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Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

TEACHING PRIORITY

September 7, 1999

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To the editor:

Great teachers, forever in short supply, today are far more scarce than new buildings or administrative appointees. When a notably fine teacher, distinguished for well over 40 years by the best academic and professional criteria, is tossed aside by a school system that favors administrative protocol and staff docility over learning, it is high time we all raise questions.

Especially in a town that constantly proclaims its devotion to the life of the intellect, the loss of such a fine teacher as Mr. Roth arouses wonder if not total disbelief. We must ask why in the world the school board at least would have countenanced such administrative mischief. Instead of encouraging the retirement of teachers like Mr. Roth, our school officials should be doing everything possible to keep them in the classroom as long as they will stay. Their stipends should equal those of vice-principals or assistant superintendents, and they might even be given some of the lavish offices we give to administrators.

Instead, we must wonder whether great teaching is really a major concern in our school system. We seem to hear mainly about the pursuit of ever new and grander real estate and the courtship of glamorous administrators. But administrators are not in short supply, they seldom generate intellectual development, and they sometimes resent the uppity, bright teacher who puts real learning ahead of educationist gobbledygook. And the size and magnificence of an administrator's office never made any difference except perhaps to the people who like to occupy such offices.

Indeed, public education apparently doesn't know quite what to make of a real teacher, with a real mind of his own. This whole community should thank Mr. Roth for his massive contribution to learning in our midst, lament that he was not permitted to close out his great career according to his expectations, and urge the school board to think more about how it might protect such great teachers and perhaps worry less about the rights of administration and the acquisition of new real estate.

Learning takes place in a classroom, not in an administrator's office. And that marvel requires a learned and inspiring teacher who can lead youngsters into the life of the mind.

John R. Willingham,

Lawrence.

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