At B-CC High, economics teacher Mark Simon is known by some of his fellow teachers as "the young radical."
Simon, 27, is vice president of the Montgomery County Federation of Teachers, a more militant union than the current bargaining agent for county teachers, the Montgomery County Education Association.
Taking a stroll around the B-CC neighborhood during a lunch period - "I need the air" - he talks about teaching, a profession he describes as "under fire."
"There is a real understimation of schools by the public," he says. "You see stuff in the media about schools not doing the job, kids not being able to read, that we all ought to be more cost-effective.
Education is lumped into that whole antigovernment thing. But accountability isn't the point. The point is the pressure and disillusionment students and teachers feel. Take away more from them and you contribute to it."
Simon mentions the average Montgomery County teachers' salary, $15,000, and sighs.
"It's lousy pay and an incredible schedule," he says, "I have guest speakers for my classes sometimes. They do two classes in a row and are completely exhausted. They can't believe teachers do that every day."
Simon rises on class days between 5:30 and 6 a.m. and leaves his apartment in Northwest Washington, where he lives, he says, because he can't afford housing in Montgomery County. By 7 a.m., he is at school, planning for the day, running off dittoes.
Then it's three straight classes in two different subjects, economics and sociology. He takes a 45-minute lunch, and spends half that time planning lectures.
Then there's the homework, the tests and papers that have to be read and marked.
"In the last few years, there's been a tremendous undercutting of respect for teachers," he says, watching students toss Frisbees on the B-CC playfield.
"The image of chaos in the schools is everywhere. There was a time when teachers had a great deal of respect as if they were priests, making life-long commitments to man but making material sacrifices.
Today, we don't have either the respect or the money." The other day I pulled into a service station and got into an argument with a guy in line behind me. It turned out he was a retired teacher. When I told him I was a teacher, he got even angrier.
"He said we should be ashamed of ourselves, that we expect the world on a silver platter, striking and carrying on. He said that just wasn't done in his day.
"It seems like it's a national pastime to take aim at education," Simon sighs. "It's not fair at all." CAPTION: Picture, Mark Simon is vice president of the Montgomery Federation of Teachers.