I read with interest the July 21 article, "Barnes targets out-of-field teaching." The governor pinpointed critical concerns of all professional educators; but his focus is much too narrow.
Just as important and maybe even more serious than high school physical education teachers teaching math, are unqualified teachers of young children responsible for beginning educational careers; primary and elementary school principals with only high school experience, who receive little if any transitional training; classroom teachers who must teach mainstreamed special needs students without support from specialists and without special training or specially equipped classrooms; and decisionmakers with no background in education.
Georgia teachers are aware of the need to place a competent, caring teacher in every classroom. How do we do that? First, we must acknowledge the difficulty and importance of the job. We must support teachers by restoring the courtesy and respect due to them.
We must understand that teaching a student requires the best work from every member of "a team" and that placing one discipline above another in importance, salary, or benefits weakens that team. And, finally, we must encourage teachers to engage in continual professional development, and then reward them appropriately for doing so.
Much of the political debate surrounding public education in Georgia centers around the idea that teachers do not want change. Nothing could be further from the truth. The public must understand, however, that for change to take place, a groundwork for change must be laid.
We must provide time within the teachers' compensated work schedules for them to learn and develop new techniques. We must narrow their list of existing responsibilities before adding new duties. We must encourage them to try new things and be creative in their approaches to meeting the needs of very diverse populations.
Most importantly, we must elevate the educational profession, so that it is competitive with the other professions in our country...
Andy Baumgartner, Augusta
The writer was honored as national teacher of the year for the Council of Chief State School Officers.