The Sept. 17 editorial "Mr. Steele and Education" asked, "[D]oes it really make sense to pay a so-so high school physics teacher more than a fantastic elementary school teacher?"
The answer may be yes, if market forces determine compensation rather than years on the job. The number of people who manage to survive the appropriate education to qualify as physics teachers is going to limit supply. Why would someone complete the academic equivalent of a bachelor's degree in engineering and then accept a salary that is less than that of the secretary who assists engineers?
The ease with which people seem to complete elementary education also suggests that the supply of fantastic teachers should be large. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be our problem.
The best elementary school teacher, not the one with the most seniority, should be the best paid.
Robert Kemmery, executive director of the Governor's Commission on Quality Education in Maryland, said high school physics teachers should be paid more than elementary school teachers ["Steele Releases Education Guideline," Metro, Sept. 15]. I assume his point is that because the subject matter is more difficult, the job is, too, so it warrants a higher salary.
I teach elementary school, and while the subject matter may be elementary, the skills and preparation necessary to teach it are not. And without the simple, prerequisite skills I teach, a child would be unable to take high school physics.
Some of my responsibilities include teaching the specific skill to access the text of a story; techniques to improve reading fluency; how to write a topic sentence for a personal narrative; spelling combinations for the long "a" sound; how and when to estimate an answer to a computation problem; and how to count and make change. I also have prepared slides for the microscope of an onion skin to help children discover that cells are the basic building blocks of life; created a map of Kenya so children could identify and then label their own maps; introduced a lesson on the meaning of empathy; and taught bully-proofing skills.
Just because these are simple concepts does not make teaching them any easier or any less important than high school physics. Actually, given the critical nature of each and every skill I teach, maybe I should be paid more than a high school physics teacher.