Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Got My Mind On My Money and My Money On My Mind

Oh friends! My heart is literally pounding for I am angry! Irritated! Astounded! And no,before you jump to conclusions, this has NOTHING to do with the Bacon Hunter! (Surprised?)

Today I am angry because I finally read the story from Sunday's New York Times (MASSIVE kitchen re-organizing took over my life this weekend....grueling and intense, but well worth it. I do heart an organized kitchen!!). Did you see this article? If you didn't, you can check it out here. It's the one questioning whether or not teachers should be allowed to sell their own lesson plans for profit or whether said lesson plans are actually property of the school. I'll give you a moment to read and for my heart to slow down. I think I'll have a seat (prior to now, you should have imagined me pacing and ranting) and put my head between my knees.

Ready? I'm feeling a little better now (thank you for asking). Where to begin? I think you can guess where Mrs. Mimi stands on this one! And while I encourage free debate in my comments, may I ask you to choose your words very carefully (VERY. CAREFULLY.) if you choose to comment (read: disagree with me) today.

Basically there are many, such as the fine people over at Teachers Pay Teachers (shout out to former NYC teachers....holla!), who believe that yes, this work and these ideas do indeed belong to the teacher. This is probably because these people recognize that most teachers (if not all teachers) create their lesson plans OUTSIDE of school and/or AFTER 3:00. They do this because there isn't even one single second of time during the day where they might be able to sit down and work out anything know, 'cuz their days are filled with things like um, teaching, meeting after meeting after meeting, working with children who need extra help, frantically running to the photo copier, desperately trying to catch up on data collecting, or, you know, eating or peeing. JUST TO NAME A FEW.

One d-bag quoted in the article (I am debating about whether or not to name him here because he IS named in the, hi, target on your back much? But, have decided he doesn't even DESERVE naming here in my space - a TEACHER'S space. So we will call him Mr. D-Bag In A Suit since I feel there is no way he is not dry clean only...meaning, there is no way he has ever got down on a floor and worked with an actual child so why doesn't he keep his mouth SHUT!) said that he believes if the materials are created with school district resources that the school district should share in a portion of the profits.

(cover your ears)


1) How many RESOURCES have teachers actually purchased themselves to be used in said district with said district children? Does the district ever worry about that?
2) I guess if a teacher is literally copying an already published lesson out of district purchased curriculum guide, than yes. But honestly, we are SO MUCH SMARTER THAN THAT! I've taken a gander at some of the materials offered and they appear to be original material with ideas original to the teacher.
3) If Mr. D-Bag In A Suit is so worried about equal compensation for the possible/alleged use of district resources, then is he also concerned with the equal compensation of teachers for their use of non-school time to create these lesson plans (also known as over time?) I mean, I had to punch a time clock (true story) reinforcing that I was only paid for the hours between 8 and 3 while also cementing the idea that I was perceived as a contractually bound unionized worker (whether I wanted to be or not), rather than a true professional. I'm sure true professionals, who are paid true professional wages, would have no problem with working after the children went home. However, we are not considered true professionals in the eyes of too many, are definitely not compensated as true professionals and therefore feel free to complain about suggestions made my douche bags implying that we should share profits made from intellectual property created on our own time. BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT?? WE MAY COMPLAIN ABOUT THE EXTRA HOURS BUT WE ALWAYS DO IT ANYWAY BECAUSE WE ARE FABULOUS! (I am aware that I have started yelling.) (Phew. Must take breath.)

But while I'm all heated up, let's move onto another genius bit of commentary....a gem I found in the comments section of this article. An actual professor (of what I don't know) stated that teachers constantly complain about working 40 plus hours a week because evidently he thinks that teachers are the only ones who complain about their hours at work. I don't know about you, but I have heard plenty of people in plenty of careers bitch plenty about their lack of a work/life balance. This individual then moved on to state that teachers are desperate to be considered professionals but are unwilling to incur the obligations of true professionals. Um....exactly what does this guy think we SHOULD be doing that we are currently NOT doing? Because my plate always felt insanely full - both with teaching related tasks as well as the tasks of some of the lazy shmoes around me. Does this fool mean that I should be wearing more dry clean only clothing? Or is he going to rely on the old "you get summers off and therefore aren't a professional person" argument. NEWSFLASH ASSHAT - WE DID NOT ASK FOR/BEG/OR DECIDE TO HAVE SUMMERS OFF....IT HAS BEEN THAT WAY FOREVER! (And if you, Mr. Professor, snap back with a witty retort such as "well, summers off are why you got into teaching in the first place", I shall have to slap you. Hard.)

