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Teacher salaries

Now that the economy has been in an economic recovery for several years and a national teacher shortage has ensued after Obama’s disastrous Race to the Top program decimated the profession, especially in Florida, market forces may finally be in your favor dear teacher. Will Adam Smith’s invisible hand of supply and demand create a scenario where districts try to race to the top of teacher pay? We can only hope that after years of salary stagnation, the economic recovery finally trickles down to the little people staffing our schools. Although I don’t  imagine many school districts will follow suit and start offering $80,000 salaries in an attempt to retain teachers like one desperate school district in Utah, we have started to see larger pay raises in Florida in recent months. Just this week, the Broward Teachers Union negotiated a deal for a 5% increase for most of their teachers

This amounts to a little over $2,000 for most teachers, certainly not life changing or enough to compensate for the regions high cost of living compared to low salaries or the damage done to veteran teachers who were illegally and involuntarily removed from their grandfathered step schedules, but it’s more money than most teachers have seen in years. Certainly, the United Teachers of Dade should be able to negotiate a similar raise of at least 5% in order to compete with neighboring Broward county. For Florida teachers wanting to be more proactive in winning the race to the top of teacher salaries, might I suggest browsing the National Center for Teacher Quality report comparing teacher salaries and contracts across the nation.

Let’s do a quick comparison of the teacher salary schedules in Loudon County Virginia to Miami Dade, both of which have a similar cost of living. The first thing that stands out is that teachers in Dade don’t really have a salary schedule at all. The report shows that the district no longer has a salary schedule and when it comes to the average increase in pay earned for each year of experience, the answer is N/A (non-applicable).Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 7.51.23 AM

Let’s jump down to the report’s answers to the same questions regarding salary schedule, average pay increase for additional years of experience, ANNUAL COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENTs and master’s pay for Loudon County teachers. Starting salary in Loudon County is over $47,000 (haven’t hit that number yet after 14 years of teaching in Dade). If I moved to Loudon County I could make $67,000 right off the bat and work my way up to $94,000 by the time I retire. Master’s pay in Loudon is $5,700 compared to $3,100 in Dade. The difference in master’s pay alone amounts to $78,000 over the course of one’s career. Let’s say I move to Loudon County tomorrow, start making $67,000 and never get a pay raise again for another 15 years. I would still make $300,000 more over the course of my career than I would remaining in Dade County.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 4.22.01 PM

The report states the following: “Teachers in most districts earn a raise for each additional year of experience and an annual adjustment for cost of living and other factors. What is that average annual adjustment? (reported as a percentage of change from the previous year).” For Miami Dade, the answer was actually negative 0.20 percent! Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 4.48.56 PM

Your homework assignment this weekend teachers should be to browse this report, find a district that will pay you what you are worth, and update your resume. Or you can remain in a state that makes you itemize $290 worth of post-it note and pencil purchases while politicians like Erik Fresen manage to avoid filing federal tax returns for over eight years.

Then: Miami Dade Teacher Salary Schedule in 2007


Now: Miami Dade Teacher Salary 2017

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As UTD enters the next round of negotiations, their strategy should be to walk into the room with the big fancy oval table, slap down the teacher salary schedule from 2007 and then slap down the current salary whatever it is because it’s not an actual salary schedule. Then, without a big smile on her face, Matz needs to say two things: “WTF?” and “Show me the money.” That’s it.

In case the district doesn’t get why the 2007 teacher salary schedule is so damning, allow me to point out of few things that maybe Matz can bring up at the negotiating table.

  1. The salary schedule is ten years old. The top of the schedule in 2007 was $64,200, ten years later, it’s $72,000.  Adjusted for inflation, it should be almost $77,000! See image below. Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 6.14.59 AM
  2. Keep in mind that as the older teachers who reached the top retire, there is going to be a large group of teachers that never reach the top thanks to years without a step increase, a decade of $100 step increases (thanks UTD!), and then having their right to remain on the step schedule robbed from them. What is MDCPS going to do with all of that money they are going to save on teacher salaries when nobody reaches the top again for another 10-15 years (very rough approximation)? If you were a veteran grandfathered teacher that got robbed by MDCPS and UTD, you may want to consider joining the grandfathered inc. lawsuit on facebook
  3. In 2007, a 15 year veteran would be making almost $47,000. In inflation adjusted dollars in 2017, that amount would be almost $56,000. Most 15 year teachers currently working in Miami Dade currently don’t break $45,000. And apparently, that’s exactly what Miami Dade County thinks 15 years teaching experience is worth if you look at the bottom portion of the 2017 salary teachers who transfer in from another state or district, $45,000.  Back in 2007, if a 22 year veteran transferred into the district they would have been entitled to $64,000. Now they will get paid $46,000.
  4. In 2007, a 15 year veteran would have made $10,000 more than a first year teacher. Most 15 year veterans in Miami Dade currently make about $4,000 more than a first year teacher.
  5. Adjusted for inflation, the starting salary should be at least $43,000. This does not take into account the massive increase in housing costs that have occurred in Miami over the last decade. Starting salary should be really be more like $50,000 considering the cost of living in Miami. In Dallas, where housing costs are much more affordable, starting pay is $50,000.18121210_10212862455706297_533790326914129098_o

UTD needs to demand to know where the money being saved on teacher salaries is going and they need to demand some sort of compensation for teachers in the middle of their careers who were financially devastated in the transition from the step schedule to performance pay.

