NC Teacher Pay Raise All About Appearances

The NC budget proposal which was  sent to the governor Saturday has been touted as historical, and it claims to give teachers in the state their most impressive raise perhaps ever.

And the Republican penned budget also does come with much hand wringing over the price tag. The rhetoric speaks more to how teachers should be grateful and simply accept this generous token and shut up than lets reward good teachers for their hard work and continued service to the State. Instead its we have to cut this and cut that to give them this raise. We are to forget that most of what is coming out of Raleigh is inaccurate at best and a flat-out lie at worst.

The truth is that the proposed teacher pay raise is a farce and most of the raise is window dressing. The proposed 7 percent raise is being funded in part by teacher longevity pay given to teachers who have 10 or more years of experience in the state as teachers.

Longevity was designed to reward veteran teachers for their years of service. A modest 1.5 percent of a teacher’s annual salary wasn’t much and now under the budget it is gone.

That money no longer goes to the veteran teachers but will be spread out to support the state’s plan to try and up the average salary to help the state look better in the public eye. That is what this all boils down to anyway; appearances.

The state is also taking funds that are used to hire teacher assistants and using that to support the pay increase so really it’s not necessarily a raise but a reallocation of funds. Some money from the State Lottery is being diverted into the pot, but really as much money as the state makes off that you’d think the lottery could single-handedly fund teacher raises, but that might mean the lottery commission and the money you know the state skims from it for other things would be less.

Yes as a teacher I may receive more money next year but when I compare that to the teacher pay steps from about 7 years ago I’m still making less.

It is the current pay scale that is drawing the ire of teachers statewide especially veteran teachers. In an effort to bump up the average pay for beginning teachers the state has basically told veteran teachers they aren’t important.

A first year teacher will make as much as someone 4 and 5 years in and the most any veteran teacher can make is maxed out at $50,000.

Combine that with end to longevity, taking away Master’s pay continued lack of benefits and you are left asking yourself who wants to line up to work for a state that treats their teachers, especially their veteran teachers like this?

The answer is simply fewer and fewer will and the veteran teachers will leave. So in a way the longevity may not be a factor because no good veteran teacher is going to want to stay.

Yet the state senate is patting themselves on the back and expecting everyone to be happy. If this was such a great thing for teachers how come more teachers are speaking out in protest of this plan than supporting it? It’s probably because those teachers are smart enough to see the raise for what it really is; little more than a Bandaid on an amputated appendage.

The fact is by giving the teachers a “raise” it looks good. Its good PR and that is about it. We all know though that appearances can be deceiving.

NC Budget: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Well North Carolina has managed to once again prove why it is one of the most incompetent states with regard to politics and its understanding of education and its needs.

Under its proposed budget the State  Senate Pro Tempore couldn’t help but pat he and his fellow politicians on the back for a job “well done.”

“To offer, at this time, the largest teacher pay increase in state history,”  Phil Berger said during a media briefing on Tuesday. And I’ll stop him right there at his obvious sentence fragment. My best guess is he is proud of the Senate’s accomplishments, and some how throws in the word historic to make it

Pardon me Mr. Berger while I go vomit. Despite your obviously impressive John Houseman name, you sir have no clue as to what you are talking about; either that or you are the complete and utter moron that I peg a majority of politicians these days to be.

The proposed NC Budget offers teachers a pay raise of “about” 7 percent. So far no explanation of what “about” translates to but being a math teacher it would equate to less than or equal to and I’d wager it would end up on the less than side before all the self aggrandizing by Berger et al is all said and done.

What Berger fails to mention is where that “about” 7 percent is coming from. The plan calls to move $65 million from the teacher assistant line item to pay for teachers. So the state essentially is stealing from moneys used to pay for much needed teacher assistants to give teachers like myself raises. Teachers depend on their assistants and not just in regular education settings in elementary school. Secondary schools and even the elementary schools have an increasing need for special education assistants. Those people are irreplaceable and the students who depend on them don’t function well without them.

Naturally it makes sense to those in charge who know nothing of education to pass policies and or budgets that would eliminate that resource. Pay Paul by robbing Peter to provide some window dressing and silence some critics; great idea North Carolina.

