By Linda Windes
What’s with the full assault on teachers and education in the Ramona Sentinel on March 19, 2009? I am sure it was no coincidence that both Jeff Mitchell and John Rajcic had their opinions published on the same day. My only hope is that these men were playing devil’s advocate with the community of Ramona. However, I would like some clarification about how much time these two men have spent (teaching, interacting, guiding, evaluating and encouraging students) in a classroom over the past several years.
As a classroom teacher for the past 17 years in California’s public schools, I can most certainly give an educated, first hand commentary of what is actually “happening” in classrooms. Yes, learning has changed and schools must keep pace with the technologies and skills needed for the future. Today I work to educate students for jobs that may not even exist at this point in time. Not only do I teach my students to read, I teach them to use higher level thinking skills so they can manage the amount of information coming their way everyday. The ability to read is just the beginning, the real work happens when a teacher helps a student learn to analyze, synthesize and evaluate what they read. These are not skills just “picked up” by sitting in front of a computer. Reading is just one subject that students must learn (math, science, writing, speaking, listening, visual and performing arts, habits of mind and pillars of character to name a few) and information in all subject areas is being taught earlier and with more haste than ever before. I have only just touched upon the complexities of teaching and learning that happens in a typical classroom today.
I aim to use technology in my lessons and make it available to my students whenever possible. They are expected to master grade level standards in technology. The technology is an instrument for gathering, constructing and communicating what they are learning in all subject areas. Technology is expensive and schools are underfunded with budgets that cannot compete with the technology that exists in other sectors of our society.
Please stop slamming teachers for wanting a fair salary for the time, dedication, passion and education level that they bring to their work. Do not let all teachers be tarnished by a small few who may not measure up. The best teachers work in collaboration with other teachers. Forcing teachers to compete against each other for pay is not conducive to a collective community within a school or a district. Let’s stop ignoring that higher performing schools and students have hard working teachers and school staffs, families extremely dedicated to the education process, students who believe that what they are learning is important, large amounts of volunteer support, foundations raising money for budget shortfalls and, above all, a positive attitude toward education.
Anyone who is dissatisfied with their public schools must be willing to be part of the solution to fix them. Try volunteering, mentoring or offering services or skills. Contact your state senators and demand that our state develops a long term plan for funding education with a committee expectation for basic student support and services.
Please come visit my classroom and participate in the learning that is happening everyday!
Linda Windes is a Ramona resident and teacher with the Poway Unified School District.