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” 

sexy teacher

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

Teacher #2 The “Newbie Young Teacher from Miami”

young teacher

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”

tina fey 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” 

A man with money. A man wins money. A man has Money. A man Sniff

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

Principals career killers

Considering it’s Easter weekend, I’d like to focus on three main themes: faith, resurrection, and martyrdom. They say hope springs eternal and every spring I try my best to maintain some faith that the Florida Legislature will return to sanity and start passing legislation that honors and respects the state’s educators. And every spring the legislature manages to ritualistically slaughter my faith in our elected officials like a sacrificial lamb by passing one asinine and mean spirited bill after the next.  My hope was that this year with Erik Fresen gone, his idiotic Best and Brightest scholarship, would join the ash heaps of history’s most horrible ideas in education reform. I was wrong. His charter school invested Miami homeboy, Representative Manny Diaz, not only wants to resurrect the ridiculed bonus program, he wants to expand the program by $200 million and include Principals In case the idea of six figure earning principals sharing in the bonus pot originally designated for impoverished teachers isn’t already infuriating enough, Diaz pours a little more salt in your wounds by not requiring principals to submit their own test scores above the 77th percentile. Here is the actual language of the bill incase you would like to print it out and set it on fire for yourself


(Representative Manny Diaz, Anitere Flores, and former Representative Erik Fresen. All from Miami and all with close ties to the charter school industry. )

It seems as though the Florida legislature has not done enough to nail the teaching profession to a cross. They aren’t satisfied with Florida’s ranking as the 49th best state for teachers  With legislative bills that seek to end teachers’ unions, abolish any job security for highly effective teachers, and now throw already well-compensated principals into the hot mess of a bonus program, they are determined to come in dead last. But cheer up dear Florida teacher, Representative Diaz wants to lower the SAT test score threshold to 77% instead of 80% and now you can use your GRE score to qualify! As for the rest of you 76% percentile morons, geezers who took the SAT score so long ago the College Board is unable to retrieve your scores, and foreign educated immigrant teachers who never took the SAT, too bad. Looks like the Florida Legislature is intent on excluding you from any foreseeable wage gains. Social Darwinism at its finest folks. The teachers with lower test scores, despite doing the same exact job and doing it well, will consistently make thousands less over the course of their careers because they just aren’t smart enough.

Not only is it a slap in the face of extremely low paid teachers to include principals who mostly earn over six figures in the bonus pot, it may also lead to unethical practices that jeopardize teachers’ careers. Don’t get me  wrong, I don’t begrudge principals their six figure salaries. They earn it for the most part. Leading a school is a tremendous responsibility and they work extremely long hours but they can afford to buy a home and send their kids to school. Meanwhile, teachers with 15 years in the system are still making in the mid forties and can’t even pay the rent in expensive cities like Miami. As far as I’m aware, there is no principal shortage so why include them in a program meant to recruit and retain teachers? I suppose it’s just another way for charter schools to improve the pay of their staff at the tax payers’ expense.

So what makes a principal worthy of a Best and Brightest scholarship? It will be determined by the number of Best and Brightest teachers on his/her staff of course! This is where the unintended consequences of the bonus program may prove lethal to the careers of current and future educators. As a positive consequence, principals might start handing out highly effective evaluations like Oprah used to give away cars on her Christmas show, “You get a highly effective evaluation, and you get a highly evaluation, and you get a highly effective evaluation!!!” The teaching staff will all be giving their principal a standing ovation as tears well up in the eyes of teachers with test scores high enough to qualify for a Best and Brightest bonus. Now that their principal is throwing around highly effective evaluations like confetti, they might actually get a $10,000 bonus if they also win the VAM lotto! Of course, with principals tossing out more highly effective evaluations, more teachers will qualify for Best and Brightest, and the promised $10,000 bonus might be significantly reduced. For the mentally inferior annual contract teachers who somehow managed to procure a teaching position despite having to show their below the 77th percentile SAT scores at their job interview, the generosity of their principal might net them a few extra hundred dollars of merit pay, but surely won’t be enough to guarantee them a job for the following year. If their principal happens to know of a bright young Ivy League grad looking for their first teaching job, they would surely be happy to replace the average test scoring community college educated loser teacher with the standardized testing whiz kid. As for you geezer teachers without SAT scores that have chosen to forgo merit pay and retain your tenure instead, your highly effective evaluation may be utterly meaningless but at least you know you’ll have a job come August!

