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Letters to the Editors

Parents, kids don't respect teachers

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 9, 2002

Re: Why some dropouts are teachers, guest column by Miriam Hill, June 2.

Thank you for allowing Miriam Hill to express what all teachers feel so succinctly. I have taught in Pinellas County for 30 years and could retire, but the DROP program has me hanging on. In my school day I have a 30-minute respite called "lunch," where I sit with 10 other teachers. Universally, we agree that this school year has been hell. The younger teachers don't like their jobs. The older ones, like me, are just hanging on.

After reading Mrs. Hill's guest column, I thought long and hard about myself and my teaching career. Years ago I'd pull into the parking lot of school full of joy and thinking, "Gosh! They're even paying me for this!" Now, I drive into my parking space and think, "I wonder who will abuse me today."

There are so many factors that play into what went wrong, but respect is the key. The lack of respect for the profession has had a big impact on my work. Teaching never paid well, but in the old days, it was respected. Children were respectful. Parents listened to us. The atmosphere was good. Believe me, that means a lot.

The lack of respect is an indicator of the disintegration of society. I believe that someone needs to be home with the kids. Years ago, fewer mothers worked outside the home, and maybe it sounds corny, but Mom being home and greeting the kids with milk and cookies means a great deal. Most of the children I teach come home to an empty house.

Within the disintegration of society lies rage. Many parents who are too tired to do a decent job parenting scream at us. Do I actually mean scream? Yes. Parents are so rude to teachers that we are often fearful of conferences, phone calls and confrontations.

Last week, an English teacher was handed a note from a child stating, "Johnny was absent. Please excuse him." The teacher had the audacity to say, "When your mom writes a note, she needs to indicate WHY you were absent." The next day, the child brought back a four-page nasty dissertation describing every aspect of the child's illness, the coloration and frequency of stool, the number of times he threw up, etc.

I had a mother storm my classroom to inform me that her child was an A student so what in the hell did I mean by putting a C on her history test? I said, "Well, let's see; maybe I made a mistake grading." I looked it over, and the score was correct. The mother then informed me that my test was too difficult and that I did not teach the subject matter. Her exact words were, "You people are all so damn inept."

The point is, parents have no respect for this profession, and this attitude filters down to the kids. I cannot tell you how often students have belittled my job to my face. The kids know that the lowest of the low are standing before them as teachers. How can they possibly respect us? This attitude has been pushed home for years when the media report on our failing schools. "Teachers can't teach" appears to be universally accepted, so parents and students react accordingly.

Schools reflect society and always have. If teachers can't teach, it's because society has made it impossible.
-- Melanie Woods, Palm Harbor

Classroom problems reflect culture

Re: Why some dropouts are teachers.

I sympathized with retired schoolteacher Miriam Hill as she reflected on the stress of being an educator. What goes on in the classroom mirrors problems in the culture at large. It is a direct reflection of our refusal as parents and adults to establish homes with traditional values built on love, respect and discipline. When the culture begins to crumble, inevitably the classroom also disintegrates.

Let's go back to the fundamentals. Children are most influenced by the examples taught in the home, not the classroom. But our families are unraveling at an astronomical pace. Christian values have been swept out the door. Many students arrive at school from homes of abuse, neglect and apathy. Teachers cannot keep kids from staying up until midnight or from using illegal substances and alcohol. Those lessons are taught and learned in our homes.

Have we forgotten that children are establishing behavior based on what they see in us? According to II Corinthians, we are "living epistles ... read by all men."

My oldest son was privileged to be taught by Mrs. Hill in second grade. Today, he is a premed student attending the University of Florida as a National Merit Finalist scholarship recipient. Thank you for the contribution you made to his life, Mrs. Hill, and thank you to all the other Pinellas County educators who have helped my three children to excel academically.

I regret that your path has become so burdensome. Forgive us for not doing our part.
-- Jan Avery, Clearwater

Teaching can be fulfilling

Re: Why some dropouts are teachers. I understand how Miriam Hill feels. I've been cursed at, our school has been threatened with a pipe bombing, and teachers don't get paid what we are worth for the responsibilities we have.

But, three years ago, after 22 years of practicing law in the military and in civilian practice, I returned to teaching, a profession I left in the 1970s. I teach geography at a north Pinellas County middle school. We have dedicated administrators, teachers and staffers with whom it is a pleasure to be associated.

I have never felt so fulfilled as I do teaching. Every day something occurs that convinces me that teachers make a daily difference in the lives of their students. Sometimes it is a success where previously there was failure; sometimes it is the recognition of understanding on a face where previously only puzzlement had shown. And even occasionally it is a thank you, from a student or a parent, for something we've accomplished at school.

I, for one, do not know how many days I have left to teach. I am certainly not counting the days. I hope that the days number so many that I couldn't possibly find a jar enormous enough to hold all the marbles.
-- Rick Stutzel, Safety Harbor

Use less water, add shade and birds

Pinellas County families are doing good by using reclaimed water. However, we will run out of reclaimed water. What then? Its price will increase, in accordance with the law of supply and demand.

To minimize this increase, we must learn to keep our yards beautiful with a little less reclaimed water. There is a free program that teaches how. It is jointly sponsored by Pinellas County and the University of Florida IFAS Agricultural Co-op. It is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program, at (727) 582-2100.

My family just made our yard a Florida Yard. We figure that will cut our reclaimed water use by one-half to two-thirds and also increase our shade and triple our attraction of migrating birds and songbirds.
-- Early McMullen Sorenson, Dunedin

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