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Straight talk from classroom teachers

THERE are nearly 2.5 million classroom teachers in the United States. As scholars document the need for reform and politicians debate how to effect those reforms, these teachers teach. They teach in the suburbs, the cities, and in rural areas. They teach children who speak English and children who don't. They teach math and composition, science and history, art and gym. They are the frontline, the people who deal directly with our 39.5 million schoolchildren every day.

But what do they have to say about education?

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Here are comments from some of them.

What would you like to say to parents?

One of you parents, if at all possible, stay home. Be there when the kid comes home. You won't believe the payoff. I have seen so many kids who don't want to go home because there is nothing to go home to.

They are looking for direction, some sort of recognition, some feeling of accomplishment. If mom and dad aren't there, the kids are going to seek these things from their peers.... Parents need to be there when their kids need them. Jerry Nydegger, physics Redwood Falls High School, Redwood Falls, Minn.

Too many parents are more concerned about athletics than they are about academics. I can give a kid one grade during a nonathletic season and I don't hear anything. I give the same grade during an athletic season, and I hear. What is that saying to the kid? Dave Kerkove, social studies and athletic director

Burt High School, Burt, Iowa

That their attitude toward school is vital. The parents who are supportive and work with the school, their children do better no matter what their ability level is.... Get to know the teacher. I don't know any teacher who gets upset by a parent who wants to get to know them, who wants to talk about the child. Judy Barnes, kindergarten Rutherford Elementary School, Mesquite, Texas

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Your child's education is the most important thing he is accomplishing. Therefore you need to emphasize that by your actions, by the things you require of him. Spend as much time reading at home as you do going to a soccer game. Make education a priority in the child's life. Debbie Spence, Grade 2 Dennis Elementary, Oklahoma City What is the one thing the public does not know about education and teaching that we would want them to know?

They don't know how good and competent most teachers are. The teachers I know are very serious and thoughtful and competent practitioners. The teachers who are interested in teaching, who still have a vision, are in the majority. But there are many who are tired, disillusioned, who can be reenergized. Alice Seletsky, Grades 5 and 6 Central Park East School, East Harlem, N.Y.

I don't think they understand that things have changed since we went to school. The kids I grew up with all came from homes with two parents. There is a whole different emotional situation when there is one parent or a situation where the child switches back and forth between parents. We didn't have households where there was drug abuse. We didn't have to deal with that when we were little. Gail Dent, Grade 4 Grijalva Elementary School, Tucson, Ariz.

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