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Utah teachers need help, not competition

In a recent Deseret News editorial, it was stated the average number of students in a Utah classroom is 23 or 24. The same editorial said Utah students' writing abilities are lacking and the competition of charter schools might bring about improvement.

In the Jan. 25 Money section, LaVarr Webb also advocated charter schools, saying what public schools might need is a little competition, funding loss or both. He also said public schools are lethargic.I don't know where the Deseret News obtained the statistic about the average number of students per class. I only know the reality of my room. I usually have 30-35 students at a time.

Of my four preparations (senior English, junior English, junior honors and ESL), two are new to me. Preparation takes time. Sometimes I feel ready when the bell rings; sometimes I don't. The ESL (English as a second language) class is offered for the first time this year. How much money could my vice principal give from an already stretched budget for a yearlong class? One hundred dollars.

English classes are just as large as any other academic class. The counselors' computers show a possible cap of 38 students. Yet English teachers are expected to assign and read massive amounts of student writing. I have a total of 161 students. If I were to assign a one-page essay for every student each week, I would have 161 pages to read and evaluate. Essays should be at least two to three pages. You can now suggest peer editing or volunteer readers. Peer editing can be helpful, but it provides only limited help. The volunteer reader program in our school never happened.

Paperwork can be daunting. For the quarter that just ended, my teaching assistant and I corrected more than 1,900 quizzes, tests, notebooks, portfolios, book reports and essays. I resent the implication that I'm lethargic. I think exhausted would be a more appropriate adjective. Webb says change is coming rapidly to all sectors of society and schools must scramble to keep up. I scramble just to make it through the day.

While the rest of the world becomes more technologically advanced, our school gets left further and further behind. Our writing lab computers are 8088s, one step down from 286s. District people have installed 20-40 meg hard drives, which make the computers capable of running Word Perfect 5.1, but not much else.

My room is wired for the Internet, but it's not connected. Because my building is not attached to the main building, we are having license difficulties. It's too frustrating to take my 33 students to use the 12 computers in the Career Center. The server for the whole school is a 486. Old computers mean we use old software. Our version of Netscape is so old, computers crash constantly. Information superhighway? More like information dirt road.

My students can't write well because I don't have the time or facilities to teach them to write well. I don't need threats of competition and funding cuts to make me run any faster. I need help.