Millennials, before you turn up your pointed noses on obtaining a degree in education, review this list of gig bonuses that matters sooner than any of us want to believe:

  1. Job Security

Working for the public school system across the country generally means that once you’ve advanced past your probationary period (ranging between 1-3 years), you’re golden. Some feel conflicted about the perks of tenure, but for the individual teacher, it means job security—hands down. Contrary to urban myth, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be fired. It only means that your employer has to work considerably hard to prove you deserve to be fired; working against your credentials, contract, and your union support.

 

2. The Privilege of Holidays and Summer’s Off

Don’t you feel bad sometimes complaining about being exhausted during the school year to your friends who then turn and look at you with disdain because, unlike you, they have to beg some disgruntle superior for a 10 day stretch of vacation once a year? Summers off must be the guiltiest pleasure of the stateside teacher. Enjoy the freedom of forgetting what day of the week it is for weeks on end, while casually scheduling brunch on a weekday with your equally fortunate colleague.

 

3. Happy Hour

Ever wonder why Happy Hour starts at 3pm? Well, perhaps the liquor gods knew who they needed first to serve. Teacher crowds are usually the first to populate the local pubs and breweries. If any of you knew like I did to make friends with the bar owners, sometimes they’d cut you and your teacher crew an even fairer deal if you frequented the same spot often enough. Happy Hours are also great places to make new teacher friends (wink wink).

 

4. Unions

Truth and light! The American Federation of Teachers is one of the oldest and most well established unions remaining in the United States. Though there are mixed feelings about what purpose the AFT serves today, the fact is, that it’s a rare socio-political force to be reckoned with in our apparent capitalist society. Belonging to such a powerhouse means solidarity with others who too want free and fair public education for all children, and not at the expense of teacher martyrdom. Check your state education website for affiliate unions for more information on what your union may have to offer you.

 

5. Retirement Funds

I started saving for my retirement at age 22 thanks to the Tax Deffered Annuity option, in addition to automatic enrollment in the Teacher’s Retirement System administered by the City of New York. Consider how great it is to have access to well mapped retirement programs compliment of your local government, especially if you know the minimum about investing. You can borrow from your investment if ever in need, and gradually pay yourself back on a schedule that suits you. Though dipping into your salary further may feel like a deeper stretch, it’s an intelligent way to be your future self’s best friend. Buying a home, a car, or paying for an advanced degree/certification program, for instance, is so much sweeter when you can do it with your own money.

 

6. Discounts

Ever flash your teacher identification card to get a price cut on a new Macbook at Apple? It never hurts to ask any store if they provide price cuts for teachers. Some of my favorite stores for honoring educators is Banana Republic, Barnes and Nobles, and Staples. The expanse varies from fitness facilities, insurance companies to cell phone providers, and so on. But there are tons others that at least give teachers discounts on specific items or services. Just flaunt your teacher status to find out or visit your state or city website for teacher incentives and discounts.

 

7. Community Purpose

Teachers who teach in the same community, even within the same 10 mile radius, can witness their students grow up. The stateside teacher gets to be a part of the community for which they serve. If you made a difference to even one child, you get to bare witness of the impact of that difference. Maybe I recognize this as a perk because I truly have developed an appreciation for what I’ve now lost working with transient student populations. When I visit home, I’m still greeted by some random shout-outs from old students, now adults, on NYC subway platforms and on sidewalks who still recognize me. I even get to have meaningful conversation with a few from time to time. There is truly nothing better than looking into their eyes, seeing the humility and maturity, being a witness to their personal growth, and feeling grateful to have been part of their story. Check out my post Full Circle for more on this.

If I get cussed out one more time over the Common Core…Smh. Black parents, you might want to know the truth behind Common Core.

 

Check this out! Ever hear the loose argument that American students don’t perform as well as kids in “other” countries—like the blanket term “other” is enough to cast a net of shame over all American education, for it be weak and pathetic to be outperformed by any “other” nation. But does any one ever give any facts, or reference any statistic when setting up this argument???

 

One source to blame would be the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses half a million 15 year olds from 72 countries (members of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). About two-third’s of the exam is multiple choice, and one-third consists of open ended questions. They administer this test once every three years, and all OECD participating members size themselves up and make big decisions about their nation’s education policy and practices over the results. Check out the data for 2015 here: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf

 

It’s true. The USA doesn’t come out on top. More like on top of the middle third, which still means, optimistically speaking, above average. I am not arguing that average is good enough for the world superpower. We can always do better by our children. But here’s what they don’t tell you, and this ignorance keeps adding fury to an already frenzied educational system.

