What about teachers?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2003

My child's teacher was setting up the schedule for summer classes and called to make a few changes. She needed to shift the school days around in July because she is taking a biology class.

Not meaning to be nosy, I asked why a teacher who specializes in working with autistic children was taking a class in biology. She told me if she didn't have the course she would not be considered a highly qualified teacher under the new "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

And if she isn't highly qualified, because of the aforementioned biology class, a letter might go home informing parents that she isn't "highly qualified."

"That is the stupidest thing I ever heard," I said. "Why don't they just spend the money that course will cost in the classroom?"

The teacher smiled and shook her head. I think she, like most educators, is used to crazy requirements mandated in the name of improving education.

After having that conversation, I got the following e-mail. I think it speaks to the challenges faced by teachers so I'll share it.

After being interviewed by the school administration, the eager teaching prospect said: "Let me see if I've got this right. You want me to go into that room with those kids and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning. And I'm supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, modify their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse and censor their T-shirt messages and dress habits.

You want me to wage a war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for weapons and raise their self esteem. You want me to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship, fair play, how to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook and how to apply for a job. I am to check their heads for lice, maintain a safe environment, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for employment and scholarships, encourage respect for cultural diversity, and oh, make sure that I give the girls in my class 50 percent of my attention.

My contract requires me to work on my own time after school, evenings and weekends grading papers and spend my summer vacation at my own expense working toward advance certification and a master's degree. And, on my own time attend committee and faculty meetings, PTA meetings, and participate in staff development training. I am to be a paragon of virtue so my very presence awes my students into being obedient and respectful of authority.

You want me to incorporate technology into the learning experience, monitor web sites, and relate personally with students. That includes deciding who might be potentially dangerous and/or liable to commit a crime in school. I am to make sure all students pass the mandatory state exams, even those who don't come to school regularly or complete any of their assignments.

Plus, I am to make sure the students with handicaps get an equal education regardless of the extent of their mental or physical handicap. And, I am to communicate regularly with the parents by letter, telephone, newsletter and report card.

All of this I am to do with a piece of chalk, a computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a big smile AND on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps. You want me to do all of this and you expect me……..NOT TO PRAY?"

I laughed after reading this, but it is probably not funny to teachers. If we want no child left behind, maybe we should focus our efforts on being getting everyone, parents, grandparents etc. more "highly involved" in our schools.

It seems to me that would be better than labeling good teachers as not highly qualified simply because they don't meet mandated requirements that have little to do with the challenges they face each day in their classrooms.