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Leading Them On

February 10, 1986

Why teach?

Why, because of the regular excitement of seeing a child break through a mental block and truly grasp subtraction or want to read a poem. Why, because of the payoff that comes months later when a student remembers a teacher's description of fog as "clouds touching the earth."

And why, because California and the nation need thousands of teachers over the next decade as older professionals retire just as student populations swell again. United Teachers of Los Angeles, the city's teachers' union, wants college students to see why teachers teach in hopes that they, too, will enter the classroom to help combat this shortage. To encourage that decision, the union is sponsoring a program to place college students as observers for a day or more in classrooms throughout the school district in coming months.

There are more than 200,000 undergraduates in colleges around the Los Angeles area, and the union is working with those colleges, its own members, and school administrators to try to match any student who wants to participate with a teacher who will help. For those students who like what they see, there will be summer institutes for which the union is raising money from local corporations and foundations. The union will also encourage young people interested in teaching to work as interns at their local school.

The union has the support of Gov. George Deukmejian, Mayor Tom Bradley and School Superintendent Harry Handler in its effort. Leaders in the program meet Feb. 12 with staff and students from area colleges to encourage their participation. The project deserves the widest possible support so that the young people who will be tomorrow's teachers can prepare themselves today to spread the joy of learning.

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