Yeah, I’ve been quiet here of late. Because, I’ve been trying to be on my “best behavior.” You know, try not to stir controversy or rant or generally be myself. To avoid politics and religion and the things you don’t say at dinner. There are very good reasons to do so, as I’ve been told. Continue reading
This book has received a lot of harsh reviews on Goodreads, and I’m glad I hadn’t read them and picked it up anyway.
It’s a little different, quirky if you will. The P.I. isn’t really in work mode — he’s on vacation. He gets asked informally to look into things, but most of the characters are pretty stoned most of the time, so it’s not an insistent request. Which is maybe where the book gets its bad reviews. It’s not as much traditional mystery or even traditional private dick yarn as it is a noirish tale with a dead girl in it.
See, there’s a poetry prophet who used to be a homicide cop. And there’s his wife, the ex-con. And there’s a ultra-conservative pot rancher. And a Indian deputy who’s into art. And a Russian bartender who also hunts mushrooms. I get that all sounds too quirky and too crazy, but for me, it totally worked.
I liked the meandering plot because it seemed to fit the people and the town, which reminded me of a California version of Belfast, Maine. I didn’t mind the poetry outbursts — in fact, I found them kind of endearing and I’m not great fan of most poetry.
Pros: The quirky characters, the mellow vibe, and the beautiful setting.
Cons: Some people may be put off by the pot and the politics.
So, plenty of people will tell you teachers are underpaid. And the Wall Street Journal, which is riding high on the internet love for Wall Street by going by WSJ these days, would like you to believe otherwise. The New York Post has similar ideas but for different reasons.
Their reasoning? Lots of teachers have degrees in “education” which are easier to get than degrees in other fields. (This is in part because legislatures and boards kept upping the bar on people who’d been in the field for years or offering petty “bonuses” to get a degree, bonuses that never really offset the cost of the degree. And, of course, universities are profit centered so they offer what they can get cash for. Part of the reason they’re so easy, by the way, is because they’ve been rehashing the same basic research since around 1965 but because there are too many hoops to jump through to get new research done — and the money’s in textbooks and testing anyway — the status quo is cutting edge.) Their other main reason is that teachers, on average, apparently score lower on standardized tests than private sector employees. Their numbers are that teachers come out around the 40th percentile.
Now, sure they have a caveat about teachers, and they single out math and science, who might have degrees in other subjects or higher scores. It’s a throwaway thought, though, and it even comes across that way in the article.
Before I get into the rest of my rant, let me just say that I don’t have an education degree, something that gets me looked down upon in education. I have a BS in business (and spent nearly a decade working in them) so when people tell me education should be run like a business, I know what I’m talking about when I call them a doofus or worse. I have an MS in a branch of sociology. I have no recollection of my SAT score other than the first time I took it, I fell asleep during the math section because I’d had to get up at 4 and drive two hours to the test. I do know the last time took the GRE, I scored in the 97th percentile on the verbal section, the 75th percentile on the quantitative, and the 84th percentile on the analytical writing section. I was a little disappointed in the math and writing scores. I’d totally take it again if I had an extra $160 or so lying around. My LSAT scores were a little more dismal as I was only in the 74th percentile there. I knew it when I was done with the thing, too.
I’m not throwing that stuff out there to brag, but to illustrate a point. When you talk about an average percentile, you’re putting your statistics in a blender to begin with. You’re also leaving the “I suck at math” people with the idea that all teachers are dumb. Some of us pull the average up and my reading coach pulls it back down.
But, see, I didn’t get into education because I wanted the easy way out of a “real job.” I left one of those so-called real jobs to teach. I was more curious than anything because of my sociology research and it was more secure than the other industry I was in at the time.
And don’t think I’m not frustrated with the people around me who make more, know less, and couldn’t get out of a wet paper sack if offered monetary and food-based motivations. Don’t think I’m also not irate that they’re the ones who get the cushy assignments and promotions because they’re the best at playing games and knowing all the right catch-phrases. Then again, isn’t that how all workplaces work? The lady who has to count out the days of the week on her fingers to figure out if it’s Tuesday yet gets the corner office where she won’t be doing much because that way she can’t screw anything up while she’s screwing the head of sales. And the odd little intern who’s memorized all the SKUs and recoded the database from scratch gets laid off because she rarely made eye contact and refused to buy designer shoes. See, education is run like a business.
