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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 9, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Educating teachers

Training is important, but so is salary

A note to Eli Broad: High-performing countries like Finland that recruit teachers from the top third of students also pay teachers like the top third of professionals. [“A better way to train teachers,” Opinion, July 6.]

Instead of being paid like physicians or attorneys, our younger teachers are paid like blue-collar workers, and are often saddled with thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. Even the higher-salaried, experienced teachers do not earn what, say, an accountant earns.

Finland does not freeze teacher salaries for years. It does not hack away at retirement benefits. There most certainly are not legislators and newspapers who scold teachers, saying they should simply be happy to have their jobs.

We have many fine teachers who work long hours under difficult conditions. But most of them are working for the love of their students and the desire to make a difference, not for the comparatively small salaries they make.

This column contained some fine suggestions for teacher training, but regarding recruitment of potential trainees, you cannot expect T-bone steak quality with pork-and-beans salaries.

Penny Koyama, Bothell

Medicine and teaching are apples and oranges

As a teacher who worked in the medical field before changing careers, I resent Eli Broad’s comparison of medicine to education. He is comparing apples to oranges.

Medicine is based on exact science. Anatomy and physiology determine what a medical professional needs to learn. These systems are relatively exact.

Education is based on social science, which is not an exact science at all. So much contributes to the success of a student — the brain, with its various levels of cognition and mental health; the cultural and ethnic background of the person; the home environment, meaning the friends and family of the person.

Being an expert in the core subjects does not make someone an expert teacher. Learning best teaching practices does. Cooperative learning, chunking lectures, open-ended questions, delivering material in various learning styles, inclusive approaches to engage all cultural backgrounds; these practices and more are the elements of an expert teacher.

Yes, you need to know your subject matter. But, unlike a physician, who has exact procedures and contraindications to follow, a teacher’s job is to impart knowledge in a variety of ways for students to be motivated, engaged and, ultimately, to learn.

Peggy Thesing, Shoreline

Comments | More in Education, Politics | Topics: education, teachers, TRAINING

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