Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Colorado Department of Education

So, the long sad saga of certification in Colorado continues.  A year and a half ago, when I knew we were going to move to Colorado, I started the certification process to teach in Colorado.  Since I had taught in Colorado in the 1970s (yes, I am that old - sigh), I submitted an application in March of 2010 for renewal of a lapsed license.  It is not easy to fill out an application for a teaching license in Colorado.  It is a long and complicated form.  The renewal for a lapsed license was, at least, a bit shorter.

A couple of months later, I received notification that I had filed the wrong application.  They couldn't find any record of my having been certified in Colorado.  I repeated the information that had been submitted on the application and they told me, they would have to look up the information on microfiche, since it was too old to be available in their current system.  Later, again, they said that they had found the information, but that I had had a provisional license at the time and, in order to make it current, I would have to take a class on Working with Retarded Children (or some similar title).  Since courses designed to teach teachers to work with special needs populations are no longer titled like that and since I didn't want to take more coursework, I asked if there was an alternative, given that I was also certified to teach in Alaska and Illinois.  They said I could file an out of state application, instead of the renewal one.  Which meant starting the application process all over again, except for the fingerprinting.  This time, I had to have every place I had worked verify that I did, indeed work there.  And, I had to submit official transcripts of all college work I had completed.  Given that I have taken classes at at least 10 different institutions, beginning in the 1970s, much of my education and experience took place quite a few years ago, it is a rather long and complicated process to get all this done.  Finally, the application was complete and submitted.

Meanwhile, I decided, as a backup to file an application to substitute teach, thinking that that would be faster and would at least let me work in the fall of 2010.  I also filed an application for the regular teaching license.  Both of those were filed in September.

But, the Colorado Department of Education is so backed up that the subbing license, which was indeed a bit faster, was only issued the second week in December.  This was AFTER most of the school districts in the area stopped accepting new substitutes for the school year.  Thus, I missed out on subbing for the whole year.  At my age, that is no minor thing, as I am nearing the age when some people retire.  Then, finally, toward the end of December, the Colorado license arrived.  Only it included only half of my endorsements.  In Alaska, I had been certified K-8 Elementary Education AND 5-12 Information Technology.  In Colorado, they had only given me the endorsement for K-8 Elementary Education, without asking which one I preferred.

I suppose it could have been worse.  If they had asked, I would have gotten the Elementary Education certification first, but I was not impressed that they didn't ask.  From May to December, it had taken 7 months to get my certification done.  But at least now, I could start applying for jobs.  Only, of course, then there was this big recession thingie.  And no one was hiring.  And, if they were hiring, they wanted endorsements in something other that what my certificate said. 

Since I have more college courses than anyone in their right mind would ever want, I decided that I would have a better chance of getting a job with more endorsements, specifically those in the STEM fields, since those seemed to be in higher demand than elementary education.  So, in March, I filled out the application for additional endorsements.  This, again, is a much more complicated process than it needs to be.  Since I wasn't sure which endorsements would be most useful, I filed for all of the endorsements for which I thought I would qualify (mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer information technology, and gifted education).  I figured if they were looking at all of those transcripts, it would be much easier for them to just do them all in one fell swoop.

Wrong.  I just got an email, telling me that I can only ask for one endorsement at a time.  This makes no sense to me.  I can see that they might want me to pay for each endorsement, but why do they need a NEW application.  Why can't they just charge me the $80 for each endorsement that I qualify for and want to add.  But I guess that makes too much sense and might help too much to get rid of their giant backlog of certification requests.

So, now I have to decide which endorsement I want.  Math seems to be in the highest demand, but I have the shakiest qualifications for that.  I have the hours, but just barely and since some of the courses have unusual titles, I am not sure if they will count.  I can be pretty sure of getting an endorsement in Computer Technology, since I have a Master's degree in computer science, but my degree was from quite a while ago and most people hiring in that area want to see more recent coursework - and I only have one recent relevant course.  I have more than enough hours and expertise in chemistry, but I am not really that interested in teaching at the high school level.  The endorsement I really want, for personal reasons, would be the one in gifted education.  But there are very, very few jobs in that area.

