News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 9, 2010

Stephanie Salter: You’ve heard from me — now, listen to the teachers

TERRE HAUTE — As e-mail from Indiana teachers and principals continues to pour into my box, the portrait of this beleaguered group grows more poignant each day. After writing a mere two columns defending the state’s education system from a wall of attacks by the governor, his schools superintendent and other “reformers,” I feel as though I’ve stumbled onto a locked institution that is crammed with decent and sane women and men who have grown accustomed to being kicked, starved, beaten and told they deserve nothing better.

Because I know many Hoosier public school teachers, I always thought I appreciated what they’re up against; I had no idea until I looked deeper into their world. Today’s column belongs to them, real teachers who are undergoing state-sanctioned character assassination, and who are regularly reminded that the floggings will continue until morale improves.

I’ve chosen not to identify the teachers quoted below. (Not all superintendents support and protect them the way Vigo County’s Dan Tanoos does.)

• I teach in [an Indianapolis suburb] and have taught high school math for 38 years … I just wanted you to know how nice it is to hear a voice out there that just even CONSIDERS that there might be another side to the “Public Schools Suck” story. Each year it gets harder to carry the load of fragmented families and disengaged students. To that load doesn’t need to be added public derision.

• I am a retired elementary school teacher with 26 years experience … I recognize that there are teachers who should not be in the classroom, but it hurts when we are all lumped together and told we aren’t doing our jobs. I have seen and experienced the long hours put in before and after school plus weekends, the supplies bought from a teacher’s own paycheck, clothes purchased for students who didn’t have proper clothing for school (usually anonymously), evenings spent at sporting events, concerts, recitals and many other activities, which our students wanted us to attend. You are so right when you state that we grow to love our students. I certainly did mine and thought of them as “mine” for the hours I had them at school. Teaching done right is a very difficult job.

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