Friday, May 25, 2012

Merit Pay? We Already Have It

I'm going to keep this simple so everyone ... even the experts on TV ... can understand:

Teachers get small, regular increases in pay.

Except in our state - our salary is frozen - but let's pretend for this example that pay raises are routine.

This year I'm twice the teacher I was last year: I have several hundred more hours of experience under my belt. I'm better in all areas. Content, class management, value to my school, etc.

Next year I'll be far better still. Experience + training + more schooling / mentorship = better.

I'm a good teacher. One day I hope to be great - and the system in place is prepared to compensate me each step of the way on that journey.

I agree - merit pay is a great idea. So unfreeze my salary, and let's get on with this thing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teachers in the News: Some Perspective

It's fun to make sport of teachers doing outrageous things ... talking heads and blogs come alive with chatter when something silly, stupid or scary happens.

I did a little research, and there were 7.2 million teachers in the U.S. in 2009, according to government data.

I teach for a solid 4.5 hours, minimum, a day. Someone help me with the math, but I think that 7.2 million teachers times 4.5 hours a day = 32,400,000 hours of teaching a day.

Thirty two million hours a day! The question isn't why teacher gaffes occasionally cross the media radar screen, it's how we have so few questionable teacher actions reported.

The answer is what we in the field already know: Most teachers are great at their jobs.

I'm sure if everything I said was uploaded to YouTube, I'd be blushing at times. And so would you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Superintendent's PR Push

NC State Superintendent of Schools June St. Clair Atkinson is calling for us (teachers) to help spread the good word about the positive things we're doing in our public schools.

For me it's often as simple as countering "You all get three months off!"

Nope - two months, unpaid, filled with planning, conferences, meetings and much needed rest you'd never understand because you've never tried teaching.

As a PR pro I'm thrilled to see our superintendent A) blogging and B) calling for self-advocacy.

The teachers I know work way too hard, and care way too much, to sit back passively while others decide their collective fate again and again ... it's our obligation to intelligently and respectfully shape and guide dialogue concerning the issues we know best: Educational issues.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week

I'm so grateful for all of the great teachers who've been a part of my life ...

For my administrators who give me an hour of time when they literally don't have 5 minutes ... in the midst of their tornado-like days.

For my mentor, who's helped me personally and professionally as I'm adjusting to education.

For the college professor who worked one-on-one with me, as we put together the student newspaper ... he's one of those special educators who gave selflessly, and just might leave this earth never fully realizing his impact.

For my most important teachers: My parents. Thanks for the moral compass you've instilled ... though I may drift, I always know where to return to port.

Teachers do affect eternity, as one of my favorite teachers (and mentor) reminds us in her email signature file ...

... thank you everybody!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our Salaries ... Exposed!

Here's a link to a local Washington, D.C. TV news outfit, hyping a broadcast about their database of public workers' salaries.

Wow, this must be quite a scoop: "Watch and our broadcast tonight at 11:00 for an exclusive report where we'll give you White House reaction and agency explanations.

We'll also show who gave out the largest average bonus, and who paid the largest average salary."

This gotcha game and fake journalism is disturbing: Implied, of course, is the spoiled government workers are making out like bandits. As a teacher of two years I'm already quite used to this type of "reporting" ... I constantly hear TV pundits bemoaning our huge salaries and cushy union jobs*.

The Charlotte Observer has a database of CMS school employee salaries online, though the reasons appear far less sensational. Observer Education Reporter Ann Helms wrote to me:

"A full public payroll lets reporters and taxpayers truth-squad what officials say about everything from layoffs (are higher-paid employees being targeted?) to conflicts of interest (if relatives of public officials are on the payroll, someone is going to notice)."

Helms does a great job of reporting on our area schools, but if you want to get a glimpse of what the public thinks, the comments from her blog post on this topic are extremely telling (and entertaining).

Personally, I have no issues with the sharing of my salary. Just ask me and I'll tell you that I make 30K and change for the chance to work my butt off.

It's the "Us Vs. Them" mentality, furthered by agenda-driven talking heads, media outfits, and misinformed politicians, that is ultimately harmful for everybody.

*Those of you who read me regularly caught the sarcasm here: Unions are illegal in my state, and our (comparatively low) pay has been frozen for years.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Teachers Make Great Hires

Our district lost another new teacher to corporate America recently; I didn't know the guy well, but by all accounts he's sharp, put together, and very competent.

I've seen a lot of smart companies specifically recruit teachers: They understand the intensity and complexity that comes with our jobs.

A teacher with a few years' experience has taken it on the chin, several times, and kept on moving forward. That Monday morning staff meeting with the good coffee and the pastries, going over everyone's client account status, doesn't seem very intimidating after wrestling with 30 squirrelly freshmen during fourth period as summer draws near.

Big presentation due? He just gave 180 consecutive big presentations, to an often disinterested and challenged audience. Your product is hard to sell? Try selling history or math to a teenager every day.

Teaching isn't a job, it's a calling - and unfortunately sometimes really good teachers are called away from education because $30,000 and change isn't enough to live on, year after year.

I guess until we start taking education more seriously as a nation, and treating teachers with the respect they earn and deserve, we'll remain a fantastic training ground for corporate USA.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Self-Importance Put into Perspective

This woman just made my day ...

I got to the end of a story on MSNBC Tech about an 11 year-old boy who tinkled all over a cart of school computers - costing his school $36K in the process - and found this delightful blurb about the author:

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook. Also, Google+.

In an age of self-important journalists, social media experts, and all-around know-it-alls spouting off 24 hours a day, her sense of humor and understanding of context is refreshing.

Me? I'm just some dude with less than two years' experience in the classroom, going blah blah blah about values, and yikes! society is crumbling, yada yada.

Thanks Helen. I'm going to turn off the computer and do something important - spend time with my son.