Being that school districts are not going to be happy if their principals start handing out highly effective evaluations like candy on Halloween, there will probably be some sort quota established for highly effective teachers. Let’s say a principal is told not to give out more than ten highly effective evaluations to their staff. Who do you think the principal is going to give those ten evaluations out to? The teacher with SAT scores high enough to qualify for Best and Brightest or a teacher without qualifying test scores? Will principals be asking staff to submit their SAT scores along with evidence of “communication with stakeholders” come annual evaluation time? If principals are stuck at a school filled with tenured moron geezer immigrant teachers, will they start holding SAT prep professional development sessions during staff meetings? Will they promise an automatic highly effective evaluation to any educator who produces SAT scores above the 77% percentile? Will principals start determining what a teacher teaches based on their likelihood of getting a high VAM? For instance, many of Florida’s teachers with high SAT scores are currently teaching Advanced Placement courses but that might become the kiss of death for a teacher’s VAM and their chance of qualifying for a Best and Brightest bonus. At some schools teachers have started to refuse to teach Advanced Placement courses because they would be much better off financially receiving the school wide average VAM than an unsatisfactory individual based value added score.  Even if an AP teacher is stricken by some sense of martyrdom and continues to teach AP courses despite losing thousands in Best and Brightest bonus money because of a low VAM, will their principal involuntarily remove them from teaching AP and replace them with a moron geezer immigrant teacher with no qualifying test scores instead so the principal will have a better chance of having more Best and Brightest teachers on their staff and qualify for the bonus themselves?  All of these ridiculous and unethical practices which do nothing to improve the education of Florida students or teacher morale might indeed become the unintended consequences of Manny Diaz’s resurrection of Erik Fresen’s brain fart of a bonus program. Neither principals nor teachers can be expected to behave like Jesus and financially martyr themselves when thousands of dollars are on the line. When the rules of the game stink, expect rotten behavior to reap the reward. Trying to uphold some sort of ethical standard in the face of legislative atrocities won’t make a teacher or principal a martyr, it will just make them an altruistic jacka$$ who lost out on the $200 million dollar tax dump down the rabbit hole.

weapons of mass distraction

For the past few years, we have been bombarded with articles from innovative educators and watched inspirational speeches from tech titans who have promised to transform education with Wi-Fi, one to one devices, and engaging software applications. Teachers have had to sit through hours of professional development learning whatever their districts have deemed the latest and greatest tech tools in the classroom. Many teachers have bought into the hype and invested countless hours creating tech savvy lessons only to find that their customers haven’t bought into the panacea of technology in the classroom. Many of our students are not impressed by the glaring screens and their digitized education. They long for a return to books with pages to flip through instead of waiting for a screen to load. For the generation of digital natives, holding a pen and putting it to paper may offer a transformative experience or at least a momentary break from eye strain. Have we driven our students to the brink of an educational abyss by providing a classroom experience filled with constant distraction?

Many educators and experts are now speaking out about the dangers of technology in the classroom and are arguing in favor of limiting screen time.  Speaking from personal experience, initially I embraced the new technologies but after a few years in a digital classroom, I find myself throwing out some of my tech tools and returning to paper and pen. After spending hours making Kahoots to try to make my lessons more engaging and fun, I’ve given up on using them as students have flipped my classroom and turned Kahoot into a tool for disengagement. The most fun they have playing Kahoot is devising funny but mostly obscene screen names. When the game is played, only the most competitive students stay in until the end and most freshmen boys can’t resist reaching over and choosing the wrong answers on their friends’ devices. Some teachers require students to use their real name and they count the Kahoot as a grade, but then you’ve turned what was supposed to be a game into an online assessment with a dose of public humiliation as students’ names and their scores are displayed on the screen.

Students equipped with devices have made me literally flip my classroom. I had to move my teacher desk to the back of the classroom so I can monitor what is on my students’ laptop screens in order to maintain their focus and prevent cheating. At any given moment, I will catch a few students online shopping, instant messaging, playing video games, or watching irrelevant youtube videos. Check out this photograph of what students were actually doing on their devices while their teacher lectured at the front of the classroom.

technology distraction

A quick glance will show that less than 50% of students are actually paying attention and are using their devices to appropriately follow the lesson. It takes a highly motivated student with incredible self control to use a laptop in the classroom and remain completely focused on the lesson. Keep in mind that this photo appears to be taken in a college setting where students are attending class of their own free will and not in your typical public high school classroom where the issue of tech distraction is actually much worse.

Having used technology in the classroom in both regular and Advanced Placement classrooms, I can tell you that technology in the classroom is much more effective when used with motivated student populations equipped with laptops rather than students who are already looking for any escape from the drudgery of academics who spend the day either hunched over a district issued tablet or trying to use their cellphone for educational purposes. At first I embraced my district’s one to one device initiative because the digital divide is a huge problem in our society, but unfortunately technology in the classroom has only manifested that digital divide in new ways. I can walk into any classroom at my school and immediately tell you whether it’s an AP classroom or regular classroom without even looking at the demographics. I just need to look at the screens in the room. If I see a room filled with Macbook Airs, it’s automatically an IB or AP classroom. If I see a room filled with students hunched over tiny cell phone screens, clunky district issued tablets, or staring blankly because they either don’t have a device, didn’t bring a device or their device is not charged, it screams regular classroom. What type of device a student brings to school has also become a status symbol. If a student wants to appear cool and wealthy, they must have a Macbook Air. The students forced to use the district tablet with its dangling keyboard and unattractive government issued protective black case often feel self-conscience because it immediately labels them as poor.

