The more teachers deal with behavior problems, the less they can teach

As a teacher, all I could do was sigh after reading The Sun editorial board’s position on school discipline (“There are better ways for Baltimore County to promote school discipline than suspending students,” Oct. 30).

This is a moment where we need to listen to those who encourage schools to be more like private enterprise. Suppose Facebook headquarters was besieged by graffiti artists. How silly would it be for Facebook to request “more training and support” for its software engineers? It’s easy to recognize that software engineers’ skills do not align with Facebook’s problem.

Similarly, teachers are first responders in the social-emotional turmoil that is at the root of many behavioral issues. We stabilize the situation, keep everyone safe, deescalate and manage until someone capable and skilled in dealing specifically with such issues arrives. The problem is — as the editorial illustrates — the capable, skilled person increasingly is the teacher. Teachers do amazing work, but we are trained to help students develop numeracy skills, explore the scientific process and analyze and compare texts across time periods and genres. We can do more, but there is a cost. If we are to be responsible for the social-emotional development and well-being of students in serious, sustained ways, something must go. Is it our planning period? Our lunch? Do we teach fewer classes? Grade fewer papers? Have a longer school day?

Teachers spend their days putting out fires and trying to teach. We can ask them to do more, but we would do better to follow private enterprise and allow teachers to specialize in what they are trained to do: teach.

Adam Sutton, Towson

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