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[Susan notes: As the reader who sent in this letter notes: "I admit to being rather angered by the assumption that public school teachers are motivated by the paycheck, which seemed to be where the author was going initially, but the ending more than makes up for that annoying assumption at the beginning."]

Published in Commercial Appeal
11/27/2006

To the editor

Reading about the city schools' failing report card (Nov. 11) reminded me of the fallacy of the Nov. 4 article that announced Memphis schools' $18 million incentives program to recognize outstanding principals and teachers based on teaching skills.



If public school educators make much higher salaries than non-public school educators and if non-public educators generate a higher percentage of students with proficiency in reading and math, then why would more money be considered the main contributing factor to motivating teachers to excellence? I was angered when I thought about the greediest; those already motivated by the paycheck are now assured that more money makes them better teachers -- a fallacy that those with more are better.



As I see it, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a grant to someone who now has a job. They are to create a video of classroom teaching methods and ideas that principals develop to hopefully motivate other educators. I can see self-motivated teachers spending endless hours planning creative lessons just for the spotlight, and principals spending precious time scurrying about to make news and create extra programs that make them look good in the public eye.



These novel ideas take away from teaching basics, from class time, and are often proven less effective than when initially used. Also, teachers may be very creative but use it in an ingredient that does not translate to academic success in students.



As with most things, the almighty dollar is not a motivator to teaching excellence. The best educators are too busy being an exceptional instructor to worry about a reward. Creating a competitive environment among administrators, faculty and students only serves the person with sights on a prize and generates a hostile environment where jealousy flourishes.



I suggest they spend the $18 million grant money on what directly benefits students. Develop and give teachers hands-on resources that will stimulate knowledge in math and science. Make available provisions that help create an environment to create a reading experience. Provide healthy food for underprivileged children. Spend time and money to coach students in developing lifelong habits of good nutrition and exercise. These help teach self-discipline. Self-restraint encourages attitude control, promotes hard work, develops self-assurance, and gains pride in success. Success breeds additional success.



Sharon Schaade


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