Unfortunately, technology has left teachers and students at the mercy of functioning Wi-Fi and the success of a lesson is now dependent on a student being responsible enough to bring a charged device to the classroom. This becomes even more problematic for teachers and students at the end of the school day when most students’ devices and even the teachers’ classroom set (if they are lucky enough to have one) may have lost their charge. I was unfortunate enough to have my annual observation occur at 2:00 in the afternoon with my regular level students. On any given day, out of a class of 30 students, only about five students come prepared with a charged tablet or lab top. I only have five tablets as a class set and by the end of the day most of those have lost their charge. That leaves 20 students with no way to participate in the lesson unless I allow them to use their cell phones. I gave away my class set of textbooks to another teacher because he had large inclusion classrooms and I new he really needed textbooks for those kids. So during the twenty minute span when an administrator actually sat through my lesson, half of my class was relying on using their cellphones which meant their heads were down focusing on the device between their legs which they were actually using to play video games with. One bright student who’s lab top recently broke and who’s cell phone had run out of charge chose to spend the last ten minutes of class spraying Listerine in his eyes as a form of entertainment. Since my student’s lab top has been out of service, his grade in my class has gone from a B to a D and instead of being on task he is constantly goofing off on his phone. I was so humiliated by this experience that the next day I marched my students who did not bring a proper device to a teachers’ room across the school to borrow a set of actual textbooks for an hour. Something magical happened, my D students actually opened their books, put pen to paper, were quiet, focused and received a good grade at the end of class!

The Ed Tech experts talk a lot about “disrupting” the classroom by allowing students to use their cell phones in class instead of banning them. They have obviously never actually taught a lesson in a public high school with students using nothing but cell phones. They would soon realize that the idea that students would actually use their phones to follow a lesson rather than a means of distraction is an epic fail. There is no greater way to “disrupt” the classroom than allowing students to use cell phones. Even lap tops are no guarantee that our students will be fully engaged in a lesson.  For a generation of students raised on devices, I am convinced that when they are faced with the glare of the screens, a cognitive change takes place and what I like to call “their idiot brain” turns on. When I was growing up, if you were to sit down in front of a computer, it meant it was time to get to work. But for my students, when they see a computer screen, their brains have been trained to think it is time to be mindlessly entertained. When I really want my students to focus on a complicated task, I find myself telling them to put their devices away and I break out paper copies and force them to do their assignment on paper. I am considering putting up a poster like this teacher in my classroom so my students know the appropriate time to have their devices out and when to put them away.

technology today

Technology has certainly transformed the classroom, but it may not necessarily have been for the better. There are some digital applications that have helped me organize information for my course and for my students like Schoology and OneNote that I don’t plan on abandoning any time soon. Those applications have been life savers and will remain mainstays in my classroom. But for now, I am not interested in embracing the latest tech app in my instruction. I am more interested in finding innovative ways to fully engage my students in a distraction free classroom that functions with or without a Wi-Fi connection or a charged device. I want one hundred percent of my students’ attention, I want them to be able to focus on one task at one time, I want to see their faces and not the tops of their heads, I want them to look into the eyes of their peers, I want them to converse, I want them to experience the way I experienced school and the funny thing is, I think that is what my students want too.




They will call it a “bonus”, “merit pay”, an “incentive”, they will even call it a “scholarship.” They will call it almost anything, anything but a “raise.” Does the Florida Legislature have an unwritten ban on the word “raise” when it comes to the states teachers? We have long given up on ever hearing the phrase “Cost of Living Adjustment” again in our lifetimes, but whatever happened to a good old fashioned raise? You know, a reliable salary increase that can’t be erased with the swipe of a legislative pen? It’s equitable, it’s eternal, it’s what teachers want.

After what seemed like a hopeful start to the 2017 legislative session, all mention of the word “raise” has disappeared and been replaced by expanded versions of the states much maligned “Best and Brightest” bonus.

The  Best and Brightest bonus has already gone from the advertised $10,000 to the received $8,000 in 2016 to the shrunken $6,000 in 2017. Even teachers who receive the bonus are disgusted and insulted by its very premise. After two years of ridicule and criticism over the Best and Brightest bonus, what does the Florida legislature want to do? They want to expand it to include teachers with a college GPA over a 3.0 (which would probably be 90% of teachers) and they even want to let principals apply for the bonus. Is there a principal shortage I am unaware of? Are principal six figure salaries woefully inadequate? To make matters worse, they want principals to qualify based on the ratio of Best and Brightest teachers at their school. Will principals start passing out highly effective evaluations to staff like candy on Halloween? Will they only give highly effective evaluations to the smartest staff members with high test scores and GPAs? Will future hires be forced to bring their SAT scores and college transcripts to interviews?

Are we returning to a time of Social Darwinism when only the “brightest” teachers are deemed worthy of substantial monetary compensation, while the lesser academically gifted teachers but equally hard working are destined to make perpetually less than their brainier counterparts? Will teachers who work with the most challenging populations or teach the most challenging courses never see a “bonus” because their students’ test scores relegate them to chronically “effective” status? Next year will they start measuring teachers’ skulls and only teachers with a brain capacity in the top 20th percentile receive a bonus while teachers with little brains receive no figgy pudding at all?

Here’s a suggestion dear Florida Legislature, if you really can’t stomach the thought of giving all public school teachers a “raise” perhaps you can give us all an automatic  “salary boost” by eliminating the 3% FRS contribution that was imposed years ago? It’s equitable, it’s eternal, and it’s not a “raise.”