There are other complicating factors, which are too boring to detail, but the bottom line is that now it will take even longer to get the certification and endorsement stuff finalized.  In the meantime, at least I can sub.  Unfortunately, there are so many people subbing now, that actually getting subbing jobs is also problematic.

Maybe I should just work at McDonalds. 

Three Days in High School - The Staff

Whenever people ask me what I do, I, with a distinctly apologetic voice say, I am just a sub, a substitute teacher.  People who have never done this kind of work frequently react to that statement with sympathy - perhaps even caused by my own apologetic voice.  Being "just a sub", makes me feel lesser.  I know how hard it is - to go to different classes, with different students, different rules, different co-workers, different lesson plans, different equipment, etc.  I should be proud of the work I do and I am.

But sometimes I feel like I am invisible.  Sitting with a group of teachers eating lunch, and no one talks to you.  Asking a question and getting the shortest possible answer that isn't rude.  Contributing to a discussion and getting no response.  Other teachers aren't rude, but it is one of the hazards of being a sub, especially a new sub in a new district.  Teachers are too busy with their own thoughts and concerns and the subs are rather like place-holders.

Interestingly, the administration and the custodians have been, IME, consistently nice.  They talk to me, they smile at me, they act like they are glad I am there.  And, once I get to know a school or a specific department, the teachers start to treat me like I am a real person.  I just wish that they would do so a bit sooner.

Three Days in High School - Behavior

I was in a high school in one of the best places to live in the USA.  So the behavior of the students must be taken in that context.  In general, the behavior was, to my relief, pretty good.  I just have a few quibbles.  The problem with allowing iPods and calculators while the students are working is that iPods frequently lead to sharing of the ear buds, and trading ear buds, so a friend can hear this great new song, and playing the music loud enough so that even people without ear buds can hear it.  Then there is the problem with calculators.  Calculators in math class can be very appropriate.  But then, there are the kids who didn't bring their calculator, who want to use their phones instead (which they NEVER forget to bring).  And once the iPods and phones are out, then come the game apps.

I will admit that I didn't stop them.  The teacher had written in his plans that iPods were allowed and that working together was allowed.  And with a 98 or 99 minute class with not enough to do to cover the class time, it was probably good that they had something to amuse them while they sat through the final 30 minutes of class.

But it reminds me again why I do not like block classes.  I suppose if I taught art or science, I would love them.  Finally, enough time to get materials out and do an experiment or get substantial work done on an art project, AND to clean up afterwards.  But for math and foreign language, I don't like them.  98 minutes is too long for one lecture and practice session; and most math teachers don't have lesson plans that split the time into different activities.  For foreign language, I can envision things that would fill up the time in a valid activity - working on skits in small groups, for example.  Maybe in math class, they should plan similar activities - make a poster illustrating today's math idea; watch a math video about the concept.

The last day, I brought with me some math puzzles, and a few kids really enjoyed them.  Perhaps if I were a regular teacher and not a sub, I could develop that part of the lesson more.  It was impressed upon us in sub training, that we were to follow the lesson plans given, even if we thought they were terrible.  But I think beefing up my own bag of tricks for what-to-do-when-the-lesson-plan-has-been-accomplished-and-there-is-still-30-minutes-left would help.

Three Days in High School - Dress Code

OK, so I am getting up in years, but I really have nothing against the human body.  It doesn't bother me to see statues of nudes or paintings thereof, of either gender.  And I am a swimmer, so I regularly see women scantily clad in swim suits and naked in the showers.  And, furthermore, I acknowledge that it was hot in the classroom.  With 34, 28, 34, 37, or 33 students in there at a time, and located on the south side of the building, with air conditioning that doesn't work (and clocks that don't work), how could it be anything BUT hot.  BUT, I must admit that some of the things the high school girls wore, or more precisely, didn't wear, make me uncomfortable.  There was a cut-out t-shirt, with huge arm holes and a low neckline, showing virtually ALL of the denim-colored bra underneath.  There were several off-one-shoulder shirts, again with huge arm and neck holes, where you could tell exactly what type of bra the young woman was wearing and exactly how well endowed she was.  Strapless bras, with off-the-shoulder cover ups; multiple different colored bra straps.  VERY tight fitting or low cut t-shirts, that, again, left nothing to the imagination.  And the shorts, barely covering the bottom.  No to-the-arm-tips length requirement.  I think there might have been a no-midrift-showing requirement, as that was the only thing that seemed to be well covered.

