FREEPORT — I’ve read in the Portland Press Herald about teacher shortages all over Maine. I was reminded of a conversation with my daughter Kate. When she was a high school senior, I believed she would be a great teacher. She said, “You’re kidding me, Dad. Teaching is nothing but bad news and low pay. Teachers in Maine get blamed for everything that goes wrong.” Kate was right. Even when schools do well on those meaningless assessment tests, the teachers’ role is trivialized.

Last year I had two grandchildren in the Amanda C. Rowe Elementary School in Portland. The teachers there face the daunting task of teaching large numbers of children from many different cultures for whom English is a second language.

The teachers at Rowe School should have gotten medals for the miracle they created. I observed how they built a safe community where growth and learning happened every day. What a wonderful place is Amanda C. Rowe School. The assessors said that academic progress was “flat” at the Amanda C. Rowe School. “Flat”? God help us.

Maine teachers have been underpaid. Really, there is no status in teaching public school here. Teachers are denigrated regularly and even legislated against. People who don’t know a thing about the complicated business of teaching now say things like, “We need to hold these teachers accountable. That is the reason they are so ‘flat.’ ” Accountability means somebody ain’t doin’ somethin’ right. And who are these unaccountable slackers? The miracle workers at Rowe School.

Another slap at our teachers is called the “windfall elimination provision.” Legislators denied teachers a large chunk of Social Security benefits because the legislators apparently believed that the full Social Security benefit – the one that teachers contributed toward their whole lives through the second and third jobs almost all of them have to have – would constitute this “windfall.” This “windfall” provision doesn’t affect teachers in 35 other states, but it does affect teachers here in Maine. What does that say to a prospective teacher?

Paul LePage had the combination of pigheadedness and ignorance to get himself elected governor of Maine. He did that by putting into words what many voters believe. They must believe it – they voted for LePage twice.

“Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he values vocational training more than traditional education, and that classroom teachers are ‘a dime a dozen,’ ” the Morning Sentinel reported Aug. 17, 2017.

LePage said that teachers could be replaced by computer connections, and that public schools in Maine do not prepare kids for college. He recommended that Maine parents should look to private schools for college preparation. Is it any wonder college graduates look elsewhere for teaching jobs?

I’ve been fortunate. After I learned how to teach literacy I started working with teachers around the country. I showed them how we teach in Maine schools. I worked with teachers in every state and several places in Canada. Often these young people approached me with stars in their eyes saying how they might want to come and teach in Maine. I told them not to bother. “In Maine teachers are treated like they are ‘a dime a dozen.’ Look for a job in New Jersey or New Hampshire, or New Brunswick or any new place, even in Ireland. Look for a place where teachers are valued. Teach anywhere but Maine.”

So I’m not surprised about the teacher shortage. Really, I don’t see anything in Augusta that gives me hope for the future, either. People will have to wake up if our schools are to survive.

Meanwhile, I’d like to thank our Maine teachers for hanging in there. You are the best.


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