To The Editor:
Just read Jeff Parsons’ letter to The Missourian (5/21/14), in which he thanked the students for their outpouring of affirmation in the wake of his “retirement” from Washington High. Over the years I’d overheard many of his students acknowledge what a great teacher Mr. Parsons was — even though he expected a lot from them. I would like to add my voice to that chorus of students.
One of the incidental perks of teaching and subbing at Washington High was exposure to Mr. Parsons’ free-wheeling conversation about current events, history, social issues, the joys and trials of teaching, etc. — all informed by his engagement in what he taught so well.
He loved teaching history, and loved his students. Such a teacher tends not to love the endless distractions that threaten this core interest. (In the teaching profession, the distractions sometimes go by the name of “professional development.”)
Mr. Parsons apparently had the character to evade those time-consuming sessions convened to splice and dice curriculum into ever finer slivers; or to draft reports of imaginary accomplishments — whose success is then validated by the announcement of even more meetings. Such is the way of lumbering bureaucracies: the more meetings, the more reports recklessly multiplied by technology, the greater the fatuous sense of accomplishment. Many teachers feel that all of this destroys the concentration needed for the classroom; but it is to Mr. Parsons’ credit that he declined to smile and pretend.
Such frankness does nothing to enhance the self-esteem of those who imagine they are our educational leaders.
What I have expressed here is my own surmise, independent of what Mr. Parsons may or may not think. I just thought it should be said that the real loser in this affair is not Mr. Parsons — he’ll surely find a way to express his considerable talent — it is the students at Washington High School.