To the editor:

I have taught in this community 30-plus years in two different school systems. To this day, I think it is the most rewarding career, and I continue to love working with children. I have seen many former students grow up and have children of their own. We have great families in our community!

There have been many changes in education throughout my years; some that I feel have been awesome and others I have doubted but continue to teach as I am directed.

Families are blessed with choices of where to send their children. I know teachers in all of our local schools, in our state, and actually across the country. They are some of the most caring and hard working people I know.

I have had good evaluations, and on a whole, feel I have done my best for my students.

Something happened yesterday that has me doubting some of my decisions.

Sitting in a group of six students while reading a wonderful story in a series, "Against All Odds," I asked the question, "What is imagination." One of my students who is relatively quiet, asked, "Do you want to know the teacher definition?"

I replied I guess so, not sure where this was going. He answered, "Imagination is what teachers don't want us to have in class."

I was stupefied. Finally, I asked, "Why would you think that?" He explained his answer as students aren't aloud to draw in class.

When replying that imagination also has to do with what we visualize in our minds, another student added that probably one day the teachers will be able to know what they are thinking. Laughing I assured them this would not happen. I hope that I am correct.

This conversation has played over and over in my mind. Having any one of my students thinking that imagination is something that I don't want them to use in class is a knife in my heart. Was not imagination the seed for every thing we use and do? My hope is that my students will continue to imagine new inventions, ideas, things we cannot even fathom right now. Is this not the reason for teaching them in the first place?

Where would one of my students get such an idea? Then it hit me - he used to draw in class while I was teaching and I would take his papers.

You see, part of our evaluation is having 100 percent of your class engaged 100 percent of the time. I did some soul searching about myself. Last week at the gym, on the treadmill, listening to a novel, reading the closed caption on one of the monitors, smiling and saying hello to people as the walked by me, was I not engaged? Then I asked myself, when have I ever been with a group of more than 20 adults where there was 100 percent engagement?

Just where has this ludicrous idea come from? I am not totally sure but The Rise Evaluation does come from the top. So OK, I think of the times I have watched televised federal and state level meetings. Were not some of them talking, writing, and even sleeping during those important meetings?

My intent of this letter is not to complain but to generate some thoughts about our children.

I see this comment from this wonderful student as the most important evaluation I have gotten in my teaching career. I will take his constructive criticism and will try to be a better teacher.

Pam Zehren

Madison