The absurdist dystopian nightmare that is teaching in Florida in 2017 continues as the Sun Sentinel ran an article this week about teachers sitting alongside high school students to take the SAT in hopes of qualifying for a $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-schools-teachers-retake-sat-20171004-story.html

It should be noted that the brainchild behind the Best and Brightest bonus, Erik Fresen, was sentenced to prison for 9 years of tax evasion while serving in the Florida legislature last week in Miami. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article176100881.html

Meanwhile, Miami Dade is forcing teachers to use overpriced vendors and pay excessive shipping fees to buy school supplies using a new software application called “Class Wallet” for fear that the IRS will audit teachers’ dry erase marker purchases with the $284 they are given by the state to purchase classroom supplies.

I digress. Being lucky enough to have barely qualified for the Best and Brightest bonus one year, and unlucky enough to have been disqualified for the Best and Brightest bonus last year due to my district generated punitive VAM score, I feel for the Florida teachers that are so desperate for the shot at an extra $6,000 that they will invest hours of their life, hundreds of dollars in testing fees, and endure the utter humiliation of having to sit next to one of their students during an SAT administration. Here is how an imagined version of that awkward conversation might go down.

(Middle aged teacher stumbles into SAT testing room looking haggard with a coffee mug with the inscription, “World’s Best Teacher.” Like her students, she pulled an all nighter reviewing Algebra. She hasn’t solved an equation in over 20 years. She was bad at math in high school (that’s why she is here, her English score was high but not good enough to compensate for her abysmally low math score). She is probably even much worse now at math, but she is so desperate at the shot of a $6,000 bonus to help her pay off her credit card debt amassed while trying to survive over the summer, that she signed up to take the SAT. She tried to sign up to take it in another district to avoid the humiliation of sitting for the test with one of her students but there weren’t any available seats. Her greatest fear has been realized as she immediately recognizes her brightest student and he immediately recognizes her despite her disguise of a blond wig and sunglasses.)

“Hi, Ms. Jones!”

The student runs up and gives his favorite teacher a big hug.

“That’s so cool that you’re going to proctor my test today! Maybe you can give me some answers,” he chuckles.

“I’m sorry Johnny but I’m not actually your proctor. I’m here to take the SAT just like you.”

“You’re joking right? he questions. “Why would a teacher need to take the SAT? You already graduated from college?”

“I know it doesn’t make any sense Johnny. The world doesn’t make any sense anymore. Donald Trump is our President and teachers are taking an exam meant for high school students for the shot at an extra $6,000.”

She takes a seat next to Johnny and proceeds to tell him the following story.

“There was once a very evil and stupid man that didn’t pay his taxes and he served in the Florida legislature. He hated teachers and traditional public schools. He also had important familial ties to the charter school industry which was struggling to find teachers because their pay was so low. He wanted to help his brother in law increase his teachers’ pay without cutting into his profits, so he came up with the world’s stupidest bonus program for teachers. In order to hide the glaring fact that this his idea was the dumbest idea of all time, he called his plan, “The Best and Brightest Scholarship.” It promised to give highly effective teachers in Florida a $10,000 bonus if they also had SATs in the top 20th percentile.”

“But that’s absurd!” exclaimed Johnny.

“I know Johnny. But absurd is the new normal. The only way I can pay off my credit card debt is by winning the lottery or getting a Best and Brightest bonus. My odds are probably about the same.” Ms. Jones sadly lamented.

“But you’re a great teacher! Just look at your coffee mug! And you’re so smart. You are definitely one of the Best and Brightest!”

“I may be a great teacher and have graduated from a top university with a 4.0 GPA but I have always been horrible at math. I haven’t done any math in 20 years but if I don’t improve my math score on the SAT I will never get a Best and Brightest bonus. I paid some private tutoring service over $600 this summer to help me with SAT math.” she admitted.

“Why did you pay some tutor? I would have tutored you for free Ms. Jones.” offered Johnny.

“I got some email in my district email advertising SAT prep classes to teachers (this is a true fact). I was so desperate I signed up for the course. Besides, Johnny, I’m your teacher. I’m supposed to tutor you, not the other way around.”

“Is this why you haven’t graded any of my essays over the last month and why we’ve been watching Dead Poet’s Society in class instead of analyzing Shakespeare?” inquired Johnny.

“Yes, Johnny. I’m so sorry for neglecting my instructional duties because I have been too busy studying for the SAT just so I have a shot at getting a $6,000 bonus. It’s my only hope. The state of Florida has taken away the salary schedule that was promised to me when I first started teaching. Now I have no guarantee of any future pay increases. Last year a Teach for America teacher at our school with no training and no experience made $10,000 more than me just because she has high SAT scores.”

“Are you talking about Ms. Penny? She’s hot but she can’t teach and doesn’t care anyway because she’s just doing it for college loan forgiveness and to pad her resume for a education reform think tank position.”

“Take my advice Johnny. Don’t ever be a teacher. Especially not in Florida.”

“Don’t worry about that Ms. Jones. None of my friends want to be teachers either. We’ve been taught our entire lives that teachers are fat lazy losers that just want a job for life and only teach because they can’t do anything else. Besides, I can make millions playing video games and posting it on youtube. Why would anyone want to be a teacher?”

The test begins and Johnny’s last words, “Why would anyone want to be teacher?” resonate in Ms. Jones mind as she tries to solve a word problem that requires Algebra II.

After the test is over, Johnny asks to take a selfie with Ms. Jones. Mentally exhausted after the four hour exam she agrees. As soon as Johnny leaves the testing room he posts the picture on Snap Chat, “Hangin’ with Ms.J at the SAT. #hopemyscoreisbetterthanhers.”

When Ms. Jones returns to work on Monday her Principal calls her into the office.

“Ms. Jones why is there a picture of a student with his arm around you on a Saturday morning floating around social media? Did you think people wouldn’t be able to recognize you with that ridiculous blond wig? Do you think we’re that dumb? How do you think this looks for the school? Teachers fraternizing with students early on a Saturday morning…You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Ms. Jones doesn’t respond. She walks out of the Principal’s office and goes to her classroom to collect her “World’s Best Teacher” coffee mug. She hugs her students good-bye and then walks out of the school forever.

Why would anyone want to be a teacher indeed.