However, the article also includes the lovely story of a veteran teacher who gave thirty years of her life to this career. After putting her own original lesson plans up for sale, she was able to finally realize her dream of redoing her kitchen. A dream which a teacher's salary alone could not support. Now the lesson plan sales may not have paid for all of it, but that money certainly helped.

The article also includes the stories of several other current teachers many of whom use the extra funds to purchase materials for their classrooms or treats for their students. (Many of these materials are necessary for excellent instruction, yet were evidently not provided by the district with district funds. Just thought I'd point that out for Mr. DBIAS.) Yes, there are a few stories of teachers going out to dinner or (gasp!) making mortgage payments, but I think we can all agree that teachers deserve a few simple pleasures such as food and shelter, can't we?

There was also talk in the article of how charging for lesson plan ideas cheapens the field of teaching which thrives on the free exchange of ideas. I don't know about you, but when I was teaching, I gave away plenty of my own ideas to my colleagues (super or not) for free all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Of course we don't charge to share with one another in the same building. However, having a market place where teachers can share and profit from their ideas with colleagues around the world whom they have never met is a totally different ball game. (In my opinion.) Yes, you can find resources for free or you can choose to spend a little money on them. To me, it's no different than going out and buying a book on reading comprehension to help beef up your instruction.

There is the implication that such an exchange will encourage teachers to be lazy (I HATE that so many people assume we are lazy...what is THAT about?) and add no original thought to the work, basically poaching the ideas of others to make their job easier. First of all, too many school districts are purchasing scripted curriculum which rob teachers of the ability to think for themselves or cater instruction to their children so clearly, many school districts don't have a problem with teachers simply reading from a script. (I have a problem with this, but we'll save that for another day.) So to those school districts, I say "quit your bitching." To others who believe that too many teachers are simply hitting print and listlessly going through the motions....well, that makes me sad. That may be happening in some places, but resources such as TeachersPayTeachers did not create that problem. Yet, this line of thinking doesn't consider that many teachers are also using these resources as a starting point which they will adapt to their own style and the needs of their current students. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not benefit from the shared ideas of other professionals even if it is at a minimal financial cost? Is that any different than using a free lesson plan to jump start you thinking about a new unit? Or using a published book to change the way you teach? I don't think it is.

What do you all think? I know that in Mrs. Mimi's new website (coming soon!!) there will definitely be a space for teachers to exchange ideas and lesson plans -some for free and some for profit. I think it's a way to acknowledge hard work and compensate excellent teachers for their contributions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

I toyed with the idea of using the word "Playa" instead of "Player" in the above title, but that it was a bit much. Sometimes slightly clever is better than hitting-you-over-the-head clever and since I have been told that I enjoy beating metaphors to death, I decided to err on the side of underwhelming. But I digress...

Before I begin - Happy Belated Veteran's Day to everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the day whether you had it off or not and took some time to remember the reason why we have Veteran's Day to begin with. (Hint: the answer is NOT about sales at the mall, sleeping late, or that parades are fabulous.)

Even though I no longer have a classroom to go to every morning (Pause to collect myself...this is still a harsh reality for me to deal with.) (Because the reality now is that I only have the space in my home which I lovingly call Dissertation Station although perhaps I should just cal it what it is...the Sit-and-Stare-at-the-Wall-Waiting-for-Data-Driven-Genius-To-Strike-Station, but that's not as snazzy. Plus I like rhyming so Dissertation Station it is.), I still hope for my other teacher friends and former Super Colleagues to enjoy their well deserved day off. (Unless you didn't get the day off, in which case I am sorry, hope you had a great day with your friends and enjoyed your mandatory assembly.)

Yes, I said well deserved. Because it is. (THAT just happened.)

I say "enjoy" and I also say "well-deserved" because teachers didn't ask for the day off and they certainly do deserve it! Don't you, you non-teacher who also thinks of themselves as a hard worker and perhaps you are, enjoy getting a day off now and then? Don't you also think you deserve a day off from time to time? (May I remind you that this is not an opening for you to say something assinine such as, "But teachers have a MILLION days off!" or "Yeah, but I didn't go into my career for the summers off" because we wouldn't want this post to take a violent turn for the worse now would we? I mean, I'm sure you work hard too and with your added responsibility surely comes added monetary compensation. Am I right? Good for you! That must be lovely! Sadly, we teachers can only see miles of added responsibility on the horizon yet not a dime in sight. Oh, maybe the occassional left over birthday cupcake, but money, no, none of that. So we take what we can and relish our bonus days off.

These holidays off are just that. Bonuses. Or at least I always pretended it was a bonus which recognized the fact that I had more work than I was physically capable of completing in one day.

