From the Reader this week Upset with Whining

This was sent in from the reader who wrote in upset with teachers whining as well (click at the bottom to see my comments as well as many other readers who wrote in response to this):

I have much to say, but will try to keep this as brief as possible.

First, I wanted to comment on your comment to my letter. You said that I consider the teaching profession to be of "such little significance". That is so far from the truth it is amazing. I am a person who LOVES to learn. My life is all about learning. My vacations are about learning (Lay on the beach? Hardly. Museums, historic home tours, factory tours, botanical gardens, etc. Yes). My free time? All about learning. What part of my email gave you the impression that I believe that what teachers do is insignificant? You may want to read my email again.

As for teachers serving the kids and the communities, I agree. Many do. But my kids have had quite a few teachers (at both private and public schools) who were sub-par.
The private school: My daughter had a science teacher in HIGH SCHOOL who gave extra credit to anyone who brought in videos that relate to science in any imaginable way. It seems unbelievable, but the teacher showed videos almost every day of the year, including The Magic School Bus (isn't that supposed to be for young kids?) on many occasions. He allowed the class to be so out of control that kids would jump up on their desks, run around the room, etc. The great majority of their teachers were great, but some were not what I expected to pay for, like the 2nd grade teacher whose grammar and pronunciation was severely lacking. The administration kept parent comments and complaints to a minimum by offering veiled threats ("maybe this isn't the right school for your child" was heard by several parents I knew---I was too scared to complain about ANYTHING--maybe that's one reason I wrote to you---no fear of dismissal).

Public schools: My son has had a teacher who admitted to the kids that he is a lousy teacher (he was fired last year). He had the kids read for the whole class period so he wouldn't have to teach. The problems with this teacher are too numerous to mention. My son had a science teacher 2 years who spent the whole period yelling at kids because he couldn't control his class like other teachers do. My son was the only kid who he didn't yell at. Last year's science teacher spoke of everything BUT science, and was so boring that kids fell asleep on a semi-regular basis. When I went to Back To School Night and listened to his little talk, I knew my son was headed for trouble... Then there were the math teachers all 3 years of Middle School. The first was forced to teach Math even though she told the admin. that she's horrible at math (I found this out after the year was over and the damage was done). She didn't know how to do the 6th grade math, so if the kids didn't work out a problem EXACTLY the way the teachers' manual showed, she marked it wrong. I had to go over every homework assignment, quiz, and test to make sure they were corrected properly, then contact her so she could adjust his grade each time. I also had to tutor him because the teaching was counter-productive. 7th and 8th grade were spent with a teacher I had high hopes for. Her major was Math!! YEA. NOPE. She messed up the kids as badly as the previous teacher had. She was banned from teaching math like the 6th grade teacher was eventually (but again, the damage was already done). The kids who had those 2 teachers were behind, and couldn't take Geometry in 9th grade like they should, because they were behind in their skills.

There have been some good teachers along the way, but there have also been some really poor teachers. I don't understand how or why poor teachers are allowed to continue to teach. It does our kids a disservice, and wastes our money. In case you think that I am an unsupportive parent, let me tell you that is not the case. I volunteered in my kids' classrooms once a week(until the teen years), chaperoned field trips, substitute taught at my daughter's school, have always written encouraging notes to the good teachers, and even some of the not so good ones, gave ALL of the teachers gifts (even the ones I've mentioned above) until my son was said it embarrassed him this year, volunteer at teacher appreciation events and many, many other events that benefit the teachers, administration, and students. I donate several hundred dollars to my son's school each year. Etc., etc., etc.

I asked my son to read your article this morning before school. He is almost 17 years old, and is NOT the type who sides with his parents, except with regard to politics. He said that even his English teacher knows that there aren't any real cuts coming. The teacher says," There are no cuts,ha, ha, no cuts", with a smirk. At least he's honest.
I won't tell you about what my son said about your response (the tone of your response). But you should know that people who read your column, and hear other teachers and their union speak about their plight, aren't moved in the way you would hope and expect. It comes across as whiny and sad. And I stand by my previous sentiment: If a person doesn't like the working conditions inherent to a position, he/she should make the mature, intelligent decision not to pursue it. And if he/she does anyway, either he/she should quit or give it his/her all and not complain. Physicians, fire fighters, police officers, military personnel, etc. know what they are getting into, just like teachers. They know that long, irregular hours are required. When was the last time you heard or read of one of these people complaining about their job? They knew what they were getting into. They can either do their best, or quit. But I don't want to hear how hard they have it. We are all free to choose our own career paths. We should choose wisely, and make the most of it...