Test buster

I had heard of testing pep rallies but I never expected my own child to be attending one, let alone performing in one. I received an email from my child’s teacher about helping my child practice for their big performance in the school’s FSA pep rally. This is in addition to the 5 page nightly “real” homework packets, an additional 5 page nightly “fake” homework test prep packet, and the expectation that my child spend another 30 minutes on I-ready math and reading practice every night. My child is in the ever important and no fun at all third grade. The email was quickly deleted and forgotten by me until afterwork my child pulled me into the family room to perform a song that I would surely love. What followed next was bizarrely cute and horrifying at the same time. Sort of like when my 7 year old son ran into my room the other day and exclaimed, “Mommy, look how big my weaner gets!”

My child continued to enthusiastically perform the following Test Prep Song.

What Does the Test Say? (To the tune of “What does the Fox Say)

“Bell Goes Ring–Books Removed–Student Goes Think–And Teacher Goes Prove!

Together we can succeed at everything

Use their skills, get better grades

And the parent goes wow, wow, wow!!!

What does the test say????

Read, Read, Read, Read, rrrrrrrRead!…..!!!!

What does the test say?

Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass….pass the test. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass the test

What does the test say?

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bo……bubble, bubble, bubble, bo…bubble, bubble

What does the test say?

Prove, prove, prove, prove. PPPPP, prove, prove prove

What does the test say????

Slept all night, Woke Refreshed, Breakfast Gone Down the Hatch

Studied hard. Homework done

Now’s the time to Ace this One!

Focus in and Take My Time

Add, subtract and multiply

But if a snack is what I need—-Reachin’ in my desk for

Cheeze-its, Chee-ee-ee-eeze its

Time to pass this test with eeeease, eeeease, eeeeeeeease!!!!!!!

What does the Test say?

Get your number 2 pencils out, your number 2 pencils out, get your number 2 pencils out

What does the test say?

Reading, Science, Math, Essay, Reading, Science, Math Essay

What does the test say?

Dream Believe Achieve, Dream Believe Achieve!!!!!


I tried to hide the horrified look on my face and muster a “That’s great honey,” but on the inside I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded it so much if my child had come home earlier in the year and performed a Halloween song or a Thanksgiving play as well, but the only time I have seen my child rehearse for any performance all year was for the big Test Pep Rally. Maybe I’m just biased because as a high school teacher I hate pep rallies. The last thing I need at the end of the day is to be stuck in a smelly gym with 3,000 students yelling, screaming, throwing blown up condom balloons  and having the tuba player blast in my ear. I suppose if my child was having fun singing and dancing I shouldn’t be bothered by it. It was just a harmless song after all. Or was it an indoctrination into what becomes an annual ritual and spring time rite of passage of bubble tests and stress? I longed for the earlier preschool days of innocence and simple pleasures, when the only bubbles my child knew were translucent delights that floated through the air until they burst.

must watch

In the spirit of Daylight’s Savings Time, let me save the hardworking teachers of Dade County two minutes of their life by breaking down the UTD MUST WATCH (literally) video that was sent out to 20,000 district employees this morning. Here is the link to the video in case you automatically deleted the email containing the caps lock MUST WATCH video Despite sending this email out to 20,000 teachers with MUST WATCH  in all caps in the subject line, by 4:30 pm, the video had only 62 views on youtube. This makes Kafkateach feel a hell of a lot better about the number of hits the average blog posts gets on this site. In the spirit of testing season, here is a multiple choice question about the cause of such pathetic viewing numbers for UTD’s video.

Question: Teachers in Dade County most likely did not view UTD’s MUST WATCH video for the following the reason(s):

A.Most teachers never read their email (especially on Daylight Savings Monday).

B.Most teachers hit auto delete to any UTD email (especially on Daylight Savings Monday).

C.Most teachers either did not have time to read their email or watch a video (especially on Daylight Savings Monday).

D.Most teachers are either too lazy, too technologically inept, or too apathetic to click on a MUST WATCH video link in an email (especially on Daylight Savings Monday).

E. All of the above.

Sadly, UTD’s answer choice would probably be D. UTD likes to blame their impotence on teacher apathy (and they may have a point). However, I have heard too many stories about union members’ activism being squashed by union leadership to place all of the blame on teacher apathy. Since most teachers were apparently too busy trying to readjust their internal clocks to the blasphemous creation known as Daylight Savings Time, in the spirit of the Trump administration’s deconstruction era, allow me to deconstruct UTD’s main points presented in the MUST WATCH video.

The most painful part about this video is that you actually must watch it. There is no audio at all for the first minute and a half. At first I adjusted the volume on my computer thinking I must be having technical difficulties. It took me a second to realize the lack of audio was symbolic of the lack of voice you will have if House Bill 11 passes. As if the lack of volume wasn’t symbolism enough, at the end of the video the camera pans up to UTD President Karla Matz with blue duct tape across her mouth. That image alone was worth watching the video until the end. But let’s be honest, does Karla Matz really need duct tape across her mouth to get her to not say anything? Of course, the main message behind the video is that if House Bill 11 passes we will no longer have UTD and we will no longer have a voice. Here are some of the other things UTD claims we will not have without a union:

#1. A 30 minute duty free lunch. Technically, we are entitled to a 30 minute duty free lunch thanks to our contract. But how many teachers actually enjoy a 30 minute duty free lunch? Most teachers spend their lunch checking their email, calling parents, meeting with parents, dealing with the line of students outside their door crying about their grades, holding club meetings, grading papers, lesson planning…etc.

