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To fix our schools? It requires commitment by all

November 25, 2012 12:10 am

AS AN educator, I am responding to the "Driven to distraction: Our wired generation," and "U.S. education: Think 'pro-choice'" articles in Viewpoints [Nov. 11].

I found the "Driven" article fascinating and uplifting, because the author addressed the problem with a research-based solution. I found the "pro-choice" article insulting, because the author presumes that the problem with education can be fixed by simply moving low-achieving students to high-achieving schools.

We must stop blaming schools and teachers for low-achieving students. A solution exists for failing students, but it is not simple.

First, students must take ownership in their own progress. Students must want to learn, and they must see education and knowledge as keys to success in life. I am a teacher, not a magician. While I love my subject and am passionate, I cannot force students to enjoy the written word without them meeting me halfway.

Second, parents must take ownership in their children's success. Without parental involvement, student success is minimal. Without parental encouragement, students stop studying and lack the motivation to complete homework.

Parents sometimes apologize to me for their persistence, but I love parental contact (emails, phone calls, conferences). I am a parent: I want you involved in your child's performance. If you are not involved, your child is not engaged.

Third, teachers must take ownership in their students' success. I care deeply how my students perform in the classroom, on their tests and papers, and in life. If I do not insist that they turn work in on time, to my standard, with their greatest attention, then they will not care.

I love my students--if they are not successful in college, part of that blame is on me for not holding them accountable in high school. To that end, I do not believe in extra credit, never-ending grace, or 50 percent credit for zero work. I am available after school every day, and students may rewrite their papers with my help multiple times. I believe in individual initiative and self-motivated accomplishment.

Fourth but not finally, the community must take ownership in its children's futures. If the community does not value teachers, then the teachers will not stay in the community.

Teachers may love their students, but teachers must make a living, too. Not giving teachers a raise (except to cover the 1 percent increase in teachers' contribution to their own retirement funds) in more than four years is a clear indication that the community does not value the very people who spend more than seven hours a day in direct contact with their most beloved possession--their children.

Educators do not teach for the money, but we must support our own families--or we must move on to communities who recognize our worth.

I have ownership in my community: My family and I live here, we play here, we pray here, we are residents of Stafford County and have been for more than 10 years. I am a product of public schools--high school, college, graduate school. After being an Army officer, I have taught in public schools, private schools, community colleges. I have even homeschooled my children.

The answer to education's woes is not shuttling students from one school to another, because caring teachers will not stay in the schools without ownership from students, parents, and the community. Teachers stay committed to students when the children, the parents, and the community are committed to joint ownership in student success.

Stop blaming and start accepting your part in our future.




Jennifer Wineinger is a teacher at Colonial Forge High School and a resident of Stafford County.




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