I was surprised that you considered my email to be a "razor sharp attack" that you considered "a disturbing lack of respect", which even you can't stand for. I was "voicing" how I'm tired of hearing the disinformation (the kids will suffer, it's only about the kids, etc.), and the teachers' complaints. I have the right to voice my opinion and experiences just like anyone else. I didn't write the email intending for you to print it. I wanted you to know what OC Register readers are thinking and going through. You are a teacher, and don't know what it's like to have a child in school being just a regular parent. You must realize that it is different for us. I have no doubt that you are an excellent teacher, which is why you believe that all other teachers are as dedicated as you are. Some are, some are not.

I will end here.


Unknown said...

It is interesting that you comment on the fact that the paper edited your question due to space in the column because the entire email was what really had me upset. Here is your entire email from last week without edits:

"I'll keep it short.

I, too, am tired of hearing that the kids will be shortchanged. It's trickery. And I don't feel sorry for teachers who complain about how hard it is to not have a guaranteed job. WHO DOES? A friend, who is also a teacher, got very angry at me for not "understanding" how hard it is to never know if you will have a job next year. We don't yet live in a socialist environment, thank God, so very few people are guaranteed to keep their jobs. Also, if a business is running short of money, as so many are these days, it has to cut back. Am I right? I'm tired of hearing teachers complain about their pay (for 9 months of part-time work), how overworked they are, how they "have" to buy school supplies with their own money, etc. My 6th grade teacher used to make jokes about how poor he was( 1973?), so I know that it isn't new. If people don't research their future teaching career before they decide to pursue it, shame on them. But maybe teachers would be happier about their salaries if they considered every bit of compensation they receive---holidays, 2 1/2-3 months of summer vacation, a pension, the various medical benefits, etc. etc. etc. If the pay was so horrible, why do I know so many teachers who have very nice houses and cars, and retire in style?

As the other reader mentioned, the "budget cuts" are a scam on the taxpayers. The schools can run on a great deal less money, and they know it. But they also know that if they complain long enough, and loudly enough, the public will eventually believe their lines. Unfortunately.

There is so much more to say, but I don't have the time or desire to continue..."

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Veravanich,

I simply had to comment after reading your column a few minutes ago.

You were waaaaay too kind in your reply to the person 'tired of hearing that the kids will be shortchanged'.

I have decided in the past couple of years that the people who think and talk like this are ignorant, un-informed and completely lacking the information about public education they need to understand what and how is involved in teaching in today's world.

Ignorant, in the basic definition (lacking knowledge).

Uninformed, as have not participated in their child's education on a daily basis.

Lacking information, that comes about by being involved in the school's world, from State, School Board, Principal, Teachers and Staff.

'They' will surely say "I don't have the time to do any of this - I send my kid to school for 'them' to teach and educate him/her". But therein lies what many don't realize - you need to be involved so that it benefits your children.

My husband retired from teaching 9 years ago after 41+ years. Our three children are all exemplary teachers. I was a stay at home Mom for 20+ years before entering the workforce. But even after going to work I made sure our youngest child, who was in Junior High School at the time, was getting the education we expected. That even meant speaking to the Principal about a P.E. teacher who used inappropriate language in class!!

My husband and all of our kids have spent amazing amounts of time and monies to help insure their students got the best they could offer them in their classes. 'nine months of part time work' is absolutely a laugh!! He/she should be the one to shame - I'd like to see them spend time in a class room with students, especially these days, when many have had such horrible role models as parents they cannot act in a civilized way in the school setting!

And these parents expect the school and teachers to not only educate these children but 'fix' the way they act and live in society!!

Of course there are parents who care, who see that the children are 'educated' BEFORE they enter kindergarten, are seen at the schools volunteering, being with the PTA and helping the schools be a positive experience for everyone involved, parents, children, teachers, administrators and staff. It does take EVERYONE to make this thing called education work.

Thanks for 'listening' - I didn't intend for this to be so long...but when I got started, couldn't seem to stop. As you can tell I'm very sensitive and passionate about the subject of education in this country and do want the best for every child.

I hope I am not being too optimistic or overly un-realistic...but then again I can always hope for the best in the years to come!! Please continue to say good things about education in your columns!!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Veravanich:

After reading you column in today's Register, I finally decided to write to you. Having taught for 35 years in grades 2 through 6, the last six years at middle school, I really appreciate what you are trying to do in your column. It always amazes me how misinformed people are about what schools and teachers really do. As you probably realize, this is nothing new: I have heard the same things throughout my career. You maintain your professional voice in even when answering the attacks of such uninformed folks.