#2. A 7 hour and 20 minute work day. Once again, technically teachers only have to be at their work site for 7 hours and 20 minutes but most teachers probably put in an extra 1-2 hours off the clock in order to complete the demands of the job.

#3. No leave of absence. Yes, we can take a leave of absence, but it is unpaid. I went on maternity leave three times without receiving a dime of paid time off that wasn’t accrued sick leave. That’s really not that impressive if you compare some of the maternity perks union free corporations offer their employees. I kid you not, I heard about a company that gives their employees paid “Pupternity Leave.” A full week’s pay for getting a new puppy!

#4.Unlimited Back to School Night Activities. I do not contest this assertion. After briefly working in North Carolina, I can attest to the fact that they can make you attend multiple Back to School nights without a union.

#5. No Pay Increases. This one to me is laughable. I’ve spent many years not getting a pay increase working for Dade with UTD at the helm. Sometimes it was blamed on the Great Recession but other times my $150 raise was directly because of UTD’s wonky step schedule. The district didn’t design the step schedule, the union did. The district hands over the same pot of money to the union to distribute and it was because of UTD’s ridiculous salary schedule that I earned $150 step increases for the first decade of my career. I would have been much better off with a standard across the board 2.8% raise.

#6. No Supplement for Extra Duties. This is also laughable. The lack of enforcement of the class size amendment and the 8 period schedule has given me 1-2 extra classes worth of students without any extra pay. At one point, I could earn a supplement and only teach 150 students. Now, with no class size enforcement and the 8 period schedule, I have to teach anywhere from 180 to 210 students to get paid an extra 1/8 of my salary supplement instead of 1/6.

The next slide says “Without UTD, management could change or revoke all of these items just because they can.” Hmm…or maybe they could go through the union to revoke the grandfathered step schedule or have teachers agree to teach an extra load of students for free?

The last slide says in all caps: DON’T LET THEM SILENCE OUR VOICE!

What voice? When does UTD really ever speak up for teachers? Personally, I find the FEA and UTD a bit of an anachronism and dated. I’m not against unions, but the teachers’ unions need to modernize and downsize. Teachers can indeed have a voice without a union.  Just look at the story about the Philadelphia teacher who crowd funded $5,000 to put up a billboard to shame his school district using Go Fund Me

When was the last time UTD used membership dues to shame the school district? They are quite happy to spend union dues promoting themselves by putting their image on the back of a bus (the only thing worse than being stuck behind a bus on Biscayne Boulevard is being stuck behind a bus with UTD leadership smiling at you) but nothing to expose the issues faced by teachers in Dade County schools.

As  Nitothe Blue, one of my readers who I would love to know who you really are or what the heck a Nitothe Blue is, stated on Facebook the other day, “UTD has proven themselves useless. There is nothing else the MDCPS can take from us teachers. Honestly, the state won. The district won. I’m a 16 year teacher making 45.8k with 2.8% raises a year. They won.”

Many teachers may feel the same despite UTD’S MUST WATCH (literally) video. They won. Why even bother clicking the link?


I recently read an article online titled, “Teaching isn’t a calling. It’s a job.”

It was a refreshing article that gave teachers the permission to have a life outside of school hours, permission to prioritize something other than their students, permission to not spend every spare dime on buying classroom materials or clothing and food for poor students, permission to expect to get paid. Whenever I hear the word “calling,” I think of nuns. This got me thinking about how nuns and teachers are similar, and how they aren’t. Interestingly enough, one of the first major comparisons between teachers and nuns is their salary.

1.Salary. The salary range for nuns in Florida ranges from the mid-30s to a max of $70,000 with most nuns earning an average of $45,000 a year. Sound familiar? Only there’s one big difference: nuns will never have children! Which brings me to similarity number 2.

2.Reproduction. Although nuns are clearly not allowed to reproduce once they have entered the profession, it is not encouraged or expected for teachers to reproduce either. A starting salary to a young unmarried graduate of $40,000 a year doesn’t seem terrible. A single person can manage to sustain life on that figure. However, they will quickly find out from their coworkers that fifteen years into the profession they will only be making $5,000 more and their monthly expenses will skyrocket if they make the mistake of reproducing. Not only is it not advisable for teachers to reproduce for financial reasons, but their careers and mental health are also likely to suffer as a result reproduction. It was one thing to put up with the chaos of the classroom when you could come home after work and take a nice long nap or maybe stay late at school to lesson plan or grade papers, but once you have kids of your own, after a day in the classroom you will have little patience for your own children and have no time for the extra demands of the job when you are too busy picking kids up from school, cooking dinner, cleaning up from dinner, and god forbid, helping your own kids with their homework or reading your own kids a book! Not to mention, you will probably not be able to afford a large enough abode for yourself and your brood unless you marry well or have a trust fund. Which brings me to similarity, number 3, both teachers and nuns are expected to live in small places.

