The Chinese Fire Drill

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why I'm Staying at Greencastle and Staying IN Public Education

So...funny story, here.  I tried to get OUT of Greencastle TWICE.  But I'm sticking around.  Here's why...

The first time, I applied to Purdue and Indiana for PhD programs in Rhetoric and Composition.  The plan was to go to post-grad, grad school, get the Doctor of Windbaggery, and be a writing teacher at the college level.  But...both Purdue and IU said, "Thanks, but %#@* off."  That was probably because my GRE scores were lower than a hedge-fund manager's moral compass, but also because the recession drove a glut of GREAT students to grad school.  Okay...fair enough.

Then Ivy Tech called and asked me to interview for a full time English gig.  I did, and the interview went very well.  So, they called me up for a second interview.  However, the salary was $13K LESS than my GHS job.  Figure that one out: moving UP the teaching ranks but taking a LOWER salary.

Now, I know that all you Mitch I-Have-No-Soul Daniels fans out there believe that we teachers are grossly overpaid... (I'm not sure how that explains why I was always the guy sitting at the card table after men's golf league watching all the other guys throw out $10's and $20s while I stared at my fingers and practiced my tiddlywinks moves because there was NO way I was going to piss away dough like that...but I digress.)  Anyway, I don't think we're overpaid... I'm digressing again.

The point is that, as much I would have LOVED to teach at any level of college (including Ivy Tech), I simply couldn't justify the pay slash with a son heading to college, a recent divorce, and the naturally logical increase in alchohol purchasing that goes along with all of that.

So, this begs the question: Why would I want to leave?  The answer is I never wanted to (sort of, mostly, kind of, in a way, it's complicated).

One reason I wanted to leave is personal...baggage, basically.  And, honestly, to the rest of the world, so what?  Working with other people is sort of like clipping toenails: sometimes bothersome, painful if you're not careful, but rewarding if you do it well.  So, I'm going to work on that one (the working with people one...but I probably should get better at the toenail thing since I wear sandals a lot more often).  Besides, the primary source of my frustration is gone now because he "retired" (meaning he's an old fart who quit and then took the same job somewhere else).

The second reason is because of all the "reform" that's going on, and the shift toward "accountability," which means TEST SCORES, which means TEST PREP, which is also known as NOT REALLY TEACHING ANYTHING MEANINGFUL OR USEFUL.  If you read this essay I wrote, you will understand that none of this bureaucratic nonsense is what inspired me to be a teacher.  This is like actors validating their work based on how many frames of film in which they looked physically attractive (which in the case of Robert DeNiro would be ZERO): Raw numbers, no context, utter stupidity.

So, when it came time to make the decison: GHS or Ivy Tech, I remembered why I DO like what I do.  I like my job because, when I go out in town, former students come up to me and talk to me as if they were in my class only yesterday (and they are very genuine with me when they do that).  I like my job because former students come up to me (a LOT of them, too) and tell me that they were more prepared for their college classes than other kids from other schools.  I like my job because I still get to talk about GREAT books with young people who do, for the most part, find them interesting.  I like my job because high school kids think my lame jokes are hilarious (adults just look at me like I've got hair growing out of my eyeballs).  I like my job because I NEVER watch the clock; I'm honestly never bored.  I like my job because kids are real.  Adults always think three steps ahead and then speak in the safest manner possible, totally out of a sense of fear and paranoia.  Kids, however, say it as soon as they think it.  They're honest; they're real, and that's great, great fun.

So, I'm staying (for now) because even though there's a lot about my job that upsets me, there's much much much more that pleases me.

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