So to take money from funding those positions to give teachers a raise is sad and immoral, and this is coming from a teacher who hasn’t seen even a modest increase in salary in “about” 7 years. (See what I did there?)

It seems to me as much money as certain state employees get in comparison to teachers (4.5 percent longevity pay for staffers compared to 1.5 for teachers) they could reallocate some of that money in the budget where things are more fair and equitable. Teacher salaries are still among the lowest in the country and the excuse making won’t help with disgruntled teachers.

The problem is this, the state holds all the cards, they hold all the keys, and they don’t feel an ounce of pressure from any teacher organization and certainly not one teacher complaining in a blog. They are the “Agents” from the Matrix essentially.

A major reason why that is, is because North Carolina has an abundance of schools of education and they crank out new teachers yearly or bi-yearly so the state never has a shortage of local candidates. So they don’t care if veteran, experienced or talented teachers leave the state or teaching altogether, the bottom line for them is there will be warm bodies to go in the classrooms who can teach to the ever

If the state institutions of higher learning don’t crank out enough replacements then there are always the out-of-staters who come to North Carolina for the experience and then get the hell out of dodge and go back home to better pay benefits and treatment.

So it doesn’t mater to Berger or any of his cronies in Raleigh that teachers are unhappy. They will be portrayed as greedy and ungrateful for not happily accepting the “about” 7 percent pay raise and going about their day bearing the weight of all the criticism and expectations that fall on teachers thanks to other moronic government-written and initiated policies and programs. (Cough, No Child Left Behind, Cough Common Core, Cough Race to the Top, Cough, Cough, Cough.)

The historic budget is just another in a long line of window dressing designed to make the general public feel like education in this state is headed in the right direction but realistically its eroding at its core, a core of hard-working, talented teachers who are fed up, mad as hell and soon won’t be taking it anymore.





Censor The Rude Teachers

It has been a while since my last post so I thought I’d jump back in with a whale of a tale. Things weren’t exactly going well at my school up to this point but after the events that occurred the other day it is safe to say I work in a powder keg.

Dolores-Umbridge-Wallpaper-hogwarts-professors-32797016-1024-768It was just another ordinary Friday at school until our grade-level chair called us into the work room for an impromptu meeting. This couldn’t be good at 6:45 on a Friday morning. We knew it had something to do with a meeting called by our principal earlier. She had some things she needed to get out to the staff and her way of doing such is to delegate others to do it for her. She can’t handle all of us in one sitting.

We all sat down at the table as the grade level chair proceeded to tell us that we were all in trouble for a few things starting with questioning the decisions of the school administration as well as being “rude” to central office personnel who had come to our school to discuss results of the then recently released End Of Grade testing several weeks prior. We sat there all a bit perplexed and shocked as the department chair told us how the administration was sick of our complaining and questioning of their decisions.

Lets forget for a minute that some of those decisions have been highly questionable, extremely inconsistent, and flat out bad.

The straw that broke the camels back was when our chair told us that our administrator would write us up for questioning any of her decisions. We all sat their mouths agape, speechless. One of my coworkers very astutely said “so we are being censored.” She later made a great allusion to Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame. If I wasn’t mad about the ongoing events I would have been mad at myself for not having made that connection myself.

So, as it stands at my school we are not allowed to question any decision of the administrator without fear of a reprisal in the way of a write up that goes into our personnel file. I have to say I am seriously contemplating making such a move to call the bluff of the principal who has to date shown the worst management skills of any administrator I have ever worked for. When this happens I will go into her office and slide over a copy of the the Bill of Rights and ask her if she is prepared to continue through this process and infringe upon my First Amendment Rights. I seriously doubt she will, but I seriously doubt I’d get much support from the county office either if I complained to them.

They were in fact the other part of the “problem.”

They have thus far shown me very little in the way of effective management and decision making themselves. The fact that they sent representatives to our school to discuss the previous year’s testing data and the contrived means of measuring student/teacher growth wasn’t what bothered me. We knew the results would be bad, we knew we as a school had not done well. What bothered me was that they thought us rude for questioning the validity of the data, which if you know anything about, is highly questionable.

