Pay vs. Poverty
A fourth grade teacher in NC says teacher pay is the easy way out when the real issue is poverty. Many believe that NC is pushing out its best educators. When I accepted a contract in NC even though I live in SC a number of factors influenced my decision. I had been in SC teaching through a grant funded position which meant no job security from one year to the next. Having no word of whether or not the grant would continue funding my position, it was easy to choose a contract that promised four consecutive years of employment. Also, in 2007, thanks to a salary supplement for teaching in a NC Title I school, I was making more money that I had made in SC. Plus teaching in a Title I school came with the promise of some much needed student loan forgiveness. In 2008 I was still making more than if I’d returned to SC. In 2009 we heard about salary freezes but by that point I was in love … with a district that offered tremendous professional development opportunities … with a principal whose positive leadership, trust, and vision, kept me inspired in my work … with colleagues who embodied a sense of family and shared value for the community we served. Still feeling like I’m in the right place, doing the work God intends for me to do, I wonder if I’m reading the Lord’s will right. Am I to go into poverty?
My Relationship with Common Core
In 2011 I was offered a career changing opportunity that would equip me to serve as an instructional coach and deepen my understanding of education and best practice. How could I turn that down? It was during the interview for the role of Instructional Facilitator that I met Common Core. Part of the interview process was to compose an email to staff about Common Core State Standards and the NC Essential Standards. I Googled it and got enough information to pass the test and have been an advocate of CCSS ever since. Even though I’ve only casually looked at the background & development of Common Core, I was thrilled that something was finally replacing NCLB.
This is Personal
I am in the midst of a personal and professional struggle as I wrestle with the reasons the governor of my home state and my own husband vehemently oppose Common Core, the latter of whom believes teachers are failing so bad that we don’t deserve raises. So, I’m as frustrated as I ever was with public education. I entered this field as a disgruntled student and a hopeful new mom, believing I could somehow make it better by serving on the front lines. Now, I sit here with over a decade of experience, pondering whether or not to pursue a doctorate that I may or may not receive a salary increase for obtaining. I have an 18 year old whom either the public education system or I failed (I’m part of the public ed system and I raised him with the values and beliefs most liberals would admire)…we failed because as technologically proficient and well read as he is, he doesn’t have a job and doesn’t see much value in continuing his education in a system that he has judged to be flawed beyond worth. He wants a private college degree and our family can’t afford that. He’s not happy. Meanwhile I have a daughter who’s had the benefit of my shift to conservative values and while her public school education has been sufficient, she has routinely expressed longing for something more and she feels some of her friends who’ve been pulled out to be home schooled are getting an advantage over her. And my kindergarten son isn’t forming letters and words to his father’s satisfaction. I voiced educated concepts such as “fine motor skills” and “asynchronous development” only to realize my husband’s ears heard it as Greek. His protest that “trained Monkeys could do a better a job” made me stop and think … WHAT ARE WE DOING? What could we do differently? What do the kindergarten common core writing standards demand? The mechanics of writing aren’t there, so where? Letter formation is a language skill listed under the kindergarten common core language standards. Either way, it leaves my husband wanting more and I agree; why can’t we expect a kindergartner to produce all upper and lower case letters? … and expect them to do so correctly. Ah, that’s where my Title I brain kicks in…that’s Parent Involvement…parents need to help with that at home.
But what about those in poverty who are working at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s to make ends meet because two jobs are required to keep the rent and utilities paid (not to mention the fact that’s not enough to feed the family, so EBT cards and free lunch demand the tax dollar of citizens who feel the populations using government assistance should get a job)? And what about those who begrudge their hard earned tax dollars funding inadequate educational expectations…they want more for their kids but can’t afford the private school or the tutors? I have no doubt there are more undeserving folks getting public assistance than those who are working hard and really need the help and I recognize that a voucher system could very well benefit the upper class more than the middle class. There is a huge disconnect here! So what can we do?