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Posted at 7:45 PM ET, 06/10/2010

The value of endurance in the classroom

By washingtonpost.com editors

By William Tunney
Grantsville, Md.

Regarding Michael Gerson’s June 9 op-ed, “D.C.’s passionate reformers,” on the work of young Teach for America corps members:

Somewhere outside of Mr. Gerson’s range of interest but integral to the D.C. public schools are middle-age teachers; let’s call them Mr. Peepers and Ms. Brooks. They have been teaching for more than 15 years, have homes and families and bring lives of dedication to their profession.

Teaching is an open-ended job. The work is never done. There is always one more paper to grade, one more parent to call, one more child who needs extra help, better lessons to prepare, etc. We can recruit the top 20 percent of elite college graduates, revel in their ability to live in the same neighborhood as their students, walk to school with them, stay late with them, come in on Saturdays and work with them, have parent conferences on Sundays. We can replace, as Mr. Gerson described with glee, 80 percent of the faculty and staff the school with such young, enthusiastic teachers.

Fast-forward five years. Most of the young teachers have left to pursue law degrees, write books about their experiences, leapfrog ahead of “lifers” to get principal positions courtesy of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, start businesses or just quit because their significant others can’t take the 24-7 obsessions that leave no time for normal lives.

Meanwhile, given a chance and some community support, Mr. Peepers will still be grading papers on Sunday night and Ms. Brooks will continue to stop for coffee on her way in to school as she gets ready to face the happy and sad faces, the troubled and cheerful souls who want an education and whose parents want teachers with stability, continuity and well-earned respect.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | June 10, 2010; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, schools  
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Comments

Well, thank you Mr. Tunney for expressing such an enlightened opinion. Yes, "Ms. Brooks and Mr. Peepers" toil away day after day in our American school system. A system that has totally failed our students! Forward thinking, outstanding college grads who enter education don't stick around! They look for higher paying jobs, position where they can be innovative, and make substative contributions in their field. Not going to happen in the American school system!

Just listen to any conversation among high schoolers, and unfortunately many college students: "Him and me's" going to a game. They have no understanding of noun/verb agreement, or proper usage of pronouns. The Teach for America students totally understand it...but "Ms. Brooks and Mr. Peepers" obviously do not.

I worked for many years for what was once the largest defense contractor in the nation. One of our engineering managers published a study of the "longevity" of engineers. He found that the "C" students stayed with the company for most of their career. The A and B students left after a few years. Why? I'll leave you to answer that question. By the way, the company lost its competiveness...and its name is barely recognized in the defense industry.

Posted by: david_5570 | June 11, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Teaching is the only field that journalists chose to attack the most experienced, like Gerson did.

Everyone wants an experienced doctor. But the journalists don't attack them. Everyone wants experienced tax accountants.

Jouralists are lying about the importance of experience in education in order to give education money to big business like for profit charter schools. For profit charter schools hire inexperienced teachers to keep down costs.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 11, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Its funny to see people quarrel over last place.

Painting reform as an attack on a wonderfully functional system is just wrong in the DC case. DC schools are broken, and have been for decades. Kids are not graduating, much less living anything but an underclass life, due to the performance of DC schools. Ms. Brooks and Mr. Peepers are obviously a tiny minority in such a system, and should be the first to benefit from reform. Case in point, both can now earn much more money and stay as long as they want, like any other teacher in DC, regardless of TFA status.

And please just come out and say it: too many white people are in TFA. This is all about race, which would make sense if black pride was being engendered in DC, instead of utter self destruction.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 11, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

To david_5570 who said:
"Just listen to any conversation among high schoolers, and unfortunately many college students: "Him and me's" going to a game. They have no understanding of noun/verb agreement, or proper usage of pronouns. The Teach for America students totally understand it...but "Ms. Brooks and Mr. Peepers" obviously do not."

Actually, it's more likely that the experienced teachers do understand and the TFA'ers do not. According to the issue paper, paid for by TFA, my Mathamatica (The one TFA loves to sight to show their short-termers are as good as if not better than traditional teachers. In fact it shows only that they are as good as unlicensed emergency teachers with even less training than they have. But that's another post.). according to Mathamatica, TFA teachers are far less likely to consider formal phonics grammer instruction to be valuable than other teachers. Perhaps this is because the whole-languiage scripts that they are trained to use do not have that instruction. Whole-language becaume popular because it's easy to teach and script, but it gets awful results, especially among boys. Yet that's what TFA promotes.

Posted by: mcstowy | June 11, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

mendelsonmustgo said:

"Ms. Brooks and Mr. Peepers are obviously a tiny minority in such a system, and should be the first to benefit from reform. Case in point, both can now earn much more money and stay as long as they want, like any other teacher in DC, regardless of TFA status."

These expereince teachers will not benefit from (the phony) "reform" of TFA and Rhee, they'll either be fired or leave. They are expensive and TFA'ers are cheaper. They know, through experience and study, what works and what does not. The TFA'ers do not, but they are a cult and believe their way is right even when its been proven to be wrong. to that end, anyone who disagrees with their methods or challenges their beliefs is attacked and removed. If you read the IMPACT evaluation system, most have complained about its overempahsis on testing. That is bad enough, but the rest of the evaluation ids based on one's adhearence to TFA dogma, not effective teaching methods. There was a real life teacher like that in DC. His name is Art Seibens. He was the MOST effective science teacher in DC as proven by his students' pass rate on AP exams for college credit). He was fired by a rookie principle appointed by Rhee and the biology department at Wilson collapsed. It's not about the kids. It's about conforming to the cult.

Posted by: mcstowy | June 11, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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