It started when I discovered an inaccuracy in the data they provided. They acknowledged the mistake but clearly did not want to dwell on it. Pardon us for wanting to know if more inaccuracies were present and asked questions. They treated us like Dorothy and the rest of her gang from the Wizard of Oz. We were supposed to over look the guy clearly standing behind the curtain.

When we pressed for more answers it became  clear to us that they were not prepared and or willing to answer our questions. Forgive a few teachers for wanting answers to the questions they have about these tests. Considering these test results determine our worth based on new guidelines it is hard for us to keep our mouths closed and sit their dutifully and be told yours scores suck be better.

They tried to sugar coat it and tell us not to take it personally but how are we not when we are slammed in the media, in the public eye, and by ill-informed politicians who clearly don’t get what education should be about when they sign off on these asinine policies.

We were rude for standing up for ourselves I guess. The soft skin central office personnel clearly didn’t like our tone so they complained and our principal never wanting to look bad in the eyes of her superiors, came down on us, through her messengers of course.

There is a big difference between what we did and being rude. If you want to see rude I can be rude. There is also a big difference between questioning and being insubordinate. If my principal asks me to do something I don’t like or agree with I will most likely comply but I should absolutely be able to voice my objection without being written up for it. That is a fundamental right of all American citizens, but seeing as those rights are slowly but surely dissolving, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

So Educational Decree No. 1 at my school will be not to question the administration about anything. There may or may not be a magical pen that will carve “I will not question my principal,” into our hands.

All In A Day’s Work

Most people really don’t know what a teacher does in a given day beyond teach and even then, those outside education haven’t the slightest idea of what goes into a day.

So in order to better clarify that I’ll share with you all what my day (today in fact) looked liked.

4:45- I am awoken by the less than subtle wail of my alarm clock. I realize today is progress report day and I know that that extra 30 seconds of sleep will have to wait until tonight when I go to bed. I know I have to get ready and get in and start printing. Four classes of nearly 30 kids a piece takes a lot of paper and when the ink is running low in your printer and no replacement cartridges are to be found you better get it right the first time.

I shower, dress, make my morning coffee and by 5:30 I am out the door. It takes me about 10 minutes to get to work and I pull into the parking lot at around 5:45. I am not always the first teacher there but usually am the second.

I check my box look for the attendance sheet and other miscellaneous items to be disseminated to the students. Then I make my trek down the extraordinary long hallway stopping only to drop off my lunch in the teacher work room refrigerator.  Then further down the hallway.

I unlock my classroom door flip on the lights and get to work.

6:10: I fire up my computer and open up my grade book, online of course and prepare to print my progress reports. I go to my first class and print all 28 reports. I go to the printer and see the ink is a bit faded. After the class finishes printing I take out the cartridge give it a hopeful shake an put it back in. I print out the second class and bingo, coming out beautifully. Checking the first classes grades I see a mistake.

Darn it* (not really what I said)

I go to my grade book and my weighted grades are off. Somehow this wonderful technology (also not what I said) reset my grade weights to 0 across the board. I spend another 5 minutes resetting and having to reprint. It is now 6:30, the kids will be released to come to us in about 15 minutes.

I get my reports printed and go through each one verifying they are correct. I write on all of those failing a comment suggesting how those students can improve their grade. Being it is the first of the year and the first progress report there are a lot and I’m not feeling great about it, but I know most of the kids will treat it with a shrug of their shoulders.

I get the rest of my classroom set up for my first class. At 6:45 the first bell rings releasing the kids to come down the hallways to go to lockers and go to homeroom. Its Tuesday, so our classes are flip flopped so I can see another group of students for our tutorial period. Over half still have to finish taking a quiz, and the other half need to do corrections on a quiz we’ve already taken and most didn’t do so hot on.

I great all the students as they come down the hall and I monitor them to make sure no chaos erupts, because chaos among 7th graders almost never happens right? I share a brief conversation with a few of my coworkers all the time monitoring and helping kids who on week four of school, still can’t get into their locker. The tardy bell rings, we clear the hall and being the day.

