Sunday, September 9, 2007

back to work

I'm officially back to work. After a two year respite from teaching, I've begun the new school year. The differences already are stunning.
I completed my BS in Environmental Science and my Masters in Secondary Science Education in NY, took most of the NYS certification exams before moving to Georgia, where I taught subbed for a year and then taught full-time for 4 years. There are many reasons Georgia is almost dead last in academic performance in the US.
For starters, Georgia is a "right-to-work" state. No union for teacher. You're given a contract that is renewed every year, the salary is embarrasingly low. Not only that but I didnt' get a raise for the first three years- statisitcally, people leave teaching before 4 years, so the thinking was to not give a raise until year 4 to encourage people to stay. However, each of those years, your health coverage and living expenses increase, so essentially you're making less each year. There's not even a cost-of-living adjustment.
And so with no union, teachers are left to battle administration single-handedly. They frequently took all of our planning time for lengthy meetings, required us to stay for night activities or chaperone events. Here in NY, planning is a sternly protected thing, as it should be. And if you're required to do something during it, you just see your union rep and it's handled. If you want to cover a class, you volunteer to do so, and you're compensated for your extra work- in Georgia, you could over classes all day because there were never enough subs.
Here, if you chaperone an event, you are compensated for your extra work. Both states maintain a duty-free lunch, however in Georgia you were frequently strongly encourage to utilize your lunch for phone calls, lunch detention, etc. You were also required to stay after school to man the after-school detention program.
So far, the population of children is staunchly different as well. In Georgia, though I was situation in an affluent area, the district lines were drawn such that affluent students were in another school and our school included all the local housing complexes. Consequently, our population was largely new immigrants, or low-income. Here, it seems much different. My classes filled with Manouchka, Makeisha, and Marquavius are replaced with Christophers, Kaitlyn, and Connor.
So far, the behavior is much better here, though I seem to have more students labeled with a special ed distinction- whether it's autism or something else. My co-teacher (who comes in to help the inclusion special ed students) is wonderful. In Georgia I had the single most irresponsible, flaky, doesn't-show-up, clueless teacher I had ever met. She was actually fired, which in either state is a ridiculously hard thing to do.
In NY, you're interview for your position by the principal, the assistant principal, the department head, and one or several teachers on the team. In GA, you're interview solely by the principal who could hand-pick people, not caring if the rest of the team thought they were qualified or compatible. What a stupid thing!
NY, tenure- GA, no tenure ever. NY, closets filled with supplies- GA, $90 for the year, and that was from the PTA!
However, GA- air conditioned classroom- NY- my classroom was 86 degrees Friday, making it nearly impossible to focus. I was dying, the kids were wilting- what a terrible thing!
In GA, the curriculum was a mile wide and an inch deep. NY it seems to be better, and we seem to have more flexability in what what we're doing.
I'm sure I'll write more about this as the year progresses.
In any case, I'm happy to be back with the kids. I'm a goofy person, and middle school students are goofy students- it's always been a good fit, regardless of the state.

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