The NH Union Leader Is Wrong, We Need Teachers Not Volunteers In Our Classrooms

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Once again the ultra-conservative editors at the NH Union Leader have completely missed the mark.  Today they published an editorial on the idea to use “volunteers” to oversee virtual classrooms.

This ridiculous idea came from Mayor Gatas as a way to expand charter schools and reduce the cost of education in Manchester.

“Mayor Ted Gatsas is posing by advocating that virtual learning classrooms in Manchester’s public schools be headed by volunteers, not teachers.”

Here is the plan as laid out by the NH Union Leader:

“The mayor wants to expand learning opportunities in the public schools by providing “virtual classrooms.” Students could either take a course through the state’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School”

This is a bad idea and I will explain why.  Have you ever watched a YouTube video on how to change a sink drain?  It seemed very easy as you watched the pre-recorded video, right?  Then what happened? You got started, and something did not go the same way as it did when you watched the video.  After playing with it for a short time you end up calling the plumber and paying someone to not only fix the original problem, but fix your mess too.

Now imagine if instead of a sink drain, you are teaching children mathematics, or english?  We can all agree that every child learns differently and at different paces.  When that child has a problem and needs a real live person to answer it, who do you want helping you child?  Do you want a mom or dad from the parents association, or do you want a professional teacher?  Do you want someone who has been trained to teach children of all levels and abilities this specific material or some parent who has a kid in the class?

The NH Union Leader says that the Manchester Education Association has “Concerns” over this idea. Of course they have “concerns” over this, it is much more politically correct than telling you boss (the mayor) that this is the dumbest idea you have every heard in your entire life.

I completely reject the editors comment that, “the MEA is really concerned about union membership and compensation”.  No the MEA is not concerned about membership, they are concerned about the quality of education being provided to the students in Manchester.  After all they are dedicated professionals who have devoted their lives to helping teach children.

The Union Leader likes to complain that our education system in New Hampshire is failing our children and we need things like Students First or Charter Schools to fix them.  It is ideas like these and ‘virtual classrooms without teachers’ that would completely destroy public education in NH.  You want a better education system in Manchester then start by finding a better ways to fund it. Put more teachers in classrooms and fewer students in a class.  Give them the tools they need to teach every child, not just the really smart or rich ones.

Every child deserves a quality education. 

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  • hannah

    We should have some sympathy for state and local governments since they find themselves in the same situation the countries which recently gave up their own currency to join the Euro now find themselves in.
    It is practical to have a common currency, instead of having to rely on money changers as we move from place to place. However, when the issuer of the currency, like the keeper of weights and measures, aims to control production and trade by limiting the availability of what is, essentially a tool, then we’re in trouble.
    Since Washington is the issuer of our currency, the only real purpose in levying and collecting taxes is to keep the money moving, as well as spending to promote the national interest. Keeping the money supply moving seems a significant task because so many people seem inclined to hoard it or ration it out of pure orneriness. The Congress rationing funds is particularly pernicious because, if money is like any other commodity, rationing prompts hoarding by everyone else.
    Keeping state and local governments in constrained circumstances is not just a happenstance. When current receipts are constricted, local governmental bodies have little choice but to borrow from the banks and pay dividends on bonds to people who don’t want to be taxed. So, our leisure elite gets a tripple treat — low or no local tax and unearned income that’s not taxed either by the state or federal government.

    Calling for volunteers is wanting people to work for nothing, as if the only thing wrong with involuntary servitude was that it was involuntary.

  • mevansnh

    The problem is that for decades, teachers have not been thought of as “professionals” by conservatives. When I began teaching in the mid 1960s that was the case and it appears to continue to be that case. To conservatives, teachers are more like nannies or “hired help” and it is inappropriate to pay the “hired help” much more than a base wage.

    Since this diary is about education, I thought perhaps this might be a place to leave this information which I found in my email today:

    “Three civil liberties organizations filed suit today in Strafford County, N.H., Superior Court to challenge a statewide tuition tax-credit program that would subsidize private religious schools.”

    I knew this was going to end up in the courts when the conservatives passed it a year ago. It is basically a back-door movement to a voucher system of education, which is contrary to the NH Constitution, from what I’ve read. Any thoughts? How much will this cost the state?

  • Aahz

    Sorry, Matt, but your YouTube analogy just doesn’t hold water (pun unintended). Virtual classrooms are not YouTube videos but two-way interactive communication. To be more accurate would be to say when something goes wrong, the plumber who made the video will talk you through it. And what’s wrong with that?

    My daughter went to a virtual high school with both credentialed and uncredentialed online “helpers”. In some cases it was the professional teachers who were best able to engage her and help her through sticky learning situations. In other cases the professionals were no help and it took the wisdom of an “amateur” to lead her down the path of understanding.

    One size does not fit all.

  • Matt Murray

    I do not know what it will cost for the state, but I do know that paying for religious schools is against the state constitution. They tried to get by that with the voucher bill they passed last year but they could not sneak it through.

    The NH Labor News also publishes posts about vouchers and education issues from AFT/NEA. You can see some of our past articles at NHlabornews.com just search vouchers or public schools.

  • Matt Murray

    AAHZ,

    I am not saying that virtual classrooms do not place. I think they are better suited for as an addition to a learning program, rather than a primary education. Also, are all the classes available on the virtual academy live one on one with teachers or are some pre-recorded?

    • Aahz

      Just to clarify: my daughter went to virtual school in California. (http://www.k12.com/cava)

      It was a mix of live and pre-recorded classes with groups of students. One-on-one sessions were available with both professional and volunteer teachers for further clarification. I also hired an individual private tutor (who was not a professional teacher) to help in the classes in which she was struggling most.

      I know next to nothing about the specific proposal in your post. But personal experience has shown that a professional teacher is not always the best person to teach a specific student.

  • frant

    While it sounds like a great idea to have volunteers assist in the h.s. when the students are taking “virtual” classes, the general history is that volunteers are in it for the short haul. We PAY people to perform tasks because we can then make certain demands (getting to class on time, watching out for improper behavior, etc). There are many older individuals who would make great mentors but let’s not think that they are ready to take on supervision of a classroom full of teens!

    • susanthe

      That’s a good point, frant. Also – volunteers don’t HAVE to show up, and they can quit any time.

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