the dogs are barkin' today


North of San Francisco, California,
November 16
I teach, I parent, I learn, I contemplate. I am constantly putting my toe in the water. I dove in, now I'm trying to keep my head above the surface.


Sweetfeet's Links
APRIL 20, 2011 11:26PM

Another Education Rant (Can You Take It?)

Rate: 11 Flag

I’m getting very close to the breaking point. I love my job. It’s not just a job, it is my life’s work. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.  No matter how bad it gets, I will probably still be doing it 10 or 20 years from now.

But I will be certifiably insane, probably without medical care. I’ve been teaching for 18 years, and I’ve never felt this much angst in the profession. The anxiety being created in schools right now is affecting how we teach and how we live. We are being steadily ground down like No. 2 pencils.

Does anyone outside of education truly understand how stretched the school system in California is? Districts have reduced the number of days in the school year, and therefore teacher and administrator salaries (as well as time to actually educate the kids). Libraries, computer labs, and sports programs have disappeared. The size of most classes has jumped, or is jumping, from a manageable 20 to a chaotic 30 (or more). Most schools have lost all their paraprofessionals (instructional assistants/classroom aides). Reading specialists and English-as-a-Second-Language instructors are being dropped. Secretaries, custodians, bus drivers and lunch ladies have lost their jobs. Gone, kaput, zippo. School districts are being forced to make gut-wrenching choices. We have cut and cut and cut already, and we are looking for places to cut more. There are no more places to cut that will not be extremely painful for school personnel, children and families. We are down to the bare bones, and are being asked to go deeper. An exhausted and decimated educational system cannot educate.

Why am I paying, out of pocket (remember, my salary has dropped), for the failures of our governments? Why am I paying for the corporations’ greed? Why are the children being refused the tools that will help them build a future for themselves and their families, and YOU? You’re going to live to a ripe old age, aren’t you? These kids will be supporting you. Is there no concern for the common good, for the future of our kids, for the future of us?

Educators are being asked to do more with less, and continually less. In fact, while the resources diminish, the demands increase. We have requirements and standards we are expected to meet. These are not being altered. In fact, if we have not met the arbitrary requirements set for us, we are punished. So-called experts come to our schools and tell professional educators (for that is what we are) how to do our jobs. If a school doesn’t meet the criteria that are placed by some educrats in big chairs in Sacramento, then there are more demands, more consequences…but no more resources. No more money, no more materials, no more personnel to assist with the crisis. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Just more consequences.

If we took all the money spent on the educational bureaucracy that sets the unrealistic requirements (do any of these people have any familiarity with the developmental abilities of small children?), creates the rules and tests, and then condemns the schools for their lack of accomplishment, and put that money into the classroom, we might be able to do what everyone would like us to do.

How loud do we have to yell before we are heard?  How many blogs have to be written, how many articles, how many news reports? It’s going to take more than screaming teachers. When will it change? Do we have to wait until the current crop of kids abysmally FAILS before people wake up? We (the collective we) can’t afford to wait that long.

Raise your hand if you are willing to pay higher taxes so that the educational system can accomplish what the bureaucracy demands. That many? That few? Those without your hands up must have your kids in private school. Corporations? Any of you willing to pony up so we don’t lose an entire generation of kids and some extremely talented educators?

Look, I love my Prop-13-nice-and-low-property-tax as much as the next person, but SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE.

Show me the money. Elect the right people, get your butts in gear, make your voices heard, and then SHOW ME THE MONEY. Because the money will buy what we want and need, if it is put in the right places.

I hear a lot of talk, but I’m not seeing much action. And every day, I want to cry at the destruction of a profession that I love.

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I know I have your sympathies, dear OSers. Tell me what you are going to DO.
I just do not understand education cuts. When I used to volunteer in school as a teachers aide they told me parents had all the power.
Time to get parents involved in this big time.
It's a disgrace.
this sounds remarkably like a recent article by chris hedges. brilliant as always. check it out.
ps my dad was a middle school math/algebra teacher for 30yrs.
sweetfeet a quote from your other post:
"My union needs to protect my job because I am at the mercy of the public, whose whims can be capricious, as we can plainly see. I believe I have the right to influence public policy if that policy influences me. If the public is my employee, then they need to provide me with decent salary and benefits, and if I am serving the public, then they better damn well be showing me some appreciation. If I’m doing my job, don’t I have the right to some protections and support, financially or otherwise?"

