Dear Ann:

I have no idea who wrote this piece. It was sent to us by a friend because both my wife and I are teachers. Perhaps some of your readers might consider passing it on to anyone they hear complaining about teachers being overpaid. Maybe they would like to try teaching for a week{mdash}or even a day. I'll bet this would change their minds.

John in Winnetka, Calif.

I agree -- totally. Thanks for sending it my way. No one can tell the story better than someone who has been there and done it.

TEACHING

Let me see if I have this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning. Not only that, but I am also to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, modify disruptive behavior, and observe them for signs of abuse.

I am to fight the war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for guns and knives, and raise their self-esteem. I am to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play; 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 potential antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage respect for the cultural diversity of others, and, oh yes, teach, always making sure I give the girls in my class 50 percent of my attention.

I am required by my contract to work on my own time (summers and evenings) and at my own expense toward additional certification and a master's degree, to sponsor the cheerleaders, or the sophomore class (my choice); and after school, I am to attend committee and faculty meetings, and participate in staff development training to maintain my current certification and employment status.

I am to be a paragon of virtue, such that my very presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of authority. I am to do all of this with just a piece of chalk, a bulletin board and a few books (some of which I may have to purchase myself). And for doing this, I am to be paid a starting salary that, in some states, qualifies my family for food stamps.

Is that all?

Dear Ann:

My nephew's 32-year-old son died of cancer six months ago. While the young man was hospitalized, my husband and I visited him often. My nephew, "Roy," is heartbroken over the loss of his son, and has not been able to recover. He has refused to see anyone since the funeral. Every day, he goes to the cemetery and just sits by his son's grave.

We've urged him to come to our family gatherings, but he says he's "not up to it." When we have asked if we could come visit him, he says he'd rather be alone. The last time we tried calling him, he refused to answer the phone, and did not respond to the message we left on his machine.

I am worried about Roy, and don't know how to help him. Is there any way to cheer him up? What can we do to help him get past this?

Marie in Florida

Roy needs a lot more than "cheering up." The man must get grief counseling. Ask your doctor to recommend a grief counselor, and take Roy for the first visit. This could save vhis life. It sounds as if the man is grieving himself to death.

Please act now.