Daschle learns lesson from teachers Monday by David Lias Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's main goal Monday was to find out a bit more about a federally funded writing program for teachers.
He strolled out of a University of South Dakota classroom following an hour-long meeting with 15 area educators after learning a great deal more.
The teachers, all participants in the four-week South Dakota Writing Project Workshop, answered Daschle's queries about the program itself.
The senator then expanded the scope of the discussion. Topics ranged from teacher pay to mandatory testing. The participants told him that low pay may discourage young people from seeking careers in education.
And nearly every teacher who spoke to Daschle Monday adamantly opposed mandatory testing, noting that students are shifting their focus to studying for the tests rather than concentrating on curriculum.
"Is there such a thing as common pitfalls as you learn writing � things that teachers are prone to do that are mistakes?" Daschle asked.
"For many, many years, we haven't addressed, or had the language to talk to students adequately about what they are doing in writing," said Carol Hefling. "And for those of us that have gone through this whole process, here we are and now we have language, we have what we need so that we can talk to our students adequately about what we are doing."
The teachers participating in the program teach a variety of subjects in a range of grade levels.
They are required to put together a two to three hour presentation which includes a writing presentation. Teachers learn to coordinate and see how writing in other curricular areas is done.
The program, for example, is not concentrated only on language arts. Teachers learn effective writing in other subjects.
"What I'm surprised at is the universal applicability of what you're learning," Daschle told the teachers after learning that the program is relevant for all educators, ranging from kindergarten teachers to college instructors. "It surprised me that you could teach the same group of people the same thing regarding of circumstance, and get as much out if it."