7:05: Announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, moment of silence and the School News presented by the SGA. Then we have our tutorial which more or less has become a time for students to try and do their homework from the previous night because they didn’t do it, make up work, or for the kids who are top of things read.  I don’t let them do nothing, so I assign them extra practice and offer tutoring sessions. I have a few students from other classes come in for help because they know today is progress report day and they want to do corrections on their quizzes they’ve bombed.

Forget they’ve had them for, in the case of the first quiz, two weeks, they are now just asking for help to make corrections.  Still I gladly help and answer questions of the few who come in and before I know it the tutorial period is over. A couple of cheerleaders who have practice after school ask to come in for 30 minutes. I agree to an impromptu tutorial period after school. I’m there anyway til 4 if not later most days.

7:50: My first official class (third period) starts. It takes little time to get everyone settled out. I give my few direction to start and quiet down and I hand out old corrected quizzes and then progress report. There is a buzz and the students get their grades. Some looked shocked, other surprised, but surprisingly, some of the students with the worst grades are actually laughing about their grades.

Not sure if it is a defense mechanism, but it is less than encouraging  to see and hear but we got to move on. We have to review for a test that is tomorrow and by the time reports are all handed out I have maybe 35 minutes left of instructional time. I use all of it. We go through each problem of the study guide I had assigned the night before.

It is in a similar format and has similar questions as will be on the test. I break down each problem and how the students are supposed to solve them. I let them lead and guide with questions. I want them to not only tell me the answer but how they got it.

I move about the classroom, I never sit down, I never allow a student to look disengaged and if they look as if they may just do that, I call on them and they snap back to attention.  I consider myself a fairly entertaining teacher. I’m full of energy, I have to be if I want them to pay attention to a less than engaging activity.

It works most days but it is exhausting. Coffee is my saving grace and never eating breakfast starts to pay a toll come the end of the first class around 8:50. I’m hungry and I still have one more class to go til planning.

8:55: My second class starts and this is the one where 23 of my 28 students are presently not passing. Poor quiz grades are the culprit and few have done corrections to the first quiz, same as my first class. I do a little pep talk motivation, they are more panicked than the last class but still there is a lackadaisical mentality that rubs me the wrong way.

The second class goes about the same as the first but I don’t get through the entire study guide. I will have to upload it onto the class website later so they can get those answers.

9:50: The kids are dismissed to their elective classes and we must escort them down the hallway because they can’t be trusted to make it the few hundred feet to the elective hallway on their own. Yes, I’m talking about 7th graders.

I go back to my room immediately check my e-mail. About six messages since this morning a form in our box, our grade system is back online, apparently I got in early enough before it crashed and what? I have a math meeting at central office at 3:30. Didn’t realize that, but I’m going to have to be late cause my students come first and I agreed to the tutoring session.

I e-mail the math program direction and explain, it isn’t a problem though.

Finally at around 10:05 I get to go eat lunch. Yes, I eat my lunch at 10:00, a frozen Digiorno personal pizza and a water. Yummy. As I eat I have to sit through a blood-born pathogens training given by the school nurse. We also learn to deal with kids with allergies as well as seizure disorders. We have all of the above.

After the presentation a teacher makes a sweeping declaration that she won’t call any more meetings involving her students regarding behavior. No reason why just that she won’t be involved or call the meeting and that she doesn’t even care. Another teacher calls her to task a bit and voices raise and the teacher who made the declaration storms out of the work room. You hear her classroom door slam just seconds later.

10:35: I receipt some fund raising money a student brought in and take it to the front office. Not sure which copy, the white, pink, or yellow, the book keeper gets I make the mistake of trying to ask. I am reprimanded for not reading her pamphlet that was put in our receipt books.  Mine of course wasn’t in mine, can’t honestly remember if I took it out. She finds an extra one I read it make the appropriate changes and walk back down the hallway to inform the other teachers about what not to do.

It isn’t like I have anything else to do beside remember how to receipt fund raising money that I will never ever see twice a year.

I go to the grade-level chair and sit down to discuss which students may need to have Personalized Education Plans because they failed their past End of Grade tests or are at risk of failing the grade. We are in our fourth week of school, yet we are supposed to devise a plan for kids we just met and not sure if they are at risk this year.

We create our list and I get charged with storing the forms in my room because I have a cabinet that is capable of being locked.