3. Lodging. Apparently, teachers’ lodging expectations should fall in line with those of nuns and convicted felons. An article recently ran in Education Week about a fancy Colorado ski resort town that plans to “recruit and retain” teachers by building tiny 400 sq. ft. houses The 1% percenters can spend all day skiing the slopes and retire to their luxurious mountain lodges while after spending all day educating the next generation teachers get to retreat to homes that are smaller than the closets of the town’s wealthier denizens. I’m pretty sure the same rich people also have dog houses that are nicer than the homes the town of Eagle,Colorado wants to build for teachers. If you are ever lucky enough to go on a “business” trip as a teacher, expect to share a Motel 8 room with another teacher or, even worse, your principal. If the conference takes place at university, you will get to share a dorm room with a total stranger and sleep on the world’s hardest and smallest twin size mattress. Compare that to my husband’s business trips where he gets treated to a king size suite in a five star hotel. Is there any other profession in which an adult would be expected to share a hotel room, let alone a dorm room with a total stranger? As a teacher, you can expect to forever be treated like a student. You will also spend most of your days surrounded by no one but students. Which brings me to teacher/ nun similarity number 4, cloistering.

4. Cloistering. Nuns are expected to spend their days cloistered with other nuns isolated from society. Teachers will also find themselves cloistered in their classrooms with their students for 7 hours a day. A few times a month you might come out of your abbey to attend a faculty meeting in which case you will be surrounded by other teachers and decide you prefer the company of your students instead. Because teachers spend all of their time around “children” they are expected, like nuns, to be free of sin and vice, never drink, never curse and dress modestly. Which brings me to the last similarity between teachers and nuns, neither one are expected to have a life.

5.Sainthood. Of course the nun who has taken a vow to marry God will have to dress modestly and abstain from having a good time, but why should teachers be held to the same standard? How many stories do we have to hear about teachers being fired because they cursed on Facebook, posted pictures of drinking beer while they were at Oktoberfest in Germany, or had a friend post a bikini shot of them while on vacation? These are normal adult activities and teachers should be allowed to have a life outside of their classrooms that may or may not include a little sin. When a 26 year old elementary teacher got busted for drunk driving in South Florida, it was on every news channel like she had just committed mass murder. How many other 26 year olds in South Florida have been guilty of a DUI? But this poor woman has to receive a public stoning in the media just because she’s an elementary school teacher? God forbid you happen to be a curvy female teacher because you will also make national news headlines for wearing a dress if is anything more form fitting than a mu-mu  I wear dresses like this to work all of the time. Good thing my back side is smaller and I don’t post selfies on Instagram or I might have CNN come knocking on my classroom door! The public may think of students as little virginal angels but classroom teachers know that the little darlings are far from innocent. Which brings me to the differences between teachers and nuns.

Difference #1. Nuns will never be subjected to the constant cursing and vile secondary conversations that take place in schools. The other afternoon while crossing the courtyard to get to my car, I was assaulted by a cacophony of curse words. I heard more four letter words than pronouns and verbs. Even at my worst moments, I don’t think I can manage to string together more than two curse words at a time. These kids can string together 5-8 curse words with a simple greeting, “Yo, b***h a$$ mother-f***er G-Damn b**tard, what up?” The constant cursing is one of the unpleasantries of the job, but even worse are the side conversations about teenage sexual conquests. Today I overheard one fourteen year old lothario bragging about his weekend escapade to a group of other boys. A nerdier boy who had yet to undergo puberty, questioned him “So what does the inside of a vagina feel like?” I quickly cut off the conversation before I had to hear the boy’s answer. I guarantee no nun has ever had their ears tainted by adolescent X-rated locker room talk while at work.

Difference #2. Nuns spend their days in peace and quiet with prayer and meditation.  I’m sure we’ve all said a few prayers to try and get through the day, but peace? quiet? meditation? Umm…teachers…not so much.

Difference #3. If a nun councils a member of the church, and said member goes out and commits a sin anyway, that nun shall not be blamed. Teachers can perform their jobs to the full extent, but when students who don’t listen or do any work fail the test at the end of the year, the teacher receives all of the blame.

Difference #4. Nuns are respected and get to slam rulers on the desks. Teachers are called the B word, have crushed up balls of paper thrown at their heads, and must refrain from any moments of anger.

Difference #5. Nuns received a calling, most teachers did not. I for one never received a “calling” to become a teacher. I received a bachelor’s degree and after a few temp jobs thought to myself, what am I going to do with this useless Anthropology degree from a prestigious university? Let me try this teaching thing out for a while. I like to travel and I’ll have summers off. Little did I realize I would have to spend my summer working a second job to keep a roof over my head in July and August. My friend who was a teacher and liked to travel during the summer could only do so by moving out of an apartment every June, putting her belongings in storage, and spending the summer couch surfing around the globe. Fun in your twenties, not so fun after forty.

Of course, many teachers love their jobs, their students, and they can’t see themselves doing anything else for 30 years, but that doesn’t mean they were sent a message from God to spend their lives as a self-sacrificing saints. There is no sainthood for being a teacher and all teachers don’t necessarily go to heaven. So enjoy life and expect to get paid like a professional going to work everyday, even if you feel like you get to spend your day at the playground.

You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts” dominate the headlines during the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency, but it looks like Miami might be getting its own little dose of government spin if the Miami School Board gets its way and takes direct control over our local broadcasting station WLRN.  As if the School Board’s monthly usurpation of NPR’s “All Things Considered” wasn’t bad enough, they want to control every program and every news story about Miami Dade Public Schools that airs on the network.  The Miami Herald (another media outlet who’s reporting is heavily influenced by the School District), reported this morning that the district wants to extend their control over the network in the interest of student safety According to school district Chief Communications Officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, “WLRN’s news staff has not undergone the full criminal background checks required of all public school employees —.”