What protections are you entitled to that the private sector has no such protections (unless you work for GM). No one came running to IBM with $50B when they lad off over 10oK dedicated employees in the mid 90's . I answer to executives. You answer to the public. I have no protections. No tenure. I MUST outperform
my piers or I will be let go. There is no specific definition of a job done "good enough". Only better than the other guy is good enough. And you use the word service as if it is somehow more noble than a private sector worker. We service our employers
just as you service your employer (the tax payer). Have you ever gone to work at 8:00 am and not gone home until 5:00pm the NEXT day. All the while trying to solve a programming problem.
Well that is MY protection. Work until the work is done. Or go to management and and say I cannot do it. Which is the kiss of death.
The only protection is meting whatever expectations are put on you. Have you averaged 60 hours weeks year after year as a teacher?

I pay taxes (not you specifically since I am not in CA) for you to have protection you want. Do you want to pay any taxes to protect my job?
Show you the money? Honey. Maybe, the teachers union needs to take a few lessons from the CCPOA??

Those thugs KNOW HOW TO cut a back-door deal.

Welcome to Cali: The State that CHOOSES Incarceration OVER Education
I can take it and I agree. Every since Bush signed the "No Child Left Behind Act" and then didn't fund it, schools all over my area have closed. Some kids actually have to ride the school bus two hours to school in the morning and two hours back after school. This is a disgrace. As far as raising taxes, I don't see how it will help. We have no way of knowing where they will spend the money. Maybe on another war, hell, we haven't attacked Iran yet, or have we? Great Post and keep screaming and ranting!
I forwarded your post to my daughter who just graduated in elementary education. My other daughter works in special education in the junior high and is going to college too so is too busy to read anything. But I don't see them entering the same system I did when I graduated with a degree in secondary education in 1970. Maybe the whole system will have to go to homeschool and private education. Watching it fail and thrash around is agonizing. I'm so glad you are there helping kids everyday. They need you.
Wish I could tell you better times were ahead . . . The education crisis will be the death of this country.
A good rant, well rendered. Education has become a political football, it seems, maybe because everyone, having gone through the system, thinks they're an expert on it, maybe because people are exceedingly angry about about the Wall Street-induced great recession and stratospheric CEO bonuses and, unlike those fat cats, teachers are accessible points on which people can focus their frustration with the way things are going, maybe because they do not realize that social class, not teacher effectiveness, is the primary factor in a child's success.
Thank you for this call to action - very succinct and to the point. All I know to do, as I am a property tax payer and sales tax payer, is to continue to volunteer in my daughter's school weekly and demand better from our government concerning education (in Washington, there are bills being raised to address closing corporate loopholes and actually making sure the general fund is doing this state's primary obligation, funding education, per our state Constitution). Beyond that, I am at a blank, but I am open to suggestions. Call on me if you think of something we can do collectively - I wish all women would unite on this matter and stand together. A collective voice is much stronger than a singular one.

Thank you sweetfeet - for this and for your avocation/profession.
@Mr. Cole: For starters, I have worked MANY 60 hour weeks. Too many to count, nights and weekends. I also work until the work is done. Then again, for a teacher, the work is never really done.

I have no problem with being held accountable for my performance. Come into my classroom, talk to my kids, assess them, test them reasonably, etc. I am evaluated by my superior on a regular basis. Some of the requirements and expectations coming down from the "top" are unreasonable given the lack of resources we are provided. And one of the problems with my profession is that I am not the only impact on the success of my students. Parents have an impact as well. Is anyone assessing their performance? Are they being fired for poor job performance?

I do not intend to compare private sector employees to public, and I honor private sector service. I expect all employers to take care of their employees. My employer (the public, the government) is not taking care of my students right now. And they are the focus of my work.

I am not asking for anyone to pay taxes to protect my job. I am asking for taxes to allow me to DO my job.

Gotta run. Kindergartners await.
"We are being steadily ground down like No. 2 pencils. "

It is an incredibly sad time for my children to just be starting school...same things are happening here in WI. These are especially troubling in the special education rooms w/ most of the day spent by the teachers just attending to the bodily needs of students b/c all the support staff has been "let go" leaving highly trained teachers changing diapers for a living and kids being babysat rather than taught...the idiots in charge will reap what they sew when this generation succumbs to old age with the next generation at the the meantime, I am forced to do exactly what those in charge would have me do - look after my own. When in reality, I'd rather help many, many more than that. But our society has become selfish beyond recognition...

keep writing. There is never too many of these kinds of posts. You are not alone. thanks.
I taught for 25 years in the Canadian school system and saw similar erosion but not as bad. This is insane! Maybe it is just as bad no too, since I left the system last year when class sizes were 35 and I had 5 classes per day. I cannot understand how any government can jeopardize the future of its citizens at its very life source. I am beyond DOing all I could while I was not burned out.
Jerry, excllent points.

Sparking, I'm feeling helpless and frustrated. We appreciate volunteers, and we need to stay on our legislators. But I think there needs to be massive change from within the system, and I frankly don't know how to make that happen.

Zanelle, the trend seems to be toward charter schools; they can get more money from the government. But I don't feel schools should have to fight for it.