11:30: The kids come funneling back down from electives. Note the elective teachers don’t escort them, or at least some of them don’t, from the elective hallway.

They get their materials and lunch and go to their 7th period.

We are in class maybe 10 minutes, enough time to handout progress reports and give them the same spiel on grades and improving them and it is time to go to lunch. We are required to escort our students in a single file line down the hall to the cafeteria and monitor them in the cafeteria. No big deal, and it does give you a chance to interact with the kids outside the classroom.

The kids eat and at 12:20 we make our way back to class.

Today we are taking notes on Multiplying fractions. I walk them through the notes and how to multiply fractions. I’m just as engaging as before but this class is tough. They don’t like math and it shows but I’m no less enthused to teach them. I call on students to solve problems. I let them do group collaboration and just like that time is up and it is time for them to go. Homework in hand of course.

1:17: My final class of the day. Just like the first two, it starts with me breaking the news on grades. I teach the same concept as the first two (third time for the day). We review the study guide for their test. Just all other classes, I never stop teaching, never sit down, and never let anyone kids become disengaged.

Inquiry, probe, bad joke, back to examples. Some good questions are asked but by the end of the day the kids are mentally spent. I have to handout that form mentioned above. The kids have to ask what it is and as soon as they know it is a way that their parents can log on a computer and find out their current grades anytime, I hear the wadding up of that form across the room.

2:10 Announcements and students are dismissed. We escort them in a line down the hall and to the bus lot and monitor them there until the buses crank up.

I walk back in check my box, go purchase a soda from the work room and off to my tutoring session. Three cheerleaders await, all not doing so hot in my class but at least they stayed. We go over some old quizzes. I answer their questions. Probe them and encourage them about the rules, for integers and order of operations. At 2:55 they have to go to cheer-leading practice.  I pack up my things, papers to grade, computer and materials needed for my math meeting/training.

The intercom beeps in my room and they say I have a parent on the phone. I run to take it and as I expected it is about their child failing my class. I calm their nerves a bit and tell them I do offer after school tutoring. The conversation lasts about 5 minutes and then we hang up.

Back to my room pick up my things and head out of the building to my car and off across town to central office.

3:40: I’m 10 minutes late but the meeting hasn’t started. We go through a quick refresher of the program and do a sample computer program on how to calculate factors.

The meeting wraps up around 5 but I have to talk to some people about getting access to some information on line and acquiring some computers so this program I’m learning about I can actually use with the students. My wife calls around 10 after 5 and I know I need to head home for dinner.

5:45 Once home I eat, do the dishes and my wife, a nurse, is off to work for the night shift. I then take out papers and grade them, and check e-mails.

One parent e-mail about grades. I send a response about tutoring opportunities and back to grading.

7:45: I finally finish grading my last paper. Its early, I’m tired but I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to so I watch some TV. I get the idea after talking to a friend who jokes with me that because I have 82 percent of one class failing a class that I should be fired. He has no idea, even though he’s joking about what my days are like.

So I sit down and start writing a post about my day. And at 10:01 I’m finally done. Off to bed and it will all begin again.

Teacher Vote: Why Bother?

I have to admit from the onset I’m not a political junky.  I am not a republican nor a democrat. I’ve voted for people in both parties depending on which persons best represents myself.

I am not a guy that espouses my political beliefs  or attempts to force them on others and I certainly don’t share my thoughts and feelings on 53 bumper stickers that hang on the back of my car.

And up until now I like to think that I have been a fairly diligent citizen fulfilling my civic duty and voting in as many elections as I feel will have some baring on my community, state, or country as a whole. Sadly though I have reached such a state of disillusionment with those who govern us, and specifically as a result of those who make policies on education I am deciding strongly about not voting anymore: And I don’t feel the least bit regretful or worried about it?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well in his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech when talking about African Americans and voting:

We cannot be sastisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

Now I’m not at all trying to put the struggles of African Americans at the heart of segregation to those of teachers now, but I see a lot of teachers now who feel that they have nothing for which to vote.

Politicians are the most corrupt and dishonest people on the face of the Earth and that includes lawyers. Funny though how most politicians have background in law, so I guess that doesn’t come as much of a real shock.  I’ve been frustrated with the way education has been handled for a long time in both the state and national level. I’ve voted for change more times than I can count, and still none of that change has come.