And maybe, like business, the people who aren’t so bright are drawn to easy degrees and jobs that garner little respect and that’s caused all those numbers to fall over the years. If a person can get a job as a biologist, his chances are probably better at actually getting to do biology and getting payment and recognition than if he teaches it. (And I don’t just mean attaboys at work. I mean he doesn’t get that look of pity from people at social gatherings when he mentions what he does for a living and he’s also less likely to be attacked repeatedly in the media and by halfwits on Facebook for being in a scapegoat profession.)
The NYP meanwhile, goes back to the tried and true tactic of assuming teachers should only get paid for the time they’re actually in front of a classroom teaching. Not for the time spent planning elaborate lessons; or calling parents to explain why Johnny refused to participate in the elaborate lesson; or researching ways to get Johnny to finally learn phonetic blends or division or the parts of a plant cell. This is a little like saying a lawyer should only bill his or her client for the time he or she was actually in a courtroom. (And yeah, there are lawyers who don’t litigate and there are teachers who don’t work directly with a classroom full of kids. Pay attention.) Sure all that trial prep was time away from family and friends and playing golf or reading or whale watching, but hey, the client didn’t see it happen so it must not have.
When I worked in advertising, we didn’t push one of those little chess clocks whenever we were working direction on an ad and then stop it when we were waiting for information from a buyer or waiting for the printer or sitting in a pointless meeting. Why would teachers be different?
Or maybe we’re just having all the wrong conversations. Maybe instead of arguing over whether teachers get paid too much, we should start worrying about if everyone else is getting paid enough. (And by everyone, I don’t mean the CEOs living off capital gains and interest.) Instead of blasting teachers’ unions (some of which are admittedly corrupt but at no greater rate than any other sizable organization), maybe the copy-editors and IT gurus and accountants and nurses need to start forming their own unions, to start arguing for a piece of those pies that keep getting eaten by the top. Maybe instead of worrying about whether teachers are working enough of each twenty-four hour period, we should start turning our Crackberries and iPhones off while we’re eating dinner with the grandkids, stop answering banal work emails at midnight, stop tossing and turning over some widget proposal. Because America seemed to run better back when it knew when to go the hell home already.
“Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed — the 99%, or at least the 70%, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior — unless this revolution succeeds.” (Barbara Ehrenreich)
“Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.” (Lemony Snicket)
“Yes, there’s been some class warfare going on all right, if you want to call it that. It looks a little bit more like the Mai Lai massacre – the rich machine gunning the poor in the ditches and then whining about how it’s the poor’s fault.
Yeah, there’s a common theme here aside from “just” class warfare” and the “we have to stop them before they eat us, too” ideas. See, the country right above the US on the chart?
Remember how Chomsky mentioned Third World countries and the disparity that’s apparent if you drive through, fly over, see it on the news?
Yeah, I point out Venezuela in particular because almost twenty years ago I had the chance to spend a day in Caracas. I was with a tour group and a teacher who would’ve put a leash on us if she could have. They wanted us all to see the pretty architecture and the Fancy Government Approved Statues and the Tourist Approved Shopping Venue. They wanted us to look out of the bus windows at the tall glass towers and be Impressed. Properly Impressed. (Kind of like school tour groups today looking at the monuments and not the mass of people picketing in front of it.)
Which is to say, most of us saw the little shacks at the base of the mountains, crawling up the hills. The ones constructed out of leftover or stolen construction materials. The ones the Big Bad Wolf could have blown down without taking his vitamins. They were everywhere. Thousands upon thousands of families. This was before Chavez. Before poverty rose 10% between 1998 and 2003 alone.
Outside the Proper Shopping Venue? Hoards of kids trying to sell their worthless currency to some dumb American tourists for less than you’d pay for a pack of gum. Mostly small bills, because the kids had more product that way. $10? Yours for $1US if you were savvy enough. Why? Because the exchange rate was 114:1. A soda at a fast food joint? For $1US, I got change. Lots of change, in Venezuelan currency. Old women selling imported cheap jewelry for a buck or two to tourists. Tourists who thought they were getting a bargain, because in their eyes, they were.
This was back before most of those tourists woke up to find themselves the barrio-dwellers in their own land. Before they found poverty on the rise in their own country. Before some of them wished they had the option of selling their battered greenbacks to dumb visitors. (Course, we all know that’s no option both because they aren’t all that pretty and because boatloads of the things have already been shipped anywhere and everywhere.)
