Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Realizing I never posted in January

I have just realized that I never posted in January--a month missed is a month not earned. What?


In all seriousness, I did have some pretty strong feelings about some of the things that I read over at a good friend of mine's blog regarding the concept of 'merit pay' for teachers. I responded to his blog post regarding it and basically agreed with what the blog's author said about the concept, as I feel similarly, in most respects, to how the remainder of the teaching population feels--it's a bad idea without some serious consideration.

First, as we really going to judge a teacher by how each year's crop of students does each year when they take their large standardized test in 10th grade? Isn't that like comparing apples to oranges to grapes to pineapples? Aren't we going to find years where the students surpass our expectations, work well together and are generally very positive and willing to work or at least listen in our classes? And aren't there going to be years and crops of students who fight tooth and nail about everything and are so intent on just dropping out of high school and earning their GED that they purposefully try to flunk the test? (It happens). Yes, absolutely. We cannot compare year to year. If we want this concept to work from this standpoint, we need to begin in third grade and compare the same group of students year after year for progress and work backwards determining which of their teachers should have taught a particular concept which obviously they did not grasp, and so forth...

Second, do we really want to make it a teacher vs. teacher incentive program, where the most successful teachers either earn more for themselves or for their school while those less successful risk either layoffs, or no pay increase depending on their performance? No, I doubt that's the intention. The intention is to make teachers work harder for student success, right? The simplest solution is to not pit teachers against others, but to force teachers to really broaden how they teach and with what resources. I'm not talking about professional development, per say, but more of a just a weekly meeting where teachers from each department come up with creative ways for everyone else in the department to teach a lesson coming up in the months ahead. That's a totally unassuming, calm, collaborative, and good-natured gesture, which will require all teachers to think outside of their own confines and search on the glorious tool known as the internet, where I highly doubt there is any lack of radical or ingenious lesson plans. If we make it a teacher vs. teacher thing, those who are more creative will obviously keep their know-how and creativity a secret, shutting down entire departments because no one wants to communicate and risk losing extra money they can put in their pockets (because they would then be sharing it with other members of the department as everyone would rise instead of just one teacher...). No, that's another awful idea.

And finally, isn't the whole incentive pay thing just designed for teachers who 'someone' deems to be tiring or regimented or very set-in-their-ways and dull now? Aren't those the teachers who are ultimately the focus? These teachers already make the most money, and many wouldn't care much for the merit pay money increase, but newer teachers (such as myself), who are already thinking of as many of these types of lessons as possible, the ones who really need the money but are already doing this?

The whole idea needs some work. If I could, I would file this under January.

The Glass Apartment

Losing the opportunity to purchase a home that you really want is heartbreaking. Obviously. Everyone can deal with that. But it's the mental anguish over the 'what-if' that is really the most boggling concept. There are few events/times in a person's life where the infamous scenario plays on repeat. With our wedding coming up so soon, K. and I were really banking on this house being 'the one,' sending the paperwork away and returning from the honeymoon with the prospect of a new house to move into several weeks later. Now that dream is deferred.

What really sucks about the situation is that our offer wasn't just rejected, it wasn't even countered or commented upon. Instead the seller's kept the fact that they had another offer hidden from us and our realtor, they also refused to disclose to us that our offer should be a competitive one (because of that other offer), in which case K. and I probably would have offered the full asking price for the property and would have entered a bidding war. Perhaps it's a good thing that we didn't enter a bidding war, and it might be an even better thing that we didn't get suckered into the cat-and-mouse game of 'won't you offer just a bit more' from the bank, which ultimately would have tried to squeeze extra money from our bidding-war situation.

I'm upset about the situation but not nearly as mired in depression and anger as K. She has locked herself away and is refusing to speak to anyone, blaming the situation on myriad factors, some of them legitimate, others fantastical, but at the moment, rational. I suppose our minds do work this way though--trying to legitimize the otherwise irrelevant or happenstance--I surely have received a good dose of humility tonight with the surprising and saddening news. I'd like to say we'll still find a good place because there are still new ones coming on the market all the time, and obviously we'll end up with a house eventually, but the searching and waiting and struggle just to find a place that we like and that is affordable is eating away at us, and our relationship.

The wedding couldn't come at a better time, ironically enough, than at the time when our relationship is most strained. All I can hope for at the moment is for us to rally around our future endeavor into marriage and enjoy our honeymoon. Perhaps the impending nuptials will force us together at a time when we otherwise would seek our distance, and it will force us to talk and to keep working together toward our common goal.

With all of this going on in my personal life, I look upon the petty quarrels and issues of my freshmen and sigh. For those who believe that accidentally leaving behind a note professing undying love for someone is the end of the world, just wait until your mid-20s. Youth is absolutely wasted on the young and the naive, those who walk through my door everyday with no cares in the world and their hearts on their sleeves, those who sneak a quick conversation with their neighbor while I lecture on about Romeo and Juliet, a love story they can't possibly relate to--never will they encounter an enemy fixated on their ousting, never will they enter a competition for something so serious, life-altering and permanent, and never will they grasp the concept that love and tragedy can be so interdependent, so entwined and paired, so ratcheted together and commingled that all one can do is baton down the hatches of their rickety ships ambling across this treacherous sea of life, and steer and row with all their strength, wait for the storm to break, and cherish what they have.