Sunday, March 25, 2007

An answer, heavy on the vigor.

Recently Boston put to me a list of questions that should probably include PhD, JD, MBA, and MEd degrees as prerequisites. Since it was a response to an equally complicated query about abortion and gun control, and even though he ducked the question I posed, I'm gonna choose the wrench. Why? 'Cause fuck him, that's why.

Excuse my candor, but I'm a little drunk on Sapporo. See, I got paid last night at midnight, and decided to treat myself to some grocery store sushi and two imported beers. I'm hoping that 44 ounces of beer, combined with the NyQuil I'll take around 8 (because I've been fighting a cold for about a week) will knock me out early enough to leave me with the energy I need tomorrow:

Wake up at 7 (later than any other teacher I've heard of, public or private) go to work, direct traffic in the parking lot, teach five sections of two classes (better than most loads nationwide) pay three dollars for a shitty lunch in there somewhere, get behind the wheel of a full sized school bus (I got the CDL on my own time, thanks) drive 90 minutes to a game, coach for two hours, drive home, wait for the kids to get picked up, drive home, and try to hammer together lesson plans for Tuesday in time to pass out before midnight. I'll be paid just under $100 for my efforts tomorrow.

Pity party aside, I'm drunk on a Sunday afternoon eating sushi. If you'd told me I'd have a job that would afford me this opportunity in college, I would assume that I'd have followed approximately 40% of my college classmates into law school. I don't live a bad life, but the life I lead is below the standards of most Ive League graduates. The question I get most from kids is "Why are you doing this? Didn't you go to Columbia?" I laugh it off. There are a million things that I hear as a teacher from my kids and my family (don't you want a job that might, um, reward you a little more?) that I laugh off. The one thing that kills me is when strangers at a bar ask what I do.

"I'm a high school history teacher."

"Wow, that's great. You know what, I've always thought about doing some teaching."

FUCK! YOU! You thought about it?! Does anyone else get an answer like that? "Oh, brain surgery? Yeah, I've considered dabbling in something like that." No one says that, because they know they couldn't do brain surgery. But they think they could teach. That's the key issue. There is no respect in the profession, largely because the need for teachers is so great, that just about anyone CAN get a job teaching. But many of them suck at it. Thus, the cycle continues.

The best way to increase the desirability of teaching positions is to increase the salary. Triple it, whatever you need to. All of a sudden those people who condescend to me will try to get the job, because they're soul-sucking moneygrubbers, some of whom (despite my insults) could be excellent teachers if they were rewarded monetarily. Teaching would become a desirable job, driving the applicant pool up and allowing the best to be hired. So yes, Boston, call it a panacea if you'd like to demonstrate the vocabulary your education provided. Greed is good, and all that jazz. Strike up the band, the cliches are raining like cats and dogs.

The one problem it doesn't solve? Firing shitty teachers. If you had a brilliant applicant pool but no vacancies, and couldn't get rid of someone who was terrible, the system continues to fail. As far as the quality of administrators, I believe it's analogous to the teaching situation. Managing a school has its own peculiar issues, but a phenomenal manager will never take a job in a high school if he could do a similar job for three times the money at a business. Raise those salaries, too, and you will get better candidates.

Money can help these issues. And your question about raising taxes is answered thusly. You're right to suggest that many people who want education to improve often accept a slight tax increase. I don't want a slight tax increase any more than I want that backhanded compliment in a bar. Crank them way up, because I agree with you. There's nothing else worth it.

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