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Those in charge should walk in teachers’ shoes a few days

SANTA FE, N.M. — Teaching and all education jobs are very challenging, and the vast majority of us are proud to be school employees. We hold public education sacred, despite constant criticisms from those who do not walk in our shoes.

We’re told that because the NEA (National Education Association) and most teachers request more prep time, criticize the evaluation plan, question the prudence of programs such as Teaching Fellows Program or oppose public school funds being transferred to a private company to run Engage Santa Fe, we don’t care about students, especially dropouts, and don’t want to be evaluated. Nothing is further from the truth; we just want people who do our work to guide education. Here’s a plan to help:

Dear Gov. Martinez, Ms. (Hanna) Skandera, Jay McClesky and key staff members, all Public Education Department management, the handful of Democratic and all Republican legislators who vote against increased education funding, Santa Fe Public Schools board members, Superintendent (Joel) Boyd, his leadership team and directors,

Bernice García Baca.

Bernice García Baca.

I challenge you to have two unforgettable experiences: First, to take the substitute training provided by SFPS and, second, to be the substitute teacher at one of the SFPS Transformation Zone Schools for three consecutive days. Yes, some of you have been teachers, but not during the last five or more years; it’s a different profession now. Detailed lesson plans and, if requested, materials will be provided to you beforehand.


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The rules will be simple and inalterable. You must:

1. Follow the plans and schedule provided – exactly the same as the real teacher.

2. The students will not know who you “really are”; just their sub for the next three days.

3. Conduct class however you wish, following the plans. What happens, good or bad, will not be blamed or credited to the teacher.

4. Meet reasonable “benchmarks” by the end of your term.

5. Fill out anonymous pre- and post-surveys.

That should do it – providing a fairly real, though very short, experience. Of course, I haven’t run this idea by our superintendent yet and parents also must approve.

Why do this? Unfortunately, human nature rarely allows us to really understand things – anything – until we experience “it” for ourselves. I can imagine what it’s like to do surgery, be a school secretary, police the streets, fly a plane, work in a factory but, unless I actually do these things, and for a while, under current conditions, I cannot fully understand.


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Being a teacher is a responsibility unparalleled by any other, yet so much of what we must do daily and even hourly is dictated by the invitees above – most whom have never even thought about what teaching is. Can you imagine writing manuals, policies and processes for the surgeon, carpenter, pilot, etc. without having done their jobs? Yet that is how the teaching profession is run. Mind boggling, no?

How about it, Madame Governor? Oh, one extra guideline is to not disparage how our students and their loved ones talk, look and act.

Ms. Skandera? In addition to teaching, you must be department head – assuring that all PED mandates are followed and that report is due at the end of Day 3.

Dr. Boyd and staff? A good refresher to bring you into the 2010s and provide a more current experience of what a world-class education entails. Not being in the classroom daily tends to make us forget why it’s so important to ask teachers themselves what kind of supports they need.

We can have this ready to go by next week. I’ll just wait for the go-ahead and RSVPs!

Bernice García Baca is a counselor at Aspen Community School and president of NEA-Santa Fe.