Glass Half Full: Appreciating different sides of the coin | SierraSun.com

Glass Half Full: Appreciating different sides of the coin

Ruth Glass
Glass Half Full

I try not to engage. Really, I do. Especially when speaking with a guest in our home; even more especially when that guest is a cousin. When the disparaging remarks are directed at teachers, however, I engage.

For the two previous days, I had managed to ignore comments that expressed opinions diametrically opposed to mine. As a school head, not only am I used to such differences, but also, I appreciate divergence of thought, as long as it is respectfully presented.

What tipped me over the edge this time was a cousin's dismissive observation that 2nd grade teachers shouldn't be paid as much as, say, high school science teachers, because their job is much "easier."

"Wait," I said, "Have you ever taught either 2nd grade or high school science?" Rhetorical question, as I knew the answer was negative. She simply believes, as do so many, that since the subject matter in high school is more complicated, those who deliver it must be deserving of higher pay.

From long experience that includes teaching PreK-12th grade, I contend that the lower grades are every bit as challenging as the upper, just for very different reasons.

My father, whom I seem to quote often, frequently observed that every grade was less important than the one prior. He, who taught AP English, among other things, recognized that the success of high school students depends on their preparation by teachers in their early years.

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I have equal respect for both — and everything in between. Frequently, teachers are better equipped to be most effective at one level or another. In fact, ask a kindergarten teacher if she would like to teach in high school, and she will look askance. Similarly, ask a high school teacher if she would willingly move to kindergarten, and the response is identical.

Both respect the challenges presented by the other level. Ask anyone but middle school educators how they would feel about working on that level, and the response is a unified and resounding, "Good grief, no!"

As in any profession, some teachers are slackers. The huge majority spend their days and nights, even their summer "vacations," devoted to making a positive difference in the lives of all of the children in their care.

Not just the smart, easy, motivated students — the ones who come eager to learn, who do their homework, who could basically run the class on the older levels. They are the ones who keep teachers on their toes in a good way. Consider 2nd grade, however, where some kids can't read at all while others are absorbing novels.

As children grow older, teachers can always buy a little break by directing students to read quietly. PreK teachers don't have that luxury.

In my studied opinion, none of our teachers is paid what they deserve. They are, after all, the constant caregivers of our children, building paths to the future. Whether they shepherd the learning of 7 year-olds or 17 year-olds, nothing they do is "easy."

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.