I started teaching in the second half of George W. Bush’s first term. So, I was in my teaching infancy when No Child Left Behind came into this world. Ugliest, kid, ever.

I voted for change in the state of North Carolina, but to date I’m still waiting for some of these people to pull their heads out of the 1800s.

Two governors ago we had the “Education Governor” in Mike (S)Easily. All he did was bully the state into getting the lottery by claiming it was going to benefit education, “The Education Lottery” he called it.  What a farce that has been. For all the claims and commercials and propaganda I’m pretty sure no school, no teacher, and no district I’ve worked for has been aided that much by what has essentially become a tax that preys on those silly enough to spend their hard earned money daily in the slim chance they will strike it rich. Thanks Mike.

Our previous governor, a former teacher herself and (S)Easily’s Lieutenant Governor, promised to protect teachers but in her only term in office our pay scale was frozen and benefits cut, however we did get a half-a percent cut in pay. May not seem like much, but when you haven’t gotten even a modest cost of leaving increase in about seven years,  it is a lot.

Then we got a 1-percent pay increase about a year ago and the state legislature and our new governor Pat McCrory uses that as an excuse to tell the teachers who gripe about how educators are treated, to essentially shut up and or ignore us.  “See you got a one percent pay increase, be happy you have a job.” But for how much longer?

Teachers are leaving the profession or at the very least this state in droves. Some 10,000 teachers have to be replaced annually.

I’ve tried to personally ask McCrory about his policies that appear to focus more on fixing roads and perceived  issues with the voting system as well as his giving substantial pay increases to his cabinet his first week in office as well as his cronies, than dealing with education. He held a teleconference town hall meeting a few weeks back and called only registered republicans to make him feel better about those new policies.  He called my in-law’s house and out of curiosity I took the call in my father-in-laws absence cause I wanted the chance to ask the man a question.

After waiting on hold listening to his supporters praise him ad nauseum I was finally asked for my question for the governor by a call screener, who I could tell clearly didn’t like my question by her reaction. She then lied to me and said I’d get my chance, but there were a few people ahead of me in the call. Twenty minutes later the conference was over and my question went unasked.

McCrory would clearly prefer to answer softball questions and be praised by his fellow republicans than answer a tough question by a teacher who just wants  to know why he can’t get a pay increase but his buddies can. His answer to the education woes are to support vouchers for private schools, cut teacher’s advanced degree pay and tenure and then hope that the state will be able to somehow retain great public school teachers and attract even more.  Forget again that the state already has to replace 10,000 teachers a year already.

But it isn’t just the McCrory’s of the world. I wrote President Obama last January about the state of education. I made a passionate two page argument about what was wrong and what would be helpful. Knowing that this is a very busy man I wasn’t expected a quick response or a response at all but I got one, in June.

I was moderately interested when I opened the letter. I didn’t know what to expect, but I guessed I hoped for some affirmation of a job well done, or at the very least encouragement that things would get better and that’s he’d, even if he didn’t even mean it, would strive to make things right for us. What I got was a two page form letter full of political rhetoric,  typed by a secretar,y and signed with an autopen that addressed none of my concerns and only outlined his policies for education; few of which, I agreed with.

I felt I had poured my heart and soul in to this letter asking for the president’s help or consideration and all I got was this lousy mug. But the stationary was outstanding.

So, in those two experiences only a few weeks apart I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter who I vote for, democrat, republican, things from an education standpoint won’t change. They talk about how education is a priority but it clearly isn’t. It is an after thought. They will continue to talk about how important teachers are but ignore their plight and struggles once they are in office and more important agenda items come up.

Don’t get me wrong I am glad I have a job and sympathetic to those who don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want more and better treatment.  I’m not asking to be paid an exorbitant amount of money here but if a millionaire professional athlete can want more why can’t a thousandaire teacher want just a little bit more too.  And not just money but more support, and perhaps a pinch of respect.

When the next election comes up I’ll have to think long and hard about whether or not it is worth it because it doesn’t seem to matter who I vote for, the more things change, the more things stay the same.