Letters to the editor: The word from teachers

Posted on November 5, 2013 

Here’s a batch of letters that were too long to run or that got overrun by other issues.

Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the state of affairs with teachers and public education in general, from people accusing public education of not doing a “good enough job” to others talking about the teachers’ working conditions including not enough pay, too much paperwork and too many assessments. What has not been mentioned enough are the students. How is this affecting the students?

I am a fifth grade teacher. I agree, I don’t get paid enough for the work I put in. I don’t have enough resources available to me. I spend countless hours trying to work with programs that do not work but have been mandated that I use. It isn’t pretty. But regardless of this, I knew I would never get paid enough. I knew there was not a lot of money available in public education. I got into this job because I want to work with students. And guess what? The students are the ones who are suffering.

Recently, I gave an assessment that Wake County told me I had to give. The questions on this assessment were some of the hardest I have seen regarding weather and climate. I am certain that educated adults, including the higher-ups making these assessments and education laws, could not pass this test or be seen as proficient. I watched as students cried, got angry and got frustrated as they took this hour and a half long test. What will come out of these students taking the test? They are not “smart enough” if they don’t pass? Their teacher is incompetent and does not teach? Their teacher did not adequately prepare them for the test? Their teacher adequately taught to the test so they could pass the assessment?

It is ridiculous how much information we try to pump into these children. The human brain is only capable of comprehending so much. After it has reached its quota for the day, it shuts down. What we are teaching these children is if they test well, they will be set in life. If they don’t, well good luck. The only positive for me is that I can get out of education, and I will be fine. These children need an education. They need school. Teachers can only do so much.

Now it’s parents’ turn. Parents need to take a stand against the absurdity that is going on in public education. Take a stand against the assessments. Take a stand against the lack of resources. Take a stand on the issues with teachers. Their children’s education depends on it. I fear that it will only get worse if nothing is changed.

Melissa Elisen

Raleigh

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“Enough already!” That’s what school level administrators and parents need to say in support of our teachers. Matthew Brown’s Oct 13 Point of View “My wife, the former teacher” is a perfect description of what is happening in our schools. As an educator for 30 years, I am shocked at the load forced upon our teachers.

For the past 15 years I have worked steadily as an elementary school substitute. I have witnessed the rapid increase in frustration levels among entire faculties. Almost every teacher I encounter is overburdened with bureaucratic requirements. These requirements increase with each passing year.

Teaching has become very difficult because of the paperwork and data entry involved with the current teaching standards. The hours needed for preparation, pretesting, instruction, post testing, grading and documentation do not fit into a 40-hour work week. Add to that, the constant changes in teaching materials, data collecting tools and increased assessments. These require more training, workshops, webinars and documentation. Then, within a year or two, we have new data analysis that leads to rewritten procedures, redesigned assessments and even more intricate data collecting. On and on it goes.

The changes put upon Wake County teachers this year are the worst I have seen. I feel we are in great danger of losing many excellent teachers. Teaching the elementary school standards is not rocket science. I cannot speak for middle and high school, but it does not take a slew of micromanagers to tell educated teachers how to teach and evaluate the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. It takes individuals who possess the gift to connect with children.

Most teachers can reach their students and enlighten them. These teachers come into our schools to teach, not to spend a large percentage of time proving they do teach by testing and documenting. As I watch and listen to teachers my heart breaks. They can no longer use their creativity to reach each student. They are pressured by too many non-instructional requirements.

We need to recognize the value of the education they earned through our university system and let them teach. We need to reduce class size, provide assistants and reduce the percentage of time that goes into testing and documentation. We need to reduce the abundance of non-instructional personnel at the state and county levels who are the creators of all this unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork required of our teachers. Some like to say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.” In this case, I say, “Those who can, teach; those who can’t, become bureaucrats.”

Jennifer McBride

Raleigh

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Thanks to gerrymandering and regional attitudes, most seats in Congress are “safe” from challenges by the opposition, and the only way an incumbent can be dislodged is during a primary.

What if moderate, willing-to-compromise candidates were to compete in upcoming primaries? Would incumbents become less extreme? Polls tell us there are enough moderate Americans to make a difference, but there is no unifying voice for this “silent majority.” Most PACs today are supported by the extremes.

We must find ways to finance moderate candidates who can win primaries or move incumbents toward the center. Those of us disgusted with political extremism need to get involved in the party of our choice, be it Republican or Democrat, and use the primaries to nominate credible moderates. The current political system is severely flawed, but we can work within it to nominate and elect those who are willing to cross the aisle to solve the enormous problems that face our states and country. Eventually, they may even fix the system.

Hugh Mensch

Southern Pines

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As a U.S. citizen, I am amazed to learn that the speaker of the House, John Boehner, is the most powerful individual in the government. It seems that a piece of legislation, one that everyone agrees would be passed, can be held up simply because the speaker refuses to present it for a vote. The president has veto power, but Congress can override his veto. The speaker, on the other hand, apparently can singlehandedly prevent the enactment of a law, and no one can do anything about it. Who would have guessed?

Paul Morrissette

Durham

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Why would a president, who is narcissistic, thin-skinned and ideologically driven, risk the debacle of the Oct. 1 roll-out of Obamacare? This is his legacy, the Democrat holy grail, the power grab of all power grabs. There is only one explanation. The scorched earth following a death spiral of the insurance industry is in fact the only path to a government-run health system. Collapse the existing private system, and the void is created for a government “rescue.” The president was reduced to a Veg-O-Matic salesman in the Rose Garden. Has anyone from Home Shopping Network or QVC offered him a job? Mr. Microphone would be perfect.

Jane Wagstaff

Durham

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