In this Dickensian blog post I’d like to do a comparison of the four main types of teachers in Miami Dade County. These are all composite characters of teachers I have met over the course of my fourteen year career. Which one do you identify with the most?
Teacher #1 The “Sexy Young TFA Recruit”
Chances are you’ve seen this teacher leading a PD at the district or your school site even though they have a grand total of two weeks teaching experience. Doesn’t matter. They are young, smart, energetic, and driven. They will tell you how to produce results, despite never having produced any of their own. They are the embodiment of professionalism and the sweethearts of administrators and downtown district types alike. Known for never having anything bad to say about the teaching profession (except wishing the old grumpy teachers would just get with the data driven program) they don’t understand what all those mid-career teacher types (see teacher #3 description below) keep complaining about. Just out of college, they are making $50,000 a year with no teaching experience thanks to the Best and Brightest scholarship program. Not only that, they are living in subsidized housing in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Miami built thanks to the benevolence of the Greatest Superintendent of All Time. Sure they thought it was a little odd that they had to submit a profile picture with height, weight, bust, waist and hip measurements along with their application for the much sought after apartments (only 100 units for a workforce of 20,000), but who could pass up the opportunity to pay $800 a month to share a two bedroom apartment with four other teachers? She thinks it’s awesome that they can spend extra hours planning and tutoring after school because she has no commute, children, or second job. She enjoys collaborating with her other attractive young TFA roommates in the Tower. Reminds her of her college dorm experience and sorority house. She spends her extra time and cash ordering $20 sushi rolls, going to Soul Cycle spin classes at Equinox gym, shopping for Jimmy Choo shoes, and getting $250 Keratin hair treatments. What teacher has time to blow dry their own hair everyday? Her expensive spending habits are further subsidized by her parents giving her a $2000 a month allowance. She could care less about job security because she only plans to teach for two years so she can add it to her grad school resume or application to work at the Florida Department of Education where she can craft more policies that designed to benefit future TFA recruits (see also Rebecca Fishman Lipsey http://www.flgov.com/2013/09/23/governor-rick-scott-appoints-rebecca-fishman-lipsey-to-the-state-board-of-education/)
Teacher #2 The “Newbie Young Teacher from Miami”
Unlike teacher #1 the “Sexy Young TFA Recruit”, the “Newbie Young Teacher from Miami” didn’t graduate from an Ivy League school, qualify for a Best and Brightest Scholarship, or win the lotto for one of the 100 subsidized apartments downtown. He didn’t even understand how to take his bust, waist and hip measurements for the application. Growing up in West Kendall and getting a four year degree from a Miami Dade County Community College, he thought it would be fun to live and work on the beach. Only he didn’t realize the average cost for a one bedroom on Miami Beach was $1600 a month. So now he’s stuck commuting 90 minutes each way from his abuela’s house in West Kendall to his job on the beach. He can’t even enjoy getting drunk after work because he doesn’t have the extra cash to spend $15 on one beer. Because he knew he wanted to be a teacher, he knew it made the best sense to attend community college and he never took the SAT. He did think it was odd when principals kept asking to see his SAT scores at job interviews thanks to the Best and Brightest Principals scholarship. The poor “Newbie Young Teacher from Miami” doesn’t understand why he keeps losing his job every May despite having highly effective evaluations and impressive test scores. Seems like he’s always being replaced by some Ivy League grad with no teaching experience. Tired of having to work at Starbucks over the summer just so he can have health insurance until the next school year starts, he plans on spending spring break in Georgia attending teacher recruitment fairs. He knows he’ll never be able to afford his own place in Miami, have any job security or guarantee of any sort of salary progression.
Teacher #3 The “Biggest Loser Mid-Career Teacher”
This single mother with two kids living with her parents at age 42 after spending 20 years in the classroom and only making $43,000 is the biggest loser of all. Despite having an SAT score in the 90 percentile on the English portion of the exam, her score on the math portion barely broke the 68th percentile, disqualifying her from a Best and Brightest Scholarship. Retaking the test is not an option, since after a 23 year hiatus from math, her score will be even lower. Who has time to study for the SAT when you are a single mom working as a teacher with two kids? She thought teaching would give her a nice stable career and she was expecting to make a comfortable $57,000 based on the step schedule in place when she first started her career. Little did she know that after enthusiastically voting for President Obama he would turn around and rip away her financial future with his idiotic Race to the Top grant. Not only did this teacher go four years without a raise thanks to the Great Recession, she spent another 15 years of her career earning $100 step increases on the abomination of a step schedule created by her union. Whenever she complained when the older teachers at the top of the pay scale got a $10,000 raise when she only got a $100 raise at the bottom of the salary schedule they just told her, “We did our time, now you have to do yours.” Since when did teaching become a prison sentence? Unable to do anything about the unjust step schedule she figured she would just have to wait and one day she too would experience some much earned economic prosperity. Only just as she was about to reach the $12,000 step increase, the union negotiated away her financial future and didn’t even bother to compensate other mid-career teachers like her in any way despite a Florida law which stated she was able to remain on the grandfathered step schedule instead of opting into the merit pay system. She boils over with envy at the teacher next door to her who is a Sexy Young TFA recruit making $50,000 without any children who wears three inch pumps to work everyday and always has perfectly done hair and nails. The 42 year old mid-career single mom biggest loser teacher making $43,000 after 20 years never has the time or the money for a mani-pedi. She’s lost hope of ever finding man since she’s an elementary school teacher who spends her day surrounded by other female teachers and children. She’s tried online dating apps but can’t compete in a town filled with 20 year old, silicone injected, aspiring models who know how to airbrush every photo to make themselves appear even more flawless than they already are. She dreams of moving to another county with more affordable housing, better schools, and a bigger paycheck but fears giving up her tenure and being placed on annual contract. She’s trapped, financially strapped and neither her district, her union, or the Florida Legislature give a damn.
Teacher #4 The “Lucky Soon to be Retired Baby Boom Teacher who was Born at the Right Time”
This teacher was born at the right time and not only had a relatively lucrative teaching career but also got lucky in real estate. If he is a high school teacher with two extra supplements he may be making over $80,000 at this point in their career. He not only married well, but inherited his grandmother’s 1600 sq ft ranch house on Miami Beach that a developer is now offering three million dollars for so they can tear it down and build a mansion. He laughs off the idiocy of the Florida Legislature because he is just about to retire and it won’t effect them. He is so old the College Board doesn’t have a record of his SAT scores so he has no hope of qualifying for Best and Brightest and could care less about getting a “highly effective” evaluation. Slightly insulted that he is too old to be archived, with an $80,000 a year salary and no mortgage or rent to pay, he doesn’t really care about missing out on a Best and Brightest scholarship. He doesn’t understand why the mid-career teachers are so angry with the union every time a contract passes. He did his time and those mid-career teachers need to do theirs. He often laughs to himself when he thinks about how he will make more money with his pension check every month when he retires than the biggest loser mid-career teacher will make slaving away in the classroom every day. He’ll even get a 3% COLA every year that will be larger than any pay raise the mid-career teacher gets! He never understands what the Sexy Young TFA Recruit teacher leading the staff PD at their school site is talking about but he doesn’t mind looking at a pretty young thing while he tells jokes with his fellow Lucky Soon to be Retired teachers in the back of room. Ain’t life grand?
You can read more real life stories about how bad mid-career teachers have it in Miami here http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article145688984.html.