, I missed it. His “advance” in thinking, a result of attending the National Summit on Educator Effectiveness, was not so much offensive as startlingly familiar to most teachers who have lately attended workshops, board meetings, conferences or seminars featuring buzz words or talking points regarding certification, recertification, evaluation systems, professional development, etc.

What is onerous is the assumption that our “best” teachers and “highly effective” teachers are some future commodity, dependent upon a vague “comprehensive training pipeline.”

I believe current Maine students have “access to some of the best teachers in the world.” They are standing fast and holding an educational line for our children as surely as Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine held the Union line at Gettysburg’s Little Round Top. Teachers are emotionally, financially and, quite literally, physically in the line of fire.

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Bowen references administrators twice as he accepts anecdotal evidence and postulations as evidential. He “hears” … that teachers “don’t show up for work ready to do that.” Would the good taxpayers and parents, or students of school districts and unions around the state care to weigh in on that? Please. We need new SATs. Save A Teacher Stat.

His anonymous administrators “tell” him their districts spend “countless resources” (we have those?) for their teachers to study subjects not essential to district priorities. My husband holds two degrees in physical education because he desired to encourage all children to embrace lifelong fitness. He not only cares that his continuing education be relevant — he and other teachers need district approval of their course choices.

Teachers coach or advise after school clubs; they write grants, attend board meetings and spend hours on school-related committees. They, too, have families, hobbies, often second jobs and, very frequently, local civic and religious duties. They are usually highly motivated, organized citizens who are not looking for ways to waste the tax dollars of their friends and neighbors. The teachers I know will dig into their own resources before they see a classroom or student go without.

A look, a glance, a word or a phone call from an alert, compassionate teacher can change or save a life. In the time it took Mr. Bowen to compose, edit and type his column, a good teacher taught and taught well, and a child was helped along what is often a difficult and lonely way in this lovely May of 2011.

Constance Merrill LaFlamme, Gardiner

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