Letters, Sept. 12
Volunteer art educators is not the solution
Could volunteers solve our school budget problems? Many in the past few months have suggested that one way we could provide our Regional School Unit 20 students with a quality art program without the expense of art teachers is to accept volunteers as teachers for our students. Students would have the advantage of the expertise of artists who work in a wide range of media. This would seem to be a wonderful way to save money. As a recent teacher in the RSU, I'd like to add my perspective to the conversation.
Historically, volunteers have been welcomed into our schools with reservations. Not that teachers don't trust or want them to help, but that teachers don't trust that we can count on their consistent attendance. Our art teachers, and other itinerant teachers, come to schools at their scheduled time each week, without fail, and provide their well-planned and prepared lessons to our students. Volunteers have other work and personal lives. They come when they can and cancel when they must.
Art teachers plan projects with their student's developmental levels in mind. These lessons often span several weeks to work on a project to its completion. They know that they will have every child in their classroom during the day, no matter the child's challenges. Unable to speak, or move conventionally? Unable to attend to directions? Unwilling to participate? Yes, they take them all and deal with them, consulting with classroom teachers and others in the school. They are trained to do these things. They are teachers. I've known of volunteers who refuse to work with certain students because they are “difficult.” This makes things very hard for classroom teachers to use art time as a preparation period, but also denies students access to art instruction. This isn't the way schools work. We teach them all, no matter what. Teachers have the training for it.
Also, art teachers prepare a supply budget and use these items in their lessons. Would volunteers be bringing their materials along for use by 100 or more students each day?
Volunteers often start out the year in an energetic manner with great enthusiasm for the work and the best of intentions. When faced with the realities of school life, their attendance often drops off to nothing. Now the classroom teacher has no planning period and must provide a lesson during this time, which is another preparation for him or her.
Oh, by the way, background checks and fingerprinting will be a requirement for volunteers at their own expense. If you have a problem with this, you won't be coming to our schools at all.
I do know of volunteers who are as regular in their attendance as the classroom and itinerant teachers. They come and do their jobs as agreed and do them admirably. They are rare individuals and classroom teachers and administrators are very thankful for them. But they are few and far between, darn it!
Although the idea of volunteer art instructors seems like a solution to one of our many budget problems, as you can tell, there are many difficulties with the idea. Now, don't even get me started on volunteer custodians.
War not the right course in Syria
I agree with the principle that those who commit atrocities should be brought to justice and punished. However, we must consider the consequences, not just the righteousness of our actions.
What if the U.S. strikes Syria as punishment for using chemical weapons? Assad, who is struggling to rally Syrian citizens behind his dictatorship in a brutal civil war, would almost certainly use our attack to galvanize people behind him. He could accurately declare that he withstood the rage of the world’s largest superpower.
Assad could well be the only victor of our bombing.
Then what? Emboldened, perhaps he uses chemical weapons again. Whatever he does, our intervention will have handed a victory to a tyrant.
If you back President Obama’s strike, and if it plays out as I have outlined here, I worry what your constituents will think of you. Will it be: Senator King made a thoughtful, if mistaken choice? Or will it be, Senator King didn’t think it through and made a stupid choice?
You could advocate for humanitarian efforts instead. This could save lives — many more than a bombing that strengthens a despot.
Please do what you can to have the U.S. choose a wise, and not simply righteous course of action.