Thank you, too, for such well-informed and thoughtful answers to the myriad of other queries you put in your column. You take into consideration the frustration and helplessness some parents feel as well as redirecting those whose complaints are an attempt to deflect any real understanding of their own children's actions and needs as well as their own lack of parenting. Tough to do as a teacher or administrator and harder to do when you aren't face to face with the writer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great laugh this AM!!! First you print a letter from some neanderthal, followed by your justifiable comment, "Even I have my limit."

And then you proceed to, once again, answer with calmness and restraint! Your husband must consider you a "pearl of great price!" Actually, your measured comments are a far better answer to nut cases (see how easily one can be uncalm and unrestrained?) than any loss of control would be. It points up their lack of thought and scattershot approach to discussion without you saying a thing about it.

Anonymous said...

Okay! Ms. Teacher, you may be right in today's secular times, but I would like you to see where one has rode the U.S.A. education Merry-go-round, Roller Coaster since 1936.
Life began 1936 (depression), Kindergarten 1940-41, of course you read about the "Great WW11", but probably not about the children of that period, just hear-say. Keeping on the subject that matters to the Professional Teacher Association (Union) and not go into the social, public, emotional life that was for the children of that time, I will stick to the learning/education aspects of their (my) life.
Classrooms with; One Teacher (all women no men), four rows of ten desks=40 Pupils, a large blackboard with chalks and erasers, and a closet in back. There were no Assistants or Unions, no PTA or Teacher conferences, no special teacher days off, only normal holidays, emergency Substitutes were available, and the year went on from September 1st to June 6th. We learned the alphabet (with the card method), arithmetic (with the card method), writing, read the "Spot" books (loved them), we were graded, reviewed, evaluated, so that we would/could continue to the next grade. Failure was not an option. WW11 ended and with the multitude of unemployed and the GI Bill that gave an economic survival to some. The Colleges turned out and certified many men Teachers, who came to teach, organize, and socialize (Associations/Unions).
The next 7 years of my education began to change.
More Teachers, expanded school buildings, new Schools, smaller class size (20.5), Teacher assistants, Federal money requiring audits, politics, increased staffs, larger Administrations, more security, rules, regulations, etc. By 1953 Education entered into the money chaos along with new math, social studies (not history), expanded sport programs, "Baby Boomers", failure accepted, "your OK, I'm OK", Civil Rights, Mexican Illegal Immigration, bi-lingual, more holidays, less hours, special Ed, illiteracy, drug acceptance, "Wood Stock", juvenile sex acceptance (Sex education?), abortion, "Gay" (once known as Homosexual) acceptance, God outlawed in schools and public, etc. etc. etc. So many changes from the Blackboard, chalk, flip card, teaching from my time, that I cannot see how a Billion$ here and a Billion$ there hasn't made it better. Illiteracy, drop-outs, where did you and I go wrong.........Thank you for reading this diatribe, I know that it will not get better, only end.
Jack Valley

Anonymous said...

Carol, I may have disagreed with some of your responses in the past; again, I disagree with this one. It was far too nice. It is understandable you have your restraints. It is nice to know that readers can write whatever they want despite their ignorance level. Interestingly enough, the writer complained about both Public and Private education yet didn't home school his/her own children. It's probably because he/she wouldn't have anyone to complain about or maybe the salary wouldn't be up to par. I'm sure the writer didn't know that some educators spread their salary over 12 months. Maybe the writer forgot to mention that there is good and bad in everything (good cop, bad cop, good firefighter, bad firefighter) including good and bad educators. The writer also mentions other professions as well; military, physicians, firefighters and police officers whereby people that enter into these careers do not complain about their jobs. The writer probably never heard of the "blue flu." Then, the writer takes one teacher in 1973 that made comments about how poor he was and uses this as a basis on how teachers have always complained about their salary. Or maybe the writer forgot to mention how he/she was actually able to write the comments in the first place. Learning to read and write was probably accomplished in some cave.
The reader thanks "god" for not living in a socialist environment yet complains about complaining educators that feel they are underpaid? Sad, pathetic and yet very amusing.

Anonymous said...

