Monday, July 27, 2020

Bursting Bubbles

One really shouldn't rubberneck. Everyone knows it. And whenever there is a fiery wreck everyone does it anyway. So it is with Stan The Man's Actual Factual blog which covers a wreck that is never-ending and yet so compelling. It is the crack cocaine of stupidity. The irony is the greatest stupidity is concentrated in the teaching corps, or at least those willing to put it on public display. Perhaps that is a harsh assessment. Maybe these folks live in a bubble and have lived there so long they have lost any clue they may have ever had regarding How Things Work in The Real World. So. Let's clue up.

Let's wrestle the 800 pound gorilla: compensation. Tenure may not have an identified cost but it certainly impacts compensation. From a practical point of view any teacher that clings to the job for three years cannot be removed. You'd have better luck trying to scrape a barnacle off a battleship with a salad fork. Guaranteed job...guaranteed pay. Then, and this is really hard to believe, teachers not only enjoy a guaranteed paycheck, they expect and demand a yearly raise. Yep, they expect a raise for simply staying in a job from which they cannot even be fired! Needless to say this is not How Things Work in The Real World. OK. Fine. Let's say it anyway. In The Real World folks don't get tenure, they don't even get furloughs, they get laid off. In at-will states your boss can, on any given day, let you know that YESTERDAY was your last day on the job. COLAs disappeared decades ago so in the absence of a merit raise, which means you, your work and your contribution are measured and evaluated, you get an annual pay decrease equal to that year's rate of inflation. 

Tenure and guaranteed raises have negative operational impact. If you cannot fire a lemon what's the point in even looking for them? Perhaps that is why there are no meaningful mechanisms in place to evaluate teachers other than longevity or degrees, often from very questionable diploma mills. Tenure makes these schools veritable lemon orchards and guaranteed raises are potent fertilizer. 

Then there is the incessant chant of "we're professionals--pay us like professionals!" Well, you are certified. Fair enough. But just not enough. In The Real World professional are responsible and accountable. A doctor screws up and faces malpractice charges. An engineer signs off on a hotel walkway that collapses and we're talking civil and criminal charges. What are the consequences when a rising junior cannot read at the seventh grade level? Nothing. If this happened in The Real World every teacher that child ever had would be run out of the "profession" if not indicted on criminal charges. But the "teaching profession" doesn't work that way. So is anyone surprised there are no consequences when a teacher sets a student on fire? 

And what other "profession" excuses incompetence? Deflective references to the 20-60-20 rule are just that: deflective. This rule was derived from The Real World when employees were evaluated and either earned raises or their walking papers. Under this constant grooming of the workforce there may be "only" twenty percent deadwood. If you do not clean out the deadwood, and schools do not because they cannot, then you will accumulate deadwood. And in The Real World the 20-60-20 rule has been superseded, at least anecdotally, by "the dumbbell" curve which acknowledges the mythical mean. Under the influence of tenure that dumbbell curve is heavily weighted toward the low end. In The Real World employees are often stack ranked with the lowest performers kicked off the island resulting in a dumbbell curve that tends to be more skewed towards the top end. Maybe that is why those who can, do and those who can't, well...

Teachers incessantly threaten to quit as if that is a legitimate threat. In The Real World you will threaten to quit exactly once because Real World employers will take you up on the offer and use the opportunity to improve their team. Malcontents are not welcome and not tolerated for long. Maybe teachers can get greased by being squeaky wheels but in The Real World these wheels get replaced. 

And this constant complaining is quite odd as it seems one of the key characteristic of a teaching schedule is the frequent breaks. In fact, should the administration present a calendar that removes a break, as has happened recently, teachers will squeal like a three year old who had their crayons taken away. Real World jobs most often come with something called PTO: Personal Time Off, which you accrue by working and which has replaced both vacation and sick leave. And while teachers may be able to accumulate a dozen weeks of sick leave, many Real World employers have a use it or lose it policy limiting PTO to as little as four weeks. Let's not even go into the "teachers get summers off" rat hole. 

Perhaps more baffling to folks in The Real World is this odd notion of "professional development" as Real World professionals enter the profession capable (giggle "Disgrace of the GACE") and are expected to maintain their knowledge and skills at a professional level. Often on their own time and dime and no matter what they will not get a pass on their work commitments. And if they don't maintain their skills they will be replaced with someone who has those skills. If they don't maintain their marketability they remain unemployed. 

Then there is the whole management-mismanagement trope where teachers complain that they suffer at the hands of incompetent administrations. Perhaps. So what? Do you really think employees in The Real World don't suffer when managers, executives and boards make bad decisions? Or is it that you just don't care? Seems as if you only care about yourself, often not even fellow educators and certainly not the public or their children. You complain that teachers' opinions aren't solicited by management. Do you really think Real World managers let the inmates run the asylum? 

Hopefully this has burst your little bubble. Maybe you now have a bit of a clue why you're not getting an outpouring of support from a public suffering layoffs, salary compression and who work 250 days a year to your 189. Maybe if we didn't have a BOE member who correctly identified your enterprise as a "jobs program" and if you actually enjoyed the same employment conditions as the rest of us you might get a little more sympathy. But that's never going to happen, is it?