As a former public school teacher in Alexandria, I know whereof Patrick Welsh speaks ["Our Teachers' Ed: Another Week of Hot Air," Outlook, Sept. 5].
I recall with great irritation those puerile orientations and pep talks to which teachers were subjected at the beginning of every school year. Steeped in the latest school-of-education nonsense, coordinators, specialists and other higher-ups who had not set foot in a classroom in years would spend a whole day telling experienced teachers how to teach. Yet they knew better than to stay around and give follow-up demonstrations with real-life students. Once through talking, they would quietly retreat to the calm and safety of their offices.
Those yearly hot-air rituals are yet another indication of the intellectual bankruptcy of our public schools.
As a D.C. public school teacher for 31 years, I'd like to second the comments made by Patrick Welsh. I have outlasted more than a dozen superintendents. Each has come in with a "new program" that will "save" our schools and raise the test scores of the students. Each has spent millions printing materials, hiring experts, conducting in-service programs and hyping the sure success of the new classroom. Each has only added to the buildup of waste paper in our landfills.
Our students are going to progress when all the elements of the community recognize that the classroom is not the only place where our children learn. In an age of two-income families, we seem to focus on maintaining calm rather than education. Our children begin learning at age 2. By the time they get to school, the patterns of learning have been established. Mr. Welsh is right when he speaks of styles of learning, but these are formed long before we see them in our classrooms.
I have many friends with small children. I often wonder when I visit them how they are helping the children to develop their own learning styles. Too often it is left up to the glowing box, with its many commercials. Parents and communities must recognize that the way you raise a 2-year-old will determine his or her school success 10 years down the road.
We must start with the recognition that if we keep playing the game as it has been played for the past 25 years, the results and the dire predictions will continue. We will also reap another harvest: We will find fewer people willing to take on the task of teaching our children, classes will grow larger, and students who need special attention will be pushed back into the closet of ignorance, frustration and, possibly, violence.
I hope that many school boards and school administrators will read Mr. Welsh's article and take it seriously.
Don't blame the schools, the teachers or the "system" of education. Blame the community that has made education a dishonorable and thankless profession, unattractive to many bright, young college students.
JOHN A. SKEHAN