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[Susan notes: This letter is posted for the comments it provoked from Monica Hart-Nolan:

Principal Tamayo makes the same tired points about teachers: that they must be selfless saints, in the same mold as clergy, nuns and missionaries. But do clergy, nuns and missionaries get blamed and criticized for trying to be of service in an unjust world? Principal Tamayo contributes to the worn but popular notion that teachers fall into one of two categories: selfless saints or lazy union slouches.

If "no amount of praise showered on teachers will ever produce the kind of dramatic results we need to close the achievement gap" then why is Arne Duncan coercing states to tie test scores to teacher evaluations and hence to their compensation? Why all the policy talk about teacher quality and luring the best and brightest to the profession? It seems impossible to have it both ways. People doing important work such as teaching, healing the sick, or ministering to the spirit deserve support, respect and respectful compensation. Too bad that in our capitalist, consumerist culture those who choose to do work without "regard to reward or remuneration" are most often treated with the greatest disrespect.


Published in Washington Post

To the editor

Sarah Fine suggested in her Aug. 9 Outlook commentary, "Schools Need Teachers Like Me. I Just Can't Stay," that many members of her generation, the so-called millennials, shun teaching because not enough prestige and recognition are associated with the job. She's probably right. But no amount of praise showered on teachers will ever produce the kind of dramatic results we need to close the achievement gap -- because, at its core, teaching is never about the teacher.

Teaching requires an intrinsic desire to serve in the interest of students and their families. As one of the new co-principals of the very school that Ms. Fine left in June, I am proud to note that the Chavez Schools aim to teach students the value of service to their communities and their nation. An important lesson that we will teach our students is that the best service is done without regard to reward or remuneration, perquisites that have historically accompanied careers in medicine, law and business. Indeed, at this moment in our history, it seems appropriate to note that reforming our dysfunctional public education, health care, and financial sectors will probably be accomplished by citizens more interested in serving others than in garnering praise for themselves.

Joaquin R. Tomayo, Jr.

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