How did we allow ourselves to become a Third World country? How did we we let the super-rich steal at a rate of more than 400:1? How did we allow our politicians to get away with this?
How do we fix it? Can we? (Cause Venezuela sure isn’t fixed.)
I’ve spent part of the day cheering on the stupid stock market like it was wearing a jersey and I had a bucket of beer.
Stocks, douchebaggy Congresspeople, “compromising” POTUSes, poor kids rioting because they’re angry and out of a future anyway, students protesting, citizens protesting, recalls, endless wars… It’s the stuff of a George Orwell tale. Or Ray Bradbury. Or Suzanne Collins for that matter.
Which means Hubby and I have been listening to a lot of The Shakers lately. Old-school-style punk rock out of Margate, FL. For giving your inner anger something to yell about, they can’t be beat.
So, in the spirit of “our failed economy” and “start[ing] a revolution,” I’m tossing a challenge out into the void. Take as your inspiration, either the song “American Dream” from their current CD Crabby Road or “Bombs & Beers” from Good Enough. I don’t care what they inspire you to do. Pick any random lyric, the title, the “theme,” whatever. Make it about 1000 words.
I give you until Aug. 30th because that’s when I’m supposed to be registered for something so that date will be on my mind anyway. (It’ll also give me a chance to track down a prize or two). Prizes, you ask? Sure. How ’bout a free Shakers CD to… (honestly, probably a name from a hat because I hate being all judgmental unless I’m not asked to be)?
To hear “American Dream,” click here. (Writers may also find a new anthem in the “Booze” song under it.)
I want to write. I started on three flash pieces. I keep trying to edit a longer work in progress. I’m not terribly good at writing, but I usually like doing it, so I get frustrated when I just…can’t.
See, between all the shouting and the crazy-pants statements and the accusations and the nonsense and the unease, I just can’t concentrate. Normally, I’m all for checking out of reality and into my own headspace, but this recent media war hits too close to home. The home I have to pay the mortgage for. The home with my food in it. The home where my hubby and cats live. The home I can’t afford without a job.
Here’s the thing: I work in education. I know, I could have said I’m a mercenary who eats live puppies or a Warlock Terrorist who feeds kittens to Communist Hitler Dragons and you’d like me better.
I’m not sure when the tide turned. Growing up, teachers weren’t terribly popular among teenagers, though most of the kids in my classes thought of them as a necessary part of getting good grades and getting into good colleges and getting ahead. The adults in town were all for teachers, or at least for the most part. I mean, they’d stick up for little Johnny or Suzy if they really thought Johnny or Suzy was getting the short end of some random measuring stick, but more often, they’d beat Johnny and Suzy with the stick again when they got home. (Not that I’m advocating beating your kids, but stick with me.)
These days, I hear about all these “bad” “greedy” teachers who make 90,000 a year (where does Rand Paul get numbers like this) to do nothing but complain and get their unions to rape and pillage for them because they’re too lazy to rape and pillage themselves.
And I find I’m flabbergasted. I mean, I know the media lies. I know corporations lie. I know the government lies. But I thought everyone else knew this too. People honestly seem to believe people like Rand Paul when he says teachers are getting 80-90 thousand dollars of public money a year. Sure, some teachers make that much, but certainly not all. Some corporate executives make hundreds of thousands of dollars, get millions in stock options, and don’t seem to do much besides sitting around with a dart board and an employee roster figuring out who to cut next. Of the few teachers I know making that kind of money, they’ve been in system for thirty or more years and they work year-round either in correctional education or teaching summer school (so they don’t have those three months off, unpaid, that most teachers do). That’s three decades of experience. These are people who have master’s degrees in their subject areas, are endorsed for every exceptional student class you can come up with, who are National Board certified, etc. You’re telling me they don’t deserve to make 80,000 a year? Really?
Because the other thing I keep hearing spouted in the angriest of tones is that American Myth of “work hard” and you’ll get rich or at least get paid or you’ll not starve. This vitriolic blathering assumption that if “these people” who are living off the fat of the land had somehow just worked harder or done the “right thing” they wouldn’t need all this public money.
Except they’re public school teachers. They work for the public. Who else would pay them? And are you telling me that these people didn’t “work hard”? That they didn’t “do the right thing”? Most of the teachers I know come from the lower rungs of the social ladder. They’re the middle and lower middle class, predominately. They went to school, got good grades, got degrees, took tests, took professional development courses, jumped through every asinine hoop that was tossed their way by the legislative circus and came out of all that expecting a living wage. And you’re telling me they don’t deserve that? Really?
