My husband and I have been immersed in the NCAA basketball tournament for the past month. We do this every year – giving up hours upon hours of our week nights and weekends, filling out brackets, cheering for teams with whom we have no geographical or emotional connection. It is glorious.
Tonight’s game is VCU v. Butler. I decided to do a little google searching, and I came across this article about coaching salaries and bonuses. I have never been one to harp on the injustices of public school salaries – I chose to teach, and I’m grateful for the monthly allowance and the experiences that teaching has given me. However…
I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if someone with money valued what I do as much as they value what Calipari, Smart, and others do each year. What if I had a higher salary? I will admit that my job now technically does not take into account my performance (test scores) as a teacher. What I am suggesting has its flaws. For a moment, I even found myself thinking, “They get paid more because they accomplish more.” But do they really accomplish more?
Granted, we can never fully compare the job of a basketball coach to that of a teacher. There are too many unique variables. Then I came across something that closed the gap a little more. VCU’s overall field goal percentage per game (during the regular season) was 43.6%. Numbers are a universal language. For example, last year one of my Civics & Economics classes was 94% proficient on the final exam – one of them scored an 80 and was not considered proficient.
94%. 43.6%. I know what you’re thinking. It would be more fair to compare VCU’s overall wins, right? 71%. Clearly a good record, but not quite as accomplished as my 94%. And yet here I sit, finding myself grateful for a $30,000/year salary while reading an article outlining enormous bonuses for coaches who probably couldn’t explain the law-making process, or who probably don’t spend time discussing the Constitutionality of Writs of Habeas Corpus.
The logical side of me knows why this is the way it is, and part of me sometimes agrees. The public does not pay for tickets to come watch me teach (though I would highly recommend it). I don’t bring in any income for my school. But the idealistic part of me dares to assert that I do something better and much more important – I educate. And I don’t just educate those who have already proven to be the best, or have a natural inclination towards my subject. I educate everyone and anyone. Because even though my salary would lead me to believe otherwise, what I do is important and lasting.
This weekend I thought it might be a good idea to catch up on some parent contact. Each week I send out an email update to the parents of my students (the ones who have working email addresses), but personal communication is much more effective than a bulk email. What I didn’t know was that I was about to embark on the most epic fail ever.
First I tried to make phone calls. Two students in particular have been giving me big problems in one class. They’ll probably start a riot this week. Each has at least two phone numbers listed in our database. None of them are valid. None. So I tried email. As of 10:45 pm, every email address I tried was returned, for various reasons. The most recent was returned because the user’s account was “suspended”, whatever that means. Sometimes when I make parent phone calls, the number goes to the Dollar Tree. Instead of giving their actual phone number, parents provide the number for the local Dollar Tree.
Tina Fey, when you produce my dramedy, pay close attention to the ridiculousness that is parent contact. I am expected to solve in the classroom problems that started years ago at “home”. Schools are not a remedy for every social issue the public faces. They are merely a reflection of those problems. If I am to fix those problems, then parents must also be held more accountable. And give me donuts.
That’s an actual quote from one of my students today. And it only got worse from there.
What’s that type of fallacy called, when you’re arguing, but then your argument falls apart because of a flaw? Oh right, it’s called a LIE. I caught my student in one today. Imagine you’re a 15-year old, and you loan your cell phone to a friend. Then, imagine that the teacher spots your friend texting on it during class and confiscates it. You are upset. You claim that you need it back right away because you are leaving early to go out of town. Being the reasonable teacher that I am, I strike up a deal – stop by my room on your way out of town and you can get your phone back in exchange for a lecture and a cold stare. Done. Fast forward to 7th period, the last class of the day. The halls are flooded with students making their way to the gym for a pep rally. I step into the hallway and nearly run into you, the student who has lied to me about leaving early. Very unfortunate. When confronted, you tell another lie – “I left and then came back.” Your friends laugh. You have been caught.
Tina Fey will need to dig deep in order to cast this award-winning dramedy of my life and career.
In the midst of all of these funny-yet-sad stories, I would be remiss if I did not draw your attention to this editorial written by our school board’s chairman and published in today’s paper. If the tales of my students provide some comedy, his thoughts certainly provide the drama to balance it out. Above all, it is a reminder of the remarkable things teachers everywhere do with less-than-remarkable resources. Instead of folding under pressure, financial and otherwise, I hope we can all rise to the challenge and use this as an opportunity to reshape the way public schooling is done.
One summer I had a job as a nanny with a wonderful woman who taught me a lot about a lot. Her son was two at the time, and going through quite the tantrum phase. Early in my time with her, he started pitching a fit about not getting what he wanted. He began screaming so loudly that I started to move towards him. His mom stopped me though, and over his screaming she said, “No. If you give him what he wants, he’ll never learn to change his behavior.”
If you’re as interested as I am in the role the Federal government has been playing in public education lately, then you’ll find this release fascinating. You can open it as a word or pdf document, in Spanish or English. Go ahead, take a few minutes to read through the publication being distributed to parents across the country.
“Low performing schools.” Let that sink in. What’s the subject of that sentence? That’s right, “schools”. Schools are the ones doing the “low performing.” Not the students. Not the community. Not the parents. Just the schools, and the teachers who represent them.
Thank goodness Arne Duncan and the Department of Education are here to throw $6 million at the lowest performing schools in America. And it’s all outlined in this wonderful pamphlet entitled “Does Your School Need a Fresh Start”? At first, I felt as if I were about to watch a 30-minute infomercial detailing the latest car care system. It is a good publication though – short, concise, easy to read. It almost had me agreeing with everything in it. Until I realized what it was proposing.
What does it take to turn a school around? “Stronger school leaders”, better “professional learning culture”, “more learning time”, and more “student supports”. Only once did it mention parental engagement.
How will this turnaround take place? In a very organized fashion. There are four options – one involves getting rid of the principal, one entails cleaning house altogether, and the other two involve closing the school completely.
It left me to wonder – if we just give the parents what they want, who is going to teach them to change their behavior?