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Letters to the Editor...
How About a Positive Press?

Today, on T-net the following post appeared:
I work for one of the five big TV networks,
and am beginning to look into an issue that
may concern you.

"As you know, an increasing political trend
is to tie teacher salary and school funding
to student performance on standardized
tests. If the class does well, the teacher
gets a bonus. This policy has already taken
effect in many school districts and is part
of both Al Gore’s and George W. Bush’s
respective presidential platforms."

I wonder if this strategy may backfire by
giving teachers and school officials (even
those who may otherwise be honest) a
financial motive to fudge test scores or
otherwise assist students in unethical

His post goes on, but you get the gist.
Whether this person is a "real" reporter or
not, I do not know (nor care). What I do
care about is the public bashing teachers
take every day in the press. I responded to
him with the following message. Maybe
others feel the same way...

It is interesting that you pose this
question on an aspect of our profession,
which I'm sure happens but is not
widespread, on this very day. Just last
evening I attended a party whose guests were
new teachers and their veteran mentor
teachers. To my shock, several of our most
outstanding educators, both novice and
experienced, said they were thinking of
leaving the profession. Now, my job all year
has been to make sure these novice teachers
were well supported and assisted by these
mentors; that they would NOT leave the
profession. I thought they were contented
with their role in the classroom. I had
also been responsible for selecting these
mentors. They are the best and the brightest
we have. They are teacher leaders.
They have given 15, 20, 25 years to
teaching. I thought they were contented with
THEIR role in the classroom. I thought
they would NEVER leave. My response to their
announcements was not a calm one, "LEAVING!
What do you mean you are leaving? You CAN'T

They are leaving and let me tell you why.
From a new teacher: "You know, I just
didn't realize the press would be bashing us
all the time. All I ever read in the paper
or hear on the news is how bad things are,
how low-achieving our students are, how
unqualified our teachers are. Those
reporters have never visited MY school. They
don't know I work 14 hours a day, have not
had a week-end off since Christmas, that my
students scored very high on the test. I
love my job, but I can't spend my adult life
reading what an unworthy profession I am

From a veteran teacher (12 years
experience): "I am exhausted. I am
discouraged." My district and school are
positive places to be and I love teaching.
But, the press is continually printing
negatives about this profession. I feel
this community will not support us much
longer. We can't counter every negative
story with a positive one. We are too
busy teaching. Shouldn't the press balance
what they print? Shouldn't they print a
postive story for every negative?
Isn't balance what they are about? I don't
need pats on the back every day to do my job
well. But, neither do I need a public
bashing every day."

Here is your story! Go to any school in any
district. Go into any classroom. SEE what is
going on. SEE students learning to read, to
write, to speak another language, to
analyze Chaucer, to solve math problems I
never even remember SEEING in my school
experience. TALK to teachers about how
many hours they spend working, about never
going to the restroom because it is across
campus and they only have a 4-minute passing
period, about supervising students on the
playground during lunch. But, also TALK to
them about the classes they attend on
Saturday so they can continuously be
better at what they do, about the research
article they read two nights ago, about the
action research project they have going on
in their classrooms on a new strategy they
are trying, about the data they collect and
analyze so they can monitor and adjust
instruction (they want to make sure EVERY
student is learning, including the hearing
impaired child, the ADD child, and the child
who just entered today and can't speak a
word of English.)

There are wonderful stories out there if you
will just ask about them. I suppose cheating
is interesting, too. A few have done it. We
have some teachers of whom we are not proud.
I'll bet you have some colleagues you'd wish
would leave your profession, too. But, try
your hand at a REAL story about teachers.
One that reflects what goes on out there
every day, year after year. Or, rather one
that WOULD go on if only these teachers
would stay in the field. You could make a
great contribution to that if only you would
make the effort. Will it attract the
readers/viewers as much as the one about a
teacher who cheats? You know, it just

Jan Fisher,,

This month's letters:

  • Responding to a Positive Press, 6/27/00, by Mae in Texas.
  • Create your own newspaper that is positive!!!, 6/20/00, by A thought!.
  • A Reply to Mr. Sowell, 6/20/00, by L. Pratt.
  • Why are Teachers Negative about Clutural Exchanges?, 6/16/00, by Dr. Barbara Y. Wills.
  • The Untold Secret -- TAAS Problems, 6/05/00, by Donna Garner, Texas (Ex-Public School Teacher).
  • How About a Positive Press?, 6/03/00, by Jan Fisher.


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