News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 27, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Teachers deserve a lot more respect

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It has been awhile since I retired as a reporter specializing in education. It has been even more years since I had been in a school, and never before as merely an observer.

During my time as a reporter, I was welcomed into every elementary and junior high school in Vigo County and found it difficult to reconcile what the politicians were saying about teachers and education and what I saw for myself. I reported to the office and was allowed to talk to students, teachers and aides.

Politicians are still telling anyone who will listen that teachers don’t care about kids, they are in teaching for the money. Teachers I observed were spending their own money to provide tissues and school supplies for kids in need. Some were using their planning period to work one-on-one with a kid having trouble with arithmetic or reading.

I talked with parents who were inclined to agree with the politicians but quickly assured me that teachers in the schools their children attended “are not like that.” The classroom teachers they knew were caring and demonstrated it in dozens of ways on a daily basis.

I’m still listening to political diagnosis when it comes to education, but I do not believe things have grown that much different since I retired. I do not believe teachers hired by charter schools are superior to those in public schools. Teacher certification is, or should be, required by all.

I believe admission standards for charters can be selective, while public schools are required, by law, to take all who walk in the door.

I learned that teaching is physically and emotionally demanding. I don’t know about officeholders. I guess trying to please all constituents is stressful and demanding, at least during the few months they are in session. You’d think they could understand what teachers go through on a daily basis nine months a year.

I suppose there are teachers who can’t reach every child or inspire a life-long love of learning, but surely politicians understand there are disgruntled voters who would have their hide on the barn wall if they could arrange it legally.

I urge members of the legislature, especially those serving on the education committees, to go into the schools and observe before rushing to judgment. Then, if they still think it’s only about the money, they should save their campaign money and see if they can qualify for a teachers license and get those big bucks.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com.