Are you friggin’ kidding me? We have bullets flying outside of public schools in Miami on the daily and we’re more concerned about protecting our students from some nerdy WLRN public radio reporter?

This was a rather lengthy article by Herald standards so let me deconstruct some of the highlights:

1.The school district wants to force all current WLRN employees to reapply for their jobs and they want the discretion to hire and fire all journalists. As someone who has worked for the Miami Dade School Board for over 13 years, ya’ll better watch the *bleep* out! You’ll be looking at $40,000 geez for life with no job security and if your forte is not sycophancy you’ll no doubt find yourself on the chopping block. Can they make a VAM for journalists?

Never one to approve of high salaries (other than his own), the Superintendent is eager to apply his skills at whittling down employee pay at WLRN as well, “Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and the Friends group have grappled for years over finances, leadership and salaries. Carvalho has publicly criticized Friends’ salaries, calling some of them exorbitant. Reported staff salaries have been significantly reduced, but in 2014, former chief underwriter Michael Peyton’s compensation was listed at close to $400,000 a year — including commissioned sales bonuses — a bigger paycheck than Carvalho earns.”

I can just imagine how irked the Superintendent must be that another public servant in Miami has a salary higher than his own. Though I agree that a $400,000 salary at a public radio station that is begging for funds every other month is not befitting, neither is a public school Superintendent dressed in Armani suits. Even people outside of Miami have taken note of our Superintendent’s best dressed fashion icon status as a blogger in Saint Petersburg described last week, “Superintendent and Fashion Plate Alberto Carvalho can afford to dress like Rico Suave on his $345,000 salary. Teachers making $40K are lucky if they can keep up with their student loans.”

2. Some fear that WLRN will become more of a a PR machine than it already is, “Hill warned that the proposals could undercut community support and undo years of efforts to produce high-level local journalism if they were to meld the news staff into an extension of the district’s already sizable public relations operation.”

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of sitting through a School Board meeting has witnessed the dog and pony show for themselves. Imagine if the School Board had complete control of WLRN! What would become of the public hearing portion of monthly School Board meetings? Would they suddenly cut the tape as soon as an unscripted public speaker went off the rails? Would the screen go black and they claim it was due to technical difficulties? Would they suddenly have audio problems? Would they run the monthly test of the Emergency Broadcast system as soon as the public hearing session of the meeting began? One can only imagine…

Here is just one example of how the School Board uses its monthly meeting as Kabuki theater. Last week the School Board went on and on and on about the success of its “Students Success” centers. Even UTD’s President actually managed to show up and speak at a School Board meeting to praise the miracles being performed at the district’s “Student Success” centers. You know when the UTD President shows up to speak at a School Board meeting something fishy is going on. After reading the Herald article this morning, I had my answer.

“In recent months, WLRN has aired stories critical of school district programs, including one that questioned whether the district had followed through on a promise to end out-of-school suspensions, and a high school intern’s piece entitled “Why Is School Lunch Gross?

Here is the link to WLRN’s article about the fallacy behind the district’s elimination of outdoor “suspensions.”
Our Superintendent, like President Trump, seems to have an obsession with controlling the media. As reported by the Miami Herald,
“Under Carvalho, who has been honored as the nation’s top schools superintendent, the district communication staff closely monitors media coverage, sometimes pushing back against stories deemed negative, slanted or unfair. The communications staff has made late night calls to argue for changes in Herald stories after they are posted online.”
I can confirm the district’s over zealous tactics in controlling the local media because a Herald reporter actually told me I was on a list of teachers not to interview when they wanted to come to my classroom and observe me using the tablets with students. They offered a name of another teacher at my school who was on the “approved” teacher list instead. The great irony of this naughty and nice list is that the approved teacher refused to use the tablets in his classroom at all. Now that would have made for a great headline, “School District Spends Billions on Tablets that Teachers Refuse to Use.”
I almost find it quaint that in the Digital Age, when any idiot like myself with a keyboard and an Internet connection can disseminate information to thousands with the click of a mouse on a few social media outlets, government entities feel like they can control the message that the public receives about them. Do they think WLRN and the Miami Herald are people’s only two sources of information? Do they think that people would actually watch or listen to the monthly School Board meetings if they weren’t forced to? According to the Herald article, WLRN actually chose to air the School Board meeting the day after the September 11th attacks rather than provide much needed news coverage. If the School Board has their way and gains even more direct control over our public airwaves we can anticipate that WLRN will rebroadcast the monthly school board meetings as frequently as BRAVO reruns episodes of the Housewives.
The School District’s tight control over the local media was one of the reasons I started the Kafkateach blog in the first place. If the Miami Herald didn’t want to cover stories that might not be all sunshine and lollipops about the reality of teaching in Miami Dade County Public Schools, fine, we could create our own news sites and tell our own stories exactly how we wanted them told. Of course, today I run the risk of being categorized as “fake news” and  being permanently banned from posting on Facebook but we need to question what exactly constitutes “fake news.” Is it the news created by people who experience issues first hand and use technology to expose their reality to the masses, or is it news carefully crafted to portray only a positive image at the expense of excluding “alternative facts” that might run counter to spin of the dominate power?