Boys (young men) notice - how could they not.  The "dress code" says only, from what I was told by another teacher, that the dress should not be distracting.  Well, I think it is distracting.

Boys for their part seem to make their statements with hats.  In spite of the heat, there were, of course, the ubiquitous baseball hats, but also winter caps, including one that you would expect on a ski slope and one fit for Alaska with ear flaps and a strap that goes under the chin. 

Yes, I think acceptance has gone too far.  This attire is acceptable at the beach, at the mall, at home, on the sports field; it is not fine IMO in school, in church/synagogue/mosque/kiva, in a business work environment.  There is a distinction.  I think we need to help children make it.

I am sounding SOOOO old.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Blog

I have split my blog into two blogs.  This one will deal with everything EXCEPT the book annotations I write on Goodreads and other comments specific to books I am reading, want to read, or have read.  It also includes annotations of audiobooks.  I know there are only a small handful of people who even look at these, but I find it interesting for now, so I will continue.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


At my age, I should be feeling accomplished, sure of myself, comfortable in my own skin.  Am I the only one for whom this sureness is so elusive?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Second Follow-up to International Conference on Gifted Adults

I have been pondering the talk on the stages of life of gifted adults.  I have the notes somewhere, but I am not going to look them up right now, because what I want to talk about is the problem of getting stuck in a stage.

Background:  When my husband and I were first married, he was in grad school, working on a Ph. D.  I got a job as a secretary for a brokerage firm, and later as an assistant teacher in a private school.  We put off having children until he could finish his Ph. D. and we would have a bit more established home.  After he finished grad school, we moved to the mid-West, and we both started our careers.  We had been married for about 5 years, when we decided we would start a family.  But it was much more difficult than the horror stories of unplanned pregnancies back in high school would have had us believe.  I won't detail all of the problems and heartbreak of infertility, but the relevant thing is that we were in the stage of our lives where we wanted to have children and we were unable to do so.  Life went on, but I felt like I was stuck in the stage of trying to establish a family and I couldn't progress further in my life, until this issue had been resolved.  It was such an important stage of life for me, that I simply couldn't move on with any other aspect of my life, until I had reached closure with this stage.  Eventually, after 7 1/2 years, we did get pregnant and we eventually had two daughters.

But the key thing I want to emphasize here is that my progress as a person was stymied by the years of infertility.  It effected every aspect of my life at that time.  And, now, I feel caught in another one of these stage of life traps.

Fast forward many years, our daughters are now grown and living on their own.  We moved to Alaska for my husband's work.  I, after spending some years as a teacher, a grad student, a computer programmer, a grad student (again), a computer support person, and a teacher (again), looked for a teaching job in Alaska.  Jobs were hard to get, but I subbed.  I even got a full time job for a semester, but had to resign with health issues.  The move to Alaska was to be for only one to six years, and, after six years, we moved, this time to Colorado.  Due to certification problems in moving states and the bad economy, once again, jobs are hard to get.  I am much older now, but again, I feel trapped in a stage of life BEFORE where I "should" be.  I should be settled in my work, feeling very accomplished and fulfilled.  Instead, due to changing jobs (and even careers) so often and moving, I am stuck in the stage where I am trying to establish myself and my personal effectiveness. 

And, now I am wondering what happens when a person gets stuck in a stage of life that really doesn't fit the actual age and maturity level of the person.  It is a different kind of asynchrony.  I don't think my experience is unique to gifted adults, just as the life stages mentioned at the conference are probably not completely unique to gifted adults, but I wonder if getting stuck in an asynchronous life stage is a different experience for a gifted adult.  Does it lead to more acute emotional sensitivity, more feelings of loss of self-worth, more depression?  I don't know, but I do know it gives me a stronger sense of what it must feel like to be an asynchronous child.  In a sense, a child's asynchrony goes in the opposite direction - they are "stuck" with interests and abilities AHEAD of their chronological years; I felt/feel stuck in stages BEHIND my chronological years.

Both are painful.