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To the editor:

I read your cover article “Zero Tolerance” [September 8]. While generally well-written, there was a glaring insight into the writer’s teaching methods. Specifically, he writes, “[I was] a little preoccupied because I had nothing planned for my first-period class, which began in ten minutes, but otherwise feeling pretty good given that it was Monday morning.”

I am a teacher and someone who made a midlife career change to become one. I am fortunate enough to be teaching at a Catholic prep school in the inner city–our students are from working-class backgrounds, in general, and also from families who place a great emphasis on education, with many financial sacrifices.

I have also substitute taught in the Chicago Public School system for several years, so I am well aware of issues facing teachers in that system as well.

Mr. Michie tells us that he headed into his first class of the day, after a weekend off, with NOTHING prepared. His care and concern for his students’ learning environment is underwhelming. Every successful teacher I have observed (and I hope to consider myself in that category, eventually) is, if anything, overprepared. Classroom time is precious.

You cheat students of learning by not preparing. Even more importantly, you are sending a message to them that they are not significant enough for you to spend time and effort on them. I knew, going into my teaching career, that students were–and continue to be–experts at reading subtle clues. Students interpret your teaching efforts as indicative of your level of caring for them as individuals. And they are swift to judge a failure.

I love my new career and I have wonderful students. While Mr. Michie may be a good writer, he is not someone I would want to be my child’s teacher. There are many talented teachers within the CPS. I have had the opportunity to observe some of them through student teaching, observation for university classes, and substitute teaching.

Mr. Michie does not appear to be one of them.


Maureen Welch

N. Wayne