Just what else were they supposed to have done?
Are you telling me that in the private sector, you don’t expect to be compensated for your expertise, your years of experience that makes you know your job better than they guy under the overpass? And if not, why the hell not? Why are you fighting for your collecting bargaining rights so you can get corporations to stop handing your job to the lowest-paid jerk-off monkey it can find?
And evaluating teachers “like the do in business”? How’s that gonna work again?
For the record, corporations get to choose their raw materials. They get to choose what to do with those raw materials. They can decide if those blueberries are too ripe, not ripe enough or if they’d rather just replace the blueberries with gobs of blue high-fructose corn syrup.
Private and charter schools can do the same thing with their raw materials. There’s a charter school not far from Miami that routinely got away with keeping out ESE kids and ESOL kids for years. I’m sure their test scores are terrific.
The kid in his sixth foster home this month with the crack dealing dad and the locked-up mom? Public schools get him. The girl who used to test well before she took over her grandmothers ecstasy business and started sampling the merchandise? Public schools get her. Sure, private and charter could take her, but we all know they won’t.
And that public school will get admonished for not making her “proficient” in reading and math by 2014.
Imagine for a moment that we did the same crazy-pants thing with police officers. Let’s pass a law that says all cities will be crime-free by some random year and let’s fire all the cops if that doesn’t happen. You ready to move to that place yet? Why not? You mean cops alone don’t determine the crime in a city? You mean if cities became “crime free” you still wouldn’t want to live there because it’d be all paper lies?
You mean teachers aren’t solely responsible for your children from the time you squeeze them out until they get married? Really? You mean between you and your spouse and your family and friends and neighborhood and discipline, you have some say in how your kid turns out? You mean genetics plays a role? You mean some kids just decide they aren’t going to buy into whatever you’re selling no matter how hard you try? Oh. Really.
For the record, I’ve worked in corporate America. I’ve worked for small business America. And my performance appraisals never actually evaluated my performance. The raise, or lack thereof, had been pre-determined by how much profit the company stood to make after paying the CEO to waste millions on font choices and the rest was a mixture of how my supervisor felt about me, how he felt about the latest re-org, and whether or not he could figure out my current job title.
(I haven’t really gone back and edited this. I really just, after reading comments to newspaper articles, seeing Rand Paul on TV, and feeling somewhat vindicated by Chuck Wendig’s post yesterday, felt like I had to get all this out of my head so I could go back to daydreaming. I also applaud Dan O’Shea’s rebuttal.)
There’s been a ton of stuff in the Florida news the past month about a certain bill (SB6/HB7189) passed by legislature (and then vetoed by the Governor, which made the Republicans and Tea Partiers none too happy). Politically, the bill put Crist between a rock and a hard place — specifically between a army of rapid teachers, parents and students and an equally-rapid army of tea baggers party members. I mean, you can’t win a Senate seat in a state where you’ve pissed off the key players in education in a state that boasts three school districts of the nation’s 10 largest (and six of the largest 20 in the country). You also can’t win without the Republicans in a state that tends to be red everywhere except Broward County.
When the bill passed the legislature, bets were probably leaning toward Crist letting it slide — if not signing it directly, letting it sit idle until it passed anyway. I mean, he’s supposed to be a Republican. He’s supposed to be for screwing over teachers in favor of rich kids cutting salary budgets and slashing pensions for public servants so the state can afford more expensive corporate-created textbooks geared to more expensive corporate-created high-stakes tests. He’s supposed to be for keeping the poor down, ignoring the research that supports early-childhood education gains (such as Head Start and quality preschools of the kind rich parents can afford) prime kids’ brains during those critical years before first grade.
There are a lot of debates back and forth. One of my favorites, aside from the factory comparison, is this:
You see documentaries on teachers that are successful with ANY students, so it’s time we get rid of teachers that don’t want to deal with kids and all the issues and peer pressures they face. (calls teacher’s lazy)
On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore a message like this one (please click this link and read this poem because it really sums up the argument many teachers made far better than I could).
The poem writer is one of the teachers the previous quote alludes to… She’s one of those teachers who spends her whole day, most of her night, parts of her weekends, her money, her energy, on her students and job. There’s no room left for a family of her own. There’s no room left for separate passions, hobbies, interests, and friends — the sorts of things that keep people re-energized to go back to soul-sucking, soul-wrenching work.
