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System Saps Teachers, and Kids, of Passion

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I read with sadness a letter to the editor on Feb 21. It was written by one of my son’s talented teachers, Steven Brugge.

As I read of his plans to retire as soon as possible, I knew that this is one of the costs of turning public school teachers and students into political pawns.

Since the time of Plato and Socrates, excellent teaching has been about teachers igniting the passion of learning and discovery in students. Our son can’t wait to tell us about Brugge’s latest class at the dinner table.

That passion is getting increasingly more difficult for teachers to nurture and to find within themselves.

Our teachers feel increasingly constrained by rigid reforms. There is less and less room for creativity in the classroom. Every year, principals must choose which new bitter pill their teachers must swallow in order to stay in the good graces of federal mandates.

This quiet tragedy is impoverishing our schools and our future.

How many bright young people will never consider becoming a teacher, when they can be hired for their first job in a different profession at a higher salary than they would ever achieve as a teacher? Increasing teacher salaries should be a huge priority in this conversation.

Meaningful reform would focus on curriculum goals. It would construct a fire wall between politics and our children and say “enough” to meaningless and frequent tests.

Being expected to teach to the high-stakes test cripples good teachers and gives a road map by which weaker teachers can keep their jobs. Our students gain nothing from either example.

Also, we need to find ways to attract gifted young minds to the profession.

Many states have initiated “teaching fellow” programs in their universities. These programs recruit top students and give them full-tuition waivers, in exchange for a five-year commitment to teach in that state’s public schools following graduation.

We have a lot of work to do. But I think I hear Plato telling us it is the right thing to do for our children and our future.

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