by Dr. Pelham Mead III
I was a secondary school teacher for 31 years until my school closed and I retired in 1998. I then went on to become an Instructional Technologist on the college and University level for 12 more years. That is 43 years total of teaching. So, I think that qualifies me to speak about teaching and teachers.
Teachers teach because they love teaching and the feedback from children. Salaries make a teacher’s life easier and removes the stress of paying bills. I started at $7100. dollars a year in East Ramapo Central school district in Spring Valley, New York in 1967. I had a Masters degree from Springfield College, so they gave me extra money to start on the Masters plus salary level. My family and I struggled on only $7100. Remember in the 1960’s you could buy a house for $9,000 or a VW beetle for $1200. A quart of coke soda was .25. We ate rice in our hamburgers to fill us up. I drank a lot of cool aide in those days. Anyway if you want to fulfill a dream salary is important.
I am shocked at the salaries teachers in California get now that I live in San Diego. They are on strike every year it seems. The boards of education are more interested in saving money than hiring well paid teachers. I see articles almost everyday about Sweetwater school district which just settled a teacher strike. Hey, the administrators were all charged with fraud and conspiracy. They stole money meant for solar panels for the school. They took kick-backs from constructors until one finally blew the whistle. Superintendent after superintendent heads that district. It is like a revolving door. The community seems to have no feed back.
A few years ago I was tutoring a brilliant teenage girl in Chula Vista, south of San Diego county. Her mother had her own document business and her father was an insurance agent. They were both naturalized Mexicans, having come to America when they were children. They sent their daughter to a private prep school because they were afraid that the public school students would adversely affect their daughter. They like most parents wanted the best for their daughter. The mother told me that their was only two Catholic High Schools in the entire San Diego county north and south. In order to get to the schools she or her husband had to drive their daughter everyday to school. That was a big sacrifice. Mini-busses were available but they drove around for two hours or more picking up students from everywhere. The mother told me she was afraid to go to the mall with her daughter because the kids that hung around the mall were bad news. In her prep-school a social studies teacher left and the prep-school never replaced him. They just dropped teaching social studies. What a shame? I coached her to first place in the public speaking contest and tutored her in writing Essays and improving her vocabulary. Sweetwater could have had a smart student like this girl but they don’t seem to care in recruiting brilliant students. Their curriculum is average at best with stressed out teachers. When you are stressed out you cannot teach well.
Every four years when I was teaching in New York we had a contract renewal and strike threats. During a threatened strike the Union forced us to work to RULE as they called it. All volunteer jobs were cancelled. No more after school tutoring. No more coming in early to tutor students. Nothing extra without pay was allowed. The students suffered and the teachers stressed out. The administrators became the bad guys informing the students and teachers of the dumb policies the board created. When I started teaching we had 100% medical coverage. When I retired we had only 40% which the district paid and we had to pay 60%. We did not have dental coverage for ten years.
Did you know that all teachers have to get a Masters degree in three to five years in all States in the USA? Yes, they have to pay for it out of their pockets too. If you do not get your Masters in three or five years, you are fired and not allowed to teach anywhere until you get that degree. That is five years of preparation to be able to teach. When summer rolls around every year teachers go broke. They have to get another job to survive, usually at Day or resident camps which pay very little. I got a free membership for my two children for teaching gymnastics at a day camp called Camp Hill for 14 years. That saved me having to shell out $3,000 total for the two of them.
Let’s talk curriculum in California. A lot of the curriculum is State mandated like in Health Education. I was a Health Ed. teacher for 31 years and I wrote the Health curriculum for my district in 1980. The State of New York wrote an AIDS curriculum which lasted on year until parents sued and it was removed. The next year my district wrote the AIDS curriculum. We knew very little about AIDS in the 1980’s. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that we had figured out that the T-cells got infected in HIV and AIDS. We had no curriculum material to give the students in the 1980’s and Indian students were excused from. Sex education unit because their parents objected. They got to write essays about HIV instead in the library. In the 1990’s I purchased Laser disks to teach my students about AIDS. The huge disks has movies about people that died of AIDS on the front and a step by step curriculum on the back. It lasted a full month of teaching. The movie, “Philadelphia,” with Tom Hanks came out and I used it regularly in my classes to explain AIDS and HIV.
Locally in the North county of San Diego the parents were protesting the Sex Education curriculum The curriculum had pictures of anatomy and AIDS PREVENTION AND THE parents were shocked. Well, if parents taught sex ed at home the school would not have to do it. Letting parents have input in writing a curriculum is vital. The schools in the North county did not do this. Shocking the lack of correct information the parents had. They got all emotional about the curriculum. I am sure none of them every volunteered to help write the curriculum. The solution could have been involve the parents to avoid parent protests. In Loco parents is the latin phrase, in place of the parent. The teacher becomes the parent in the school for 6 1/2 hours a day. The rest of the day they are at home.
TO be continued.