Sunday, February 17, 2008

de Composition

Science Teachers are in Demand.
You Could Have Fooled Me.

My husband is a Science Teacher. He teaches high school physics as well as integrated science. He loves what he does, has a passion for doing it and I really admire him for it. I just wish he could do his job and be free to focus on being his best so he could be happy along with it. Being his best is what makes him happy and when he's happy he can be his best. Is that too much to ask?

Unfortunately, life in our home is becoming more and more like the latest lab project: simulation of a landfill decomposition.

I hear a lot of crap about public schools lately and it aggravates me. I am not against home schooling or private schools either. I feel that parents should do what they feel is right for THEIR children. Period. If you want to home school your child, do it. If you want to send your child to private school, do it. Find a way to make it work. Work WITH your children whatever you decide, that is the most important part. So long as your child can become a productive part of society, you're contributing to a greater good. The parents really are in charge when it comes to the education of their children. I wonder how many parents know that. They have the right to say no and ask for more and to make change. (Both the verb and the noun.)

I know that's easy for me to say, my kid isn't even 2 yet, but I have worked inside of the public school system. I've been a student. I've been an instructor. I've been support staff. I've attended public school. My siblings have attended private school. I've attended vocational school. I've attended university. I've served on a curriculum board. I'm married to it no matter which way I turn. I consider myself to be an educated parent and I will use that one day when the time comes for my son to go to school. The plan is to stay involved.

The bottom line is that everyone tries to do their very best when it comes to providing a quality education. You have to know that people who serve in the field of education, any type — public, private, home school — they don't do it for the money! They do it for the passion of educating – to say the least. When I say they though, I am referring to the people in the trenches. The people who are not looking at the numbers and the money and the test scores and the reputation. Those people do it for different reasons and I have a hard time believing it's for the passion and the cause. They do not serve, they manage. Mange to get by is sometimes how it seems. For starters, their pay checks are a lot larger. Their perks and benefits are more bountiful. But they stand a lot to lose if they don't mind their Ps and Qs. Many of them walk away sooner than later and the mess accumulates.

Are you still with me on the landfill analogy?

I'm getting sick and tired of the blame being thrown at the teachers and the support staff. When are people going to look at the administrators and higher-ups a little more closely and hold THEM accountable for the decisions made? It's not just the TEACHERS who have to jump through hoops set ablaze with fire each and every time. We all know how this affects the students, the main cause for the concern, but not many stop to consider the families of the teachers that poor management decisions affect.

Burning Ring of Fire

[To the Administrators and People in the Decision Making Position:] When you ask a teacher to jump through a hoop, you are also asking his/her class and students jump too. When you ask a teacher to jump through a hoop, you are also asking his/her family jump too. Do you consider the full range of consequences for all involved when you create these rules and mandates? In whose best interest is it really? Where are the measurable goals?

I find myself questioning this often. Like this landfill decomposition experiment, I wonder if we will watch some pieces break down into nothing while some just remain the same.

I'm Proud to be Married to a Teacher, but...
Since my husband is a Science Teacher in the state of AZ, the wonderful law known as 'No Child Gets Ahead' mandates that he has to take 12 credits of Life Sciences so he can teach 'integrated' science to 9th graders and be considered 'Highly Qualified.' This is the state of Arizona's interpretation of the law I might add. Never mind the fact that he is able to complete and satisfy the worksheet known as 'HOUSSE' handed down by the state. Never mind the fact that he has already passed a test they recommended he take (and pay for out of pocket) (with flying colors) that was supposed to have proven his 'Highly Qualified' status — and later was decided it did not. Never mind the fact that his transcripts list above and beyond what is needed in credits for a bachelors degree to be able to teach college preparatory physics to high school students. And, this mind you, is just for one of the bachelors degrees he holds – with honors, I might add. Never mind that he was hired first and foremost as a Physics Teacher and is now required to teach outside of his area of concentration.

Multiple Choice
  • Is this his fault? No.
  • Does he want to keep his job? Yes.
  • Is this a threat? We wonder.
  • Why is it so hard to find and keep good teachers, let alone Science Teachers? See above.
Even though he is good enough on paper and in black and white, pen and ink and number two pencil, it is not good enough for someone and I've lost track of who exactly. The school's CYA file, I believe.

Ok, so I'm not trying to brag about my husband's accomplishments, but I am proud of him and will shout if from the mountain tops. Someone has to. If I don't, who will?

I might also add that they don't even care to specify the courses he has to take. All they want are for the credits to appear on his official transcript. They don't care so long as he gets a C average and the courses are within the area of Life Sciences. Plus, he has to complete it within a set amount of time on top of teaching his normal course load full time. He's now grading homework on top of doing homework.

We're all for professional development to make sure all teachers are at the top of their game, but this is not helping anyone. It's satisfying some draconian mandate and that's all.

Where is the Return on Investment?
So why am I the one whining about this? I'm just the wife, right? Wrong. I'm the other half of this business venture. It's our bank account that the money has to come from to pay for the 12 credit courses he has to take. Yes, it comes out of OUR pockets, not the school or the state who requires it. That means a larger strain on the one income we are surviving on. Can it be reabsorbed by the umbrella of 'professional development?' Sure. Over time. But who knows what additional expenses will be required. We have no way of knowing for sure if this will be an ROI. There is no measurement in place in order to be able to answer that conclusively. What other occupations require you to spend money to better yourself and then turn around and tell you it's still not good enough?

If I didn't know better, I'd say that the teaching profession appears to be one of the biggest codependent relationships that is continuously exploited at everyone's cost and for no one's perceived benefit.

I also whine because this additional strain in work load not only means less father-son time, but it also means reduced wages for me. That can't be good. Since he's been taking these courses, currently 2 at a time, he isn't as available to help care for our son so I can leave the house more often and go make some money. That makes me a little cranky. I like a break once in a while and I like to make money while I'm on my break. Day care is so expensive that it just doesn't make sense for me to work full time especially for the peanut shells I was making when I did full time in the education services field. One of us doing it full time is bad enough!

On top of the assignments he brings home to grade, he now has his own assignments and labs. So, I chip in where I can getting supplies ready, counting beans, digging dirt, building a simulated landfill in a soda bottle. I can't wait till we get to grow some Sea Monkeys! Yeah, like we don't have better things to do.

All I can say, is just like a landfill, it's beginning to stink. We'll have to find some way to work through this together and find some better solutions to deal with the crap that keeps piling up on us. I know we will (be cliché) and rise above it. We will strive to be a part of the solution and not the problem. It will not be easy, but we can not let it bury and dissolve our passions.

I have hope that we can make change — the one that is the verb. Although, the noun would be really, really nice too!

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