Editorial: Let’s hear from the teachers

Published 10:44 am Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tom Sorenson talks to the Albert Lea school board during the open microphone time at the school board meeting on Monday.

Tom Sorenson talks to the Albert Lea school board during the open microphone time at the school board meeting on Monday.

It’s time for the teachers to speak up.

Throughout the public debate on the school calendar, which first hit this newspaper last March, there has been a call by residents of the Albert Lea district to hear from the teachers.

Indeed, they have heard from teachers who are in favor of the proposal, which would extend the school year to start in early August after the Freeborn County Fair but provide more breaks mainly for the sake of remedial education.

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The public heard from teachers in favor of it most prominently at the final of three forums, and they have heard from them through the teachers’ union, which came out in favor of the calendar change.

But throughout the debate over the course of several months there has been talk here and there about how teachers who oppose the proposal are afraid to speak up. Community members have and always will have one-on-one talks with teachers and hear what folks are saying.

But was it rumor or truth?

Along came one teacher, Jo Ann Erickson, a social studies teacher at Albert Lea High School, who spoke up in front of the board meeting Monday. She confirmed it was truth — that many teachers are afraid to speak up.

Teachers are an asset. They are college-educated professionals, a whole lot of them working for the same tax-funded entity. They cannot be managed in the same way that workers in a factory, clerks in a pencil-pushing office or just about any typical crank-it-out workplace can be managed. They have to be given the academic freedom to be faculty, to be teachers, to be the intellectuals they are.

In turn, the community receives more than merely people who educate our children. We receive a group of people who can guide and advise our community on matters such as how to educate our children, what’s best for creating the next workforce and even finding ideas for community fundraisers.  Yes, sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong and sometimes they are divided, but what matters in making the best community decision is the dialogue.

There is no better way to get in touch with the pulse of the community than to open our minds enough to say that every opinion is valid, even if we disagree with it.

So it is time to hear from the teachers. Speak up, whether it is at public forums, through our Letters to the Editor or other means. This editorial, we should add, was not our idea. We were asked by a few community members to write it. That in itself is an example of how the district residents want to hear from teachers and have wanted to hear from them from the start.