Earlier I admitted to my sad reality regarding my dissertation...and really, the reality for many of YOU out there is that you spent your day off holed up in your home correcting papers, working on lesson plans or finalizing report card grades. Am I right or am I left? So I guess the only bonus that is left in this scenario is that perhpas you finally got to catch up on everythign and do it with your pajamas and a cup of tea (or in fabulous high heels you wouldn't dare teach in all day and a cocktail...your choice). Either way, I hope you walked into school today with a refreshed attitude and a little extra sleep. (And if you're a huge nerd like I am/was, clutching several new color-coded lists and a plan book full of a rainbow of post its and ideas.)

Happy Belated Veteran's Day! I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Haters and Congratulaters - Barnsey Debriefed

Um, hi, yeah. It's been roughly a thousand years since I posted. I was all shameless self promotion and then I went radio-silent on you guys. Sorry about that. Good reason though...more to come on that.

So I read at Barnsey. (sigh) It was like a dream come true. Picture me entering my beloved Barnsey, only to see a picture of myself and my book in the lobby. Needless to say, Big Mama Mimi lost her shit and started snapping pictures. Unfortunately, Big Mama Mimi is not the most savvy with a digital camera (Accept it mom, it's true.) but was able to get a few good photos in before security shut her down. Evidently one is not supposed to take photos in Barnsey...even if one's face is plastered on posters everywhere and clearly has an over-stimulated family in tow. But I digress...

I get downstairs where two lovely ladies show me to the green room. The GREEN ROOM! As in the "green room" that famous people refer to before they go on stage or whatever. It had two big squashy chairs, a small desk, a stack of copies of my book, some gloriously delicious new Sharpies and more water than I should have probably consumed prior to standing in front of a good sized group of people with no bathroom in sight. I chatted with a few people and then practiced reading my passage for the kajillioneth time. (If you are curious, I chose to read the section about the Great Paper Capers in which my Super Colleagues and I stealthily sneak down to the school basement to steal. I chose this part because it is a) hilarious, b) was not filled with curse words or various forms of the word "douche" and c) did I mention hilarious?)

And yes, I was able to get on stage just fine wearing my fabulously high high-heeled shoes. I think I actually saw a couple of people sneak a close up of the shoes....

When I first stood at the podium, I was all cotton mouth and stammery. I'm not sure if the sweat running down my back was noticeable, but I'm praying that people were again focused on the shoes rather than my large puddle of rapidly accumulating sweat droplets. However, I took a deep breath, focused on my fabulously supportive Super Colleagues seated in the front row and began. And, as soon as I started to read out loud, I felt a million times better.

I was in my element.

Have I mentioned before that I heart reading out loud? And when people laugh at me? Granted there were far fewer turn-and-talks and I didn't have to stop to tell Curly to stop poking Bubbles, but whatever. I was reading out loud yet again to a fairly captive audience. And I loved every second. (P.S. Word on the street is that it might appear on Barnsey's website. It isn't up yet as far as I know, but I'll keep you posted.)

After I finished reading, there was a question and answer period. And guess what?!? No really...guess!

You'll never get it... a million years...


For real.

Now, I happen to know who sent this little, um, "birdie" but only because I am quick on my feet (and addicted to Facebook). However, their identity is not important.

What IS important is that this person had several nastily worded and very pointed questions all written out in advance. Evidently, hating me has consumed a large portion of their time. In all fairness, this person never truly strayed into the inappropriate - there was no swearing, finger pointing or yelling, but still....girlfriend worked it to get her point across. (And if she's reading this now, is probably going nuts that I just referred to her as "girlfriend.")

At first, I was pissed. But you know what? Everyone has a right to their opinion and I think I handled her fairly well...especially when she implied that I was "high on my horse" (probably true) and that I was "mocking people" (um, it's a satire.) All in all, it's kind of hot to spark up a debate. Maybe I can add "controversial" to my resume....along with "hip and hilarious" and "fresh and relevant." Ooo...and then she put the cherry on top of her attack sundae by going on Amazon and writing two very nasty reviews of my book. (Feel free to check those little gems out and to write a little rebuttal-poo if you are so moved.)

I think the best part of all this was that Barnsey security picked up on the negative vibes and was on me like white on rice. Seriously, I had the lovely head of security by my side for the remainder of the event. They even escorted me up the stairs (um, it was like real bad ass, y'all...) and out to a cab.

From there I went to a fabulous party thrown by the amazing Mr. Mimi (He could totally use that for a circus act name, now that I type it...has a certain ring to it...) where I hung out with the always supportive people from Kaplan, my rock star agent, every last Super Colleague and my phenomenal girl friends. It was a great night...thank you so much for sharing it with me.

(Oh, and totally won't wait three weeks between posts again.)

Who's Peeking?