The following letter was sent to State Rep Gerald Stebelton, Chairman of the House Education Committee today. The author kindly allowed us to reprint a slightly edited version of it here at Plunderbund.
Dear Representative Stebelton,
I am writing today partially because of your quote in today’s Dispatch where there was a discussion in which a group known as “Students First” claimed that a master’s degree mattered very little in the quality of instruction students receive and that after five years of teaching experience, except for high-level science and math, such experience in the classroom made little difference in the quality of education a child received. You are quoted right after this assertation as saying “People should be paid based on their ability and skill, not based on some pre-established formula that only advances by the number of years you live and the days you’ve taught, because that really has no relevance to capability as a teacher.”
You, sir, are wrong.
When you became our elected representative and were made Chairman of the Education Committee, I had great hope that you could become a positive advocate for public education in this state, especially as your wife is a retired Lancaster City Schools teacher, the exact same school system where my father was an administrator for many years and in which I have now taught for twenty-one years.
I, and many others, have been greatly disappointed in your service to our district. When it comes to education, I do not think that you do the right thing for education in general or for the funding of public schools, and therefore I think that the children of this district, and the state, suffer in the long run. I cannot recall one single instance when you weren’t dead wrong about education, and you have only continued that trend today.
If you don’t think that any professional gets better at their jobs after five years of employment, then I can only wonder what kind of work ethic you have. I certainly hope that you and any lawyer that works for you are better now with experience than they were in year five of their law practice.
I know that I am a much better teacher than I was sixteen years ago. The experience that comes with effectively teaching in the classroom only builds upon itself year after year. I can recognize learning problems with children far quicker than ever before and have a vast arsenal of ways to respond to student needs and create excellent educational lessons for my students than I have ever had in any year of teaching previously because I keep working to get better at what I do every single day. If you got to year six of your profession and stopped trying to get better at what you do professionally that is your problem; don’t assume, sir, that all other professionals are just like you.
My wife and I are both teachers in the Lancaster school system and both earned Masters from Ohio University to help make us better teachers. My wife’s master’s is in Special Education and she uses that knowledge every day in her classroom to help her students, all of her students, become better learners. Without that master’s degree she would still be a great teacher, but with it she is an even greater teacher. A teacher with her same years of experience teaching but without that masters degree would be nowhere near as effective in knowing how to best reach, help and instruct those students, which is proof positive that you again have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to classroom teaching.
My master’s degree is in Social Sciences and I teach social studies. This extensive master’s program taught me so much more about history and social studies than I ever knew with my initial degree or personal studies since I graduated college. I took complex, challenging courses on the Supreme Court, World War Two, the Civil Rights Movement, Federalism, the Russian Revolution and many more, where I learned vast amounts that I have passed on to my students through my courses in the years since earning my degree. This master’s program made me a much better teacher and only benefited my students as I could pass on all that I learned. I have taken many other courses since then on my own, including one about metacognition and teenagers brains and the way they learn, and I am currently taking a course right now on how to change how I grade to better evaluate how my students learn in the classroom.
If you really don’t think that extra years of classroom experience and extra courses don’t make a person a better teacher, then you are simply not paying attention. Lancaster High School is not that far from your law office in downtown Lancaster. Maybe you should come down sometime and I can introduce you to some fantastic veteran teachers that work hard every day at their jobs and constantly strive to get better at what they do.
Neil is a social studies teacher for Lancaster City Schools where he has 21 years experience teaching.
He knows that he works hard at an important profession and believes that teachers and public education should be appreciated, looked up to and valued as they do very important work. He is tired of feeling that his profession and his peers are constantly under attack when he knows that they are not the enemy.