Some of those teachers, like Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers fame, end up divorced or single — much like cops, now that I think about it — due to the job requirements and pressures. (Interestingly, Erin Gruwell only taught high school for five years — from 1993 to 1998 — before moving on to a professorship at a local university.) Overall, teachers tend to be average or a little above and manage to stick with the profession for an extended career; they’re bad at their jobs and eventually move on to administration, school board positions, coaching or other positions outside the classroom or other careers; or they’re exceptional at their jobs but burn out early and lapse into one of the other options. Even Michael Jordan couldn’t continue his best-year performance for 30 years.
There’s another political cartoon out there, one with the desks labeled to represent the problems students commonly come to school with these days, problems my lead teacher constantly rails about. Because, while the teacher in the poem has her share of issues, she hardly sees the slices of humanity my co-teachers and I find marching through our classrooms.
Students in Florida come to school homeless — there’s even a link about it on the main page of the school district’s website. Students in Florida come to school addicted to drugs, selling drugs, doing drugs, passing out drugs, hiding drugs or half brain-dead because of their own prior drug use or their parent(s)’ prior drug use. Students in Florida come to school speaking a multitude of languages, come from a multitude of cultures — some of which respect education and some of which do not. Students in Florida come to school pregnant or avoid school because they want/need to stay home an
d take care of their child(ren) — there’s a school in the Broward district designed to combat this problem by offering onsite day care. Students in Florida have abusive boy/girlfriends. Students in Florida have parents/grandparents/foster parents in prison, cemeteries, drug rehab. Students in Florida have committed crimes. Students in Florida have mental problems, issues, disorders that interfere with learning, social interaction, focus, behavior, impulse control, and the ability to refrain from harmful choices. Students in Florida worry where their next meal or fix will come from. Students in Florida wonder where they’ll sleep that night. Students in Florida also have access to the same national news that shows their classmates shooting each other, transferred to jail for beating a homeless man to death, setting each other on fire, kicking each other, shooting pregnant girlfriends…
Some try, despite all these challenges. Some don’t, even with minor challenges (like parental divorce, for example).
They’re defiant, disruptive, and they don’t care who they hurt — even if it’s themselves. They’ve been given power beyond their maturity levels and they wield it poorly.
In my classroom, all these problems that are sprinkled throughout the district — throughout the country — become concentrated. They come to me lacking basic skills most of the time (most are afraid of fractions and more than a few never learned the multiplication tables), though sometimes they’re labeled “gifted” or have passed Algebra 2. It would not be uncommon for me to teach a sex offender in the morning and a rape victim in the afternoon. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to tell a kid to quit rolling his paper into a “joint” a dozen times before lunch.
I do my best. I try to help the ones I can. When they come back, I try again.
I was a regional finalist for Teacher of the Year a few years ago (for the juvenile justice programs). On paper, I have the certifications (English and math for middle and high school as well as social science if I ever get around to paying the state for the privilege of adding that notation to my certificate — I passed the test months ago, but I’m unwilling to part with the $75). I’m working on a reading endorsement and an ESOL endorsement so I can teach juniors to slog through Dr. Seuss and I’ll know all sorts of exciting strategies to help the non-English-speaking students realize math is a universal language and their prior school was probably further along in the book.
I’m appalled that I can get in-service points toward renewing my certificate for “reviewing” pre-algebra (meanwhile, I’ve been considering taking an online calculus class because the slightly-more-interesting-sounding organic chemistry class only seems to be offered in the mornings (when I’m busy explaining decimals). I work with some very good teachers — perfect for the juvenile-justice populations — get run out of their jobs because they held certifications in something there was a shortage of somewhere else or because an administrator didn’t like them and I’ve seen others struggle to pass certification tests or get national-board certified because the material they get to cover is nowhere near grade level. (I’m qualified to teach Macbeth and trigonometry, but it rarely comes up because you just can’t make the leap from Sharon Draper novels to Shakespeare in 21 days anymore than you can jump from 23 x 17 to the cosine of anything.)
I often get students, brought in wearing handcuffs in the back of police or Sheriff’s cars, a few hours before the FCAT starts. How is their score indicative of my teaching ability — or lack thereof?
But all this is a wordy way of getting to this analogy, which fits perfectly. Would we judge dentists this way?