Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Before ProComp, Betz had reached the top of the district's pay scale at $53,500 and, despite high marks from her bosses, was looking at nothing more than an annual cost-of-living raise (currently $260) for the rest of her career. "I've worked in hard-to-serve schools my entire career," says Betz. "I make home visits. I make phone calls. I'm looking at ProComp as compensation for the things that are above and beyond." Betz didn't expect performance pay to change anything about how she does her job but says it has made her even more driven. "Now I refuse to let kids fail," she says. "I'm going to bulldoze whatever the problem is and solve it." The bonus money is simply a just reward. "I'm not a money grubber. Most teachers aren't. But people in other professions get raises," she says. "Why shouldn't we?"
It's a good goal for an entire nation in need of better-quality teaching. As U.S. school districts embark on hundreds of separate experiments involving merit pay, some lessons seem clear. If the country wants to pay teachers like professionals—according to their performance, rather than like factory workers logging time on the job—it has to provide them with other professional opportunities, like the chance to grow in the job, learn from the best of their peers, show leadership and have a voice in decision-making, including how their work is judged. Making such changes would require a serious investment by school districts and their taxpayers. But it would reinvigorate a noble profession.
This seems like a good idea to me, if done well. "Like factory workers logging time on the job"--I think that describes pretty well the current state of how America treats teachers. Which is sad, considering that teaching actually takes a lot of time and effort to master. According to the article, "It takes at least two years to master the basics of classroom management and six to seven years to become a fully proficient teacher."
Also interesting is the sidebar article describing the teaching profession in other countries.
All teacher candidates in Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, for example, receive two to three years of graduate-level preparation for teaching, at government expense, plus a living stipend. Unlike the U.S., where teachers either go into debt to prepare for a profession that will pay them poorly or enter with little or no training, these countries made the decision to invest in a uniformly well-prepared teaching force by recruiting top candidates and paying them while they receive extensive training.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
- It's decided: I'm going to New York City next month. Anyone have any ideas on what to do there? I've got the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, museums, etc., of course, but any ideas on some more out-of-the-way places?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
"What?" I said, although I knew what the answer might be, given her big, mischievous smile.
"I bought a house!!" I knew she had been looking for houses, but I didn't know it would be this soon that she would find one that she liked, much less buy it, all in one day.
It has been a little over a month since that bomb was dropped. Things have happened fast, and as of this weekend my mom and sister and I are moved into the new house. It's a great house, really, a brand-new house on the "fancy pants" Westside of town. Moving back to the Westside from the Northeast part of town had been a lingering idea ever since we moved out to the Northeast three years ago to be closer to Mom's work. It's something my family talked about constantly. We missed our friends and our church and the neighborhoods we grew up in, as well as the perks that go with living in a nicer part of town. Not that the Northeast is so horrible, but, well, it is a little dingier than the Westside. A dollar store on every corner. Huge potholes in the Albertson's parking lot near our house. Homeless veterans wandering the streets. One Starbucks, when the Westside has three. The Northeast has about four decent restaurants, one of which is Chili's, and another of which is Applebee's. The Westside, on the other hand, has a huge number of really great restaurants: Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Southwest, breakfast, ice cream, etc., etc. Yum.
You'd think I'd be jumping up and down to be moving back, but I wasn't. It's funny how once Mom announced that we'd be moving back, I just wasn't that enthused. Maybe it was that the task of moving seemed arduous to me, but I think I had also gotten used to the Northeast and its little quirks. I grew to appreciate its more working-class nature. I also liked how it wasn't as congested as the Westside. I liked being near the baseball stadium and being able to walk up the side of the mountain whenever I felt like it. I guess it was always in my mind that I'd leave the Northeast eventually, but when the day actually came and I was finally going back to the Westside, I just felt sad and like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I did spend two and a half years of my life at that house. I had gotten used to the commute, gotten used to the Wal-Mart and the library branch, gotten used to coming home at night and seeing the church across the street from the house lit up at my return.
Maybe more central to my surprising discontent is that I thought that the next time I'd move would be the time that I moved into my own house. "When I have my own place..." is something I've thought about quite a few times. My house will be Downtown. My house will be warm. My house will have terra cotta tile. My house will have character. It'll be just like Friends! Sure, this is a sparkly, new, beautiful house, a sun-filled house with tan walls and new appliances, but it's not mine. I'm back on the Westside, but not on my own terms.
Boo hoo, I know I should count my blessings and not complain about things. I know the day will come soon when I'll be all grown up and out on my own and most likely living in much poorer conditions. What's a house, anyway? I'm still me, Mom's still Mom, the dog's still the dog. The more I move from house to house, the more I realize how arbitrary a house is. Like a hermit crab, it seems I can get used to living anywhere, given enough time.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
For those who don't know, the bracero program was a guest worker program that brought Mexican workers to the United States from 1942-64. Some photos from the bracero exhibit can be viewed here. It's a nicely put-together exhibit about a program that I think is often overlooked in America's history. My grandfather once employed braceros on his farm, and my dad told me he used to hang around with them as they worked the fields. It was interesting to put a visual to some of the things my dad has told me about.
The Border Film Project is a project by a group in Arizona that put disposable cameras in the hands of both Minutemen (volunteer border patrol groups) and Mexican migrants. They provided address labels and mailers so that the cameras could be returned to them anonymously. The photos in the exhibit are not the most artful, as they are obviously not professional quality, yet you do get a good idea of the culture of both groups. It's an interesting contrast, the white (mostly) guys sitting in their trucks watching for migrants, and the migrants walking through the desert, water bottles in hand, or sometimes in hotel rooms or on buses. Predator and prey, I guess you could say.
If you're in El Paso, these are worth a visit to UTEP to see. I was very pleased to see both of these exhibits, since I think both are such great fits for a border city museum.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
- I'm torn: Clinton or Obama?
- Today I taught my students how to use colons properly. Is that really so useful? I think it is just a huge pet peeve of mine when people use colons wrong, i.e. "The primary colors are: red, yellow, and blue." Aagh. That makes me crazy.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
Ah, the teenage years. We sure did a lot of sitting around and standing around in those days. Sitting in class, waiting for time to pass by until you could finally go home. Standing in the hall, talking with your friends (or so-called friends). I say this because it seems like every other scene involves one of the former, and unfortunately, I think it's all too true of how high school really is.
Ironically, I relate more to Angela Chase's adolescent angst now at 25 than I did at 14. Call me a late bloomer, but now I get why someone would want to dye her hair bright red. I get why you'd want to do something exciting just to feel alive, even if it's stupid. I've had a few Jordan Catalano-scale crushes in my life. No, I will not elaborate. But I guess the point is that I still relate to the adolescent experience, even though I am quite a few years past the age for it now. Does some of the teenager remain inside a person, no matter how old he or she gets? I think so.
Now everybody's got advice they just keep on givin'
Doesn't mean too much to me
Lot's of people out to make-believe they're livin'
Can't decide who they should be.
I understand about indecision
But I don't care if I get behind
People livin' in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind.
Take a look ahead, take a look ahead. Look ahead.
"Peace of Mind" by Boston