Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sub Pay, Part II

There is a thread going on LinkedIn about how much subs around the United States and elsewhere get paid.  As I wrote about before, Sub Pay, supply teachers in Australia get paid nearly the same rate as regular teachers, sometimes a bit more, to compensate for the fact that their jobs are less certain.

Teachers around the US are reporting that sub pay here ranges from around $60 per day to around $150 in the larger cities.  This is TERRIBLE.  Even those making the higher amounts, are making less than poverty level wages in their areas.  For some substitute teachers, an increase in the minimum wage would mean that the schools would have to raise their pay as well. 

Parents:  your children will be taught approximately a full year by substitute teachers in the years between Kindergarten and graduation from high school.  Administrators:  you are paying your subs less than your cafeteria workers, your custodians, your clerical staff, and your teacher aides - are you wondering why you can't find all the subs you need?

Many of the substitute teachers who teach America's children are certified teachers.  Virtually all substitute teachers are college educated.  When they are in the schools, substitute teachers frequently do similar work to what the regular teachers do.  Why don't they get comparable pay for comparable work?  It is true that they don't have the same jobs as regular teachers.  Regular teachers have huge time investments in lesson plans, grading, parent contact, and teachers' meetings.  On the other hand, subs, as evidenced by various threads on LinkedIn, also do a lot of lesson planning, purchasing of materials for "just in case", and teacher contact, most of which is completely uncompensated.

Subs also have additional challenges that regular teachers do not.  They need to be ready to teach a wide range of subjects and age groups at a moment's notice.  They have to be able to discern and apply the various regulations and procedures of the schools they are at.  And no, they are not all alike or even similar.  Subs often have to be prepared for substantial changes in lesson plans - a cancelled assembly, an unscheduled interruption, or even the occasions when lesson plans are missing entirely.  And this is, unfortunately, NOT rare.  Regular teachers know what can fill that time - subs sometimes have no idea - they don't know what has already been covered or what is planned for the future.  

Subs have special challenges when dealing with kids with special needs.  Teacher very often do not leave a list of the children who have special needs and how to deal with them.  They don't mention the times various children leave the classroom for extra classes.  I have had teachers tell me that I don't need to worry about Child X, because she has a full time aide - only to find that the full time aide is sick and also has a sub (or they couldn't get one) and you just have to deal with it.  What are you supposed to do with a child with a ODD diagnosis, when they refuse to do anything you ask and start eating bits of dirt off the ground to see what you will do?  Especially when you have 30 other children in the class and are supposed to be teaching a social studies lesson and the teacher left no information other than the diagnosis.  

And, most of all subs have to be especially discerning about all of the students.  They haven't had weeks or months to get to know them.  They have a few minutes and a lot of students.  They don't know one child's parents are going through a divorce or that another child's grandmother just died.  They don't know the kids, but they have to understand them as much as possible anyway.  

As one other sub has commented, substitute teachers rarely get training by the district.  There is usually a substitute training session of a half to a full day at the beginning of the year - and that is it.  Subs usually are not invited to attended district teacher training institutes; they are not instructed on the use of new tools, such as white boards.  In many places, they are not given sign ons for the computers, nor keys to the classrooms, nor codes to use the copiers.  They do not get training for the new curricula. 

Finally, not only do subs not have guaranteed work or income, they also get no sick days and no benefits.  In a country where health care is frequently tied to one's job, subs are left on their own for health care, which can be hugely expensive, because the sub is not part of a larger group, such as a teachers' union.  Individual plans are typically costly. 

Subs are vastly underpaid. 

Supreme Court Buffer Zone Ruling

This is the thing I keep thinking about the SCOTUS ruling about buffer zones. You aren't infringing on someone's speech to require them to do so at a certain distance from a public passage - they can still speak as much as they want. If the person passing through wants to hear, they can, of their own volition, walk towards the people who are speaking. What you are doing is REQUIRING the person passing through to listen, since we can't turn off our ears. There is, however, NO requirement in the constitution that we have to listen to what someone is saying.  By doing away with the buffer zone, they are essentially requiring someone to listen.

Furthermore, you are NOT guaranteed an audience or forum for your speech by the constitution. A newspaper is NOT required to publish anything you wish to say. You are not allowed to address people in any public place that you want. Even libraries have rules about speech.  If you have something you wish to say, it is your job to make sure that people want to listen to you.  No one should be required to listen. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

To Label or Not to Label Gifted Kids

There is an active debate about labeling gifted kids going on right now in The Brain Cafe on Facebook.  I gave my opinion to start with and it is similar to the opinion I expressed in a recent blog hop.  (See May posts.)

I am a bit dismayed that we keep having this debate over and over and over again.  Should we use the word gifted?  Should we identify gifted kids?  Shouldn't we just give services to anyone who needs them?

Well, yes, ideally, we would just give services to anyone who needs them.  But, in case people haven't noticed, that isn't the way most schools work.  Funding isn't just allocated for some amorphous program to help kids with their needs.  That is regular school and it isn't really adequate for gifted kids.  I have complained loudly and frequently about the fact that regular teachers can't and don't differentiate enough for gifted kids.  And, no, it is NOT just a matter of more training.  You can come up with all the "should"s that you want - it isn't happening.  Teachers SHOULD differentiate for their outlier kids.  They don't.  There SHOULD be resources available for teachers to use with their outlier kids.  There aren't.  Teachers SHOULD take time to help the outlier kids with their specific needs.  They don't HAVE the time.  So which outlier kids actually get services?  The kids with labels.  BD, ESL, ELL, LD, etc.  Maybe it SHOULDn't be that way, but it is.  If you want a gifted program, you need labels.  Within those labels, there can be a huge range of flexibility. 

Personally, I am staying out of the theoretical argument now.  I can see the theory both ways.  But I want results and I want to see them across the board, not just in the best or most exemplary schools.  From what I can see, you need labels, you need specific identification, and you need specific programs - programs targeted to labeled kids.  We need specific programs to target the kids who are labeled GT, in addition to all of the other labeled programs. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Money and Politics

From my little corner of the US, I am sadly very discouraged about the current state of American politics.  The huge corporations and moneyed industries enjoy huge influence on the directions that laws take.  People without endless pockets of money get shafted over and over again.  The only hope we lesser people have of influencing policy and law is through banding together and voting, but even that hope is constantly eroding, due to gerrymandering, political advertising designed to confuse voters, and conflating religion into issues that it should remain separate from.

I contribute to progressive causes, feminist causes, and environmental causes.  Since I make very little money as a substitute teacher, I shouldn't even contribute as much as I already do.  But even with these progressive causes, it isn't my opinion that counts, it is my money.  They count contributors; they count contributions.  They pretend to count opinion, but even with the progressive fund raisers, they don't really care about your opinion, they just want your money.

A while back, I vowed that I would contribute money to any of the causes that I already support, if they sent me ONE chance to sign their petitions WITHOUT also asking for money.  So far, I haven't had to pay up.  They have a minor interest in numbers of signers - the more signers, the more people get on the bandwagon.  But what they really are interested in is the money.

Always the money.