People don't like it when their tone is called out. To say that the budget cuts are a scam when the moneys are reduced dramatically is rediculous. I don't know what the initial writer's point was. What are cuts if they are not cuts to the appropriation? The only other way to cut would be to cut after the spending had occurred which, as reason would dictate, can't be done - the horse has left the barn.

Then the pile-on reader's sentiments are telling. She definitely has disdain for the teaching profession - possibly not teachers, but teachers make up the profession so maybe she's just not logical (more the possibility). When she belittles the "part-time" profession, does she not realize that a classic expression of disdain is mockery? Her specific reference to the teacher who said that there were no cuts sounded to me (without the benefit of being there to have heard the question posed) of sarcasm, "'There are no cuts,ha, ha, no cuts", with a smirk. '" Perhaps the conversation went something along these lines,

Son: "So my mom and I were reading in the paper how all the teachers are whining about the supposed cuts to the budgets, do you think a cut in the appropriation prior to the money being expended is really a cut or not?"

Englist teacher: Realizing that this is a child of a devout conservative and therefore, completely distrusting of the teaching profession. Especially after reading the previous days "Go Ask the Teacher" column that most teacher's read daily, wherein said English teacher's committment to a lifelong dream of service to youth was mocked as being a part-time committment and having their outlays of personal funds for supplies got reduced to being a "complaint" replies, "'There are no cuts,ha, ha, no cuts", with a smirk.

Anonymous said...

I am writing to support you and all teachers. I believe you are all caught between those who want to vent whatever distorted agenda du jour they have, the union leadership who has lost all touch with their constituency, and apathetic parents who have abdicated their responsibilities to the public school system to raise their children. My mother was a teacher, my older brother is a teacher, my son and younger brother are studying to be teachers. They are commited to enriching the lives of their students. Those who tell you to find another job if you don't like the pay or to stop whining because you're constantly under the threat of losing your job or that school fund shortages are bogus miss the whole point. The point is the public school "system" has become a machine that has lost its focus. We need to get back to basics. How we do it is up to all of us parents, union leadership and administrators. Citizens can affect change in parent attitudes and administrators and its up to the teachers to take back their union and make it work for them. Stop pointing fingers at others - point that finger at the person looking at you in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

I read your column every week, religiously. I enjoy your responses, and feel bad that you have been getting "beat on" so much regarding the states budget crisis. I guess everyone feels just abused themselves with this horrid financial mess the country is in, and are tired of feeling taken advantage of with higher taxes all the way around, especially for California residents. Regardless, the fact that we ARE seeing teachers being let go, and schools closing, shows this is not you (or any other school teacher) just "crying wolf". (You were very reassuring to me about 3 years back when my son was starting kindergarten. I was anxious about his surroundings to outsiders, not his new teacher but everyone else that may have access the school. Well, I am proud to report he made it just fine, no incidents strange in nature that worried me so much that I'd opt to home school him or anything like that! He is now about to finish the second grade, smartest little boy in class (ok, maybe I am a bit bias!) and LOVES SCHOOL. )

Personally, I have always felt the schools do receive a lot of funding from the government, I know these cuts are severe. We are at risk of hosting one of the elementary schools set for possible closure in Anaheim. Even though we may have empty classrooms at this point, we are busting at the seems! I cannot fathom that school merging into ours. I know it would eliminate the small classroom sizes all parents want. I also realize that it would take away from a lot of the one-on-one the teacher tries to dedicate to each child. If a child falls behind, I don't see how he or she will keep up with bigger classroom sizes and less ability for the teacher to stop and help. I my self feel happy that there are people such as yourself willing to fight to keep the needed funding for our schools. If things do not turn around soon, I think we will see more cuts, larger class sizes, more layoffs, and ultimately, more school closures. Never in my day would I have thought I'd see schools closing due to lack of funds. Maybe some expenses can be cut back, and parents should start buying their children's school supplies again like when we were little. Paper, pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, etc. that was never provided to us at school growing up. My mom and dad had to buy it all. For those parents who cannot afford it, then it should be provided. There is a lot the schools can do to cut back, and the parents just have to keep working hard like they have been to keep the schools going.

Thanks again for you great column. I hope the tongue lashings you are getting start to disappear!!

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I do realize that layoffs are necessary, but I am so frustrated with the teachers unions. They go out of there way to protect teachers who do not teach, but who show videos all day (the teacher next to me does this) and teachers who do not follow the curriculum but instead teach their own. Why do they keep their jobs but the great teachers who have 1-2 years experience are let go? I blame the teacher's unions for being a bully. They bully their way to get their needs met but not the needs of the teachers.

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