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WALK A WEEK IN A TEACHER'S SHOES

I believe it's my turn to get a few things off my chest regarding the teacher strike.

I am a teacher, not a baby sitter. I do not merely keep children busy while their parents work. I teach them about the world around them, and give them the skills to live in it. I encourage them to have and accomplish goals and to recognize their importance to society.

The major issue in our strike was never salary. The media were extremely irresponsible about informing the public.

Buffalo teachers are also the proud parents of Buffalo public school children. We also heard the news at 7 a.m.

I make $20,000 less than the "average" teacher does, so that statistic is useless to me. That figure also does not include probationary and temporary teachers.

My work day is more than 6 hours. Just ask my principal, who has to force me out the door. Just ask the spouse of any teacher.

I love my kids. Just ask anyone who has seen me cry for them or pull my hair out trying to help them understand.

I am setting a fine example for my children. "Fight for what you believe in." "Public opinion is not always right." "There are two sides to every story."

Yes, I chose teaching. Two months of summer vacation, personal days and health insurance. But I could have chosen a big-money field like medicine, sports or business.

Private industry also has its perks - tuition reimbursement, expense accounts, holiday bonuses. My school's allotment of petty cash is $20 per teacher. I have already spent that in school supplies for my kids whose families can't afford them. What about the books, prizes, pictures, posters, games, decorations, supplies, teaching aids and replacing what students have broken and/or stolen?

While many kids come from good homes of loving and supportive relatives, just as many others do not. I work in one of the poorest schools in the city. My kids have parents who are in jail, parents who do not come home, parents who are 14 years older than they are and parents who have no parenting skills.

I teach kids who have babies at home, who are starved for adult guidance, who take care of multiple younger siblings, who have criminal records, who have been molested, who have seen and experienced physical abuse and who are mad at the world. They do not leave those problems at the door. They bring them into my classroom, where I alone have to deal with them before I can teach them anything.

To those who think that we are whining, I say this: Walk a week in our shoes. Take an active role in your child's school and find out all that is involved in a day.

LORI BELL

Buffalo

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