LETTER: In Support of Greenwich Teacher Kathleen Beinstein

Submitted by Meryl Sole and Danette Littleton

The Authors: Dr. Meryl Sole is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music & Music Education at Columbia University Teachers College and Adjunct Professor of Music Education at New York University. She and her husband are Greenwich residents with two daughters in the Greenwich Public Schools.

Dr. Danette Littleton is a retired music teacher and  Professor of Music Education who authored landmark research on children’s musical play. She is currently writing a series of children’s books and is co-authoring a book with Dr. Sole called “The Children We Teach: Perspectives, Practices and Pedagogy” that will be published by Rowman and Littlefield.

Kathleen Beinstein’s letter to the editor (Greenwich Teacher: “I am sad to hear the contempt for teachers.” Oct 22, 2021) made us sad and therefore compelled us to address the current climate of anger and vitriol directed towards teachers in this community and across our country.

As teachers we feel a responsibility to speak up in support of the educators who work tirelessly for our children. Never before have teachers been blamed for conspiracy to harm their children; from the one-room schoolhouse to the school rooms of today, teachers have been relied upon for children’s care beyond instruction.

Ms. Beinstein dedicates her own time outside of her classroom to running a kindness club for the students at Central Middle School. A kindness club! Just think about that for a moment. Is it Ms. Beinstein’s job to teach our children prosocial behavior? Yes it is. 

As teachers we go beyond teaching facts and figures to inspire children to be better humans and citizens. We foster creativity, critical thinking and a love of learning. As parents, we too, are responsible for the social well-being of our children. Would the irate parents want their children to model their behavior as witnessed in this public setting? Would they send their children to bully others or want their children to be bullied? Or, would they benefit from problem-solving skills that teachers use everyday when conflicts emerge?

If we predetermine what and how teachers teach, how are they able to respond to the students in their classrooms? Good teachers know how to step back and let the children become agents in their own learning. Yet, we are creating a climate where teachers are scared to rely on their training and their instincts to allow children to lead. Are student questions off limits? Are we too frightened to embrace our children’s curiosity?

The teachers in your community are highly trained professionals. They spend years in school studying childhood development, curriculum, lesson planning and many other areas of teaching and learning. Lesson plans without any freedom for your teacher’s expertise or your child’s inquiry and direction stifle teachers and harm students.

Maybe it is time to figure out how to support our teachers as partners in our children’s education. Can you do more than sending in a card or baked goods for teacher appreciation week? Your children’s teachers want you to be engaged. You should ask questions and feel free to disagree. But do so with gratitude and respect. When you show kindness, compassion and dignity to your children’s teachers, you model these behaviors for your own children.  It takes a village not only as the proverb says – to raise a child, but to bring about truth and healing to this fractured society.