Thanks everyone for coming by!
sweetfeet- I think maybe you misunderstand or I did not communicate well enough. First of all, of all public sector
employees, teachers are the ones I admire not only the most but
a lot. Secondly, I assume you are an excellent and dedicated teacher. I believe that because you would not be writing here with
the concern that you do if you were not.

But let me give you some of my preservative. I play poker with a gang of about 40 guys every week. At least 8- 10 are teachers. And many others are techies like me. If you are working 60 hour weeks I believe you, but I know for fact that these guys are not.
One, told me he spent most of last summer updating the computer lab but he was not on the summer school payroll. I asked why and
he said because he cared. I found that admirable.
Now lets take 2 others. One is a typical high school jock now a PE teacher. He recently told the story of how he got his wrist slapped because he got into it with a 17 year old in the lunch line and actually challenged the kid to go outside and fight. Brilliant, a 35 year old teacher that wants to punch out a kid. And I am not exaggerating. I have seen his temper at the poker table.
One other is a alcoholic, pot head, and drug user. We play poker and he is already high and drunk, and knowing I have Rx Vicodin, he constantly asks me for it just to get an extra buzz. He teaches history. I know he does not excel in any way.

Now here in TX we are going through layoffs too. We don't have unions, but do have a seniority system. So the drug head and the jock dumb ass that meets requirements gets to keep their jobs when the one who gave his summer for free can lose his job if he happens to have less years in. Also the pay is based on years, nothing else.

Now surely you must know some teachers that simply not as dedicated nor interested as you, at best, and maybe even some as bad as the 2 idiots that I describe.
The problem is that there is no distinction between you, the free summer guy and the other two. At least not in TX. And I assume in union states it is not better in this regard and maybe worse.
If you are in a union in CA then you are lumped in with the bad teachers. It seems to me you would not want them in your union.
Why wouldn't you want to get rid of the union and demand compensation based upon your excellence. Why have the lesser
be made equal to you.

As for all employers taking care of their people, I guess most liberals think the private employers just abuse people. maybe they do. But as far as protecting the job itself, how can a private employer guarantee a job is they aren't making money? They can't.
Circuit City was broke so guess what? People lose jobs.

But public sector employees generate no revenue to pay themselves. Unfortunately your employer, the state of CA is broke as are most other states, as is the fed. gov. So how can all the teachers jobs be protected? IBM laid off so many in the 90s's because of bad business decisions. They literally gave away the entire PC hardware and software market because they failed to realize the billions of $ it was worth. That is what happens. Well
gov also makes bad decisions and the people are tired of it.
I am sure it offends you to be stereotyped as a low performing public employee, but that is the perception.
Have you ever considered confronting the school system/union and demanding that you not be paid the same as the mediocre teachers that you know are in your school system. You should.

If you have papers to grade at night and you stop at the post office
on the way home then that time in line is taking way from you getting those papers done so you can enjoy your evening. Haven't you ever been frustrated at the PO workers that seem to move as slow as a human being can possibly move?
There is to excellence there and the bar is too low. What so you think would happen to a supermarket checker that served customers as slow as PO workers? Well there is a reason they go fast at the market.
They have to. Their speed directly relates t0 customer sanctification which directly determines if customers come back or go somewhere else. If they go somewhere else there is no money to pay the employees. But not so with the PO or the DMV. Because they have no competition and their jobs are "guaranteed".

I do appreciate that you are a teacher. As I said you are providing a valuable service. I cant say I feel real value out of a DMV guy giving me an eye exam. I would double your income in a heartbeat and cut the DMV staff in half and demand they serve
people twice as fast. And I want those 2 teachers I described fired
because someone else wants that job that will do it better. I saw on TV a WI teacher so passionately say "I had to perform for 3 years so my job would be guaranteed forever". 3 years? WTF is that about? That is ridiculous. Perform every year if youw ant your job.

TX has one if the highest property tax rats n the country. I pay
5K a year on a 2ooK house. So I don't want to pay more tax in TX.
I cant speak for CA but I remember I was in college when prop 13 passed in CA. I did not follow politics a lot then but I knew the people were fed up with the prop. taxes. It seemed a great thing at the time to me that the people said "no more taxes". But I also did not understand at that age that state and fed gov. just spend the money anyway.

So what is the solution for CA and WI and TX? I don't know.
Only thing I can think of is put more money in the school system because it is important. But all the other state jobs need to
be looked i pnto to see if the taxayers are really getting their money's worth. Many state employees just need to work harder for their guaranteed job security, pensions, sick days etc.

I do appreciate your service as I do the free summer guy here in
TX. But the bad apples ride on your back. As long as all public workers are compensated equally just because they have the same job title, the tax payers will be dissatisfied.