 

All of our students attend school. ALL OF THEM. The special needs kid, the kid who is new to English and isn’t legal yet and never attended school before in his 15 year old life, and the kid who doesn’t want to be in school alike are equally opportune to take this test. Many developed nations have tracked educational pathways which segregate academic students from vocation bound students. And usually, this happens upon exit of middle school, if not sooner. By the time their kids are 15 years old, they’ve been removed from the testing pool. And that’s only if they were ever in attendance in the first place. No! I’m not the most patriotic American in the world, especially these shameful days, but the USA does a hell of a job upholding the philosophy that every child within our borders deserves a fair shot at academic education. We don’t steer kids into vocations any more. Now, whether or not that academic education upon delivery is “fair” is a very different matter. However, just know that a lot of the fury that reshuffles the way we teach and what we use is based on sensationalized data reporting. Also, check out more data on the International Study Center website for yourself, in case you’re better at reading charts than me (which is totally possible) and want to read the data for yourself.

For the folks who want to reminisce about how wonderful vocational training was, let me just remind you that our great nation has a history of pigeonholing brown and black children, and “tracking” them specifically for vocational training because “them just ain’t smart.” Vocational training programs were dismantled when it became clear that we couldn’t take the racist out of the system, but we could remove the escape plan, making it difficult for educators to deprive children of the academic instruction they deserve no matter their presumed level of smarts. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 initiated lots of talk about education, but the 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act raised the bar of expectation on schools to provide “services” for ALL students to receive a meaningful education. Even though, this law mostly spoke to discriminatory practices against students who spoke languages other than English, the idea was clear: You can’t just throw kids away because they aren’t easy to teach. The vocational classes were an easy way to throw away non-white kids.

 

The Common Core, also referred to as the Common Core State Standards, reflect what a bunch of expert folks agree are the skills kids need in order to be “academically successful”. The bones are fundamentally the same as they were in the old days folks. Relax!

 

The problem most of you are having, as far as I can gather from your frustrated tirades, has mostly to do with your poor lost and confused teacher.

 

Picture this: You go to school to learn to teach. They give you tools, knowledge and material, and pat you on your back as you march to your classroom, with your head up and your shield ready for combat in the name of the greater good; idealism pulsing behind your eyes. And on your way past the classroom threshold, they snatch away everything, belittle you, and say “juggle, you fool.” Teachers are not prepared to execute the new instructional demands of the Common Core standards, and no matter how you yell at them, juggling the pressure between delivering quality instruction and learning the material themselves doesn’t get any easier.

Many of us, even those who went to school in the hood like I did, had teachers that had been teaching the same subject(s) for 20 years. Today, if you’re child is lucky, her teacher may have outlasted her peer teacher cohort past their second year. What does this tell you about our system? In which profession does one become “good” after only two years? I personally don’t feel like I taught at all until my third year, and I certainly never felt like I had command over the craft of teaching until my fifth. But imagine that all the resources you were prepared to use vanished. Many teachers are expected to teach without any resources beyond the internet. Heaven forbid they are caught with a textbook. And instead of recognizing these teaching materials as simple resources to be incorporated from time to time, we inevitably demonize the whole practice of employing text books as “old school” and ineffective and passive and WRONG. Instead, your child’s teacher has not been equipped with the skills or resources to fairly prepare and provide classes with the skills Common Core exalt. Just know that you only feel one-twentififth (25 being the best reported average number of students per class) of the frustration your child’s teacher feels. I promise. The teacher is not the enemy. Neither is Common Core. But I’ll give you a million high fives if you get together with other parents and demand that your child’s school provides adequate training in the educational practices that align with Common Core. Get them to use tax-payer money to bring in the professionals who know Common Core, and who know how to teach actual people (for teachers are people too), and get your teachers the support that they need to teach without a text book. Heck! You go to the trainings too.

 

I dare any parent reading this: Challenge yourself to have an open mind about the Common Core, and read between the blurred lines that perpetuate the blame game in education. If it’s not called the Common Core, it will be called something else equally as reflective of a movement that alienates black parents from having a hand in helping their kids in school. And teaching your kid to do it the old way, may seem like the best course of action until your child reaches the age where he or she can’t compete with high performing peers that learned the “new ways” (the Common Core ways) to problem solve. Jump on the band-wagon, black parents! Learn about it or, if you can’t, find your child the tutoring service he or she needs to do well in school. Our people have the tendency to opt-out when we need to opt-in, especially if we know we have to work twice as hard to get half of what “they” have. Also see my list of online resources that provide instructional support.

 

Am I fan of the Common Core? Absolutely not. I’m indifferent to be quite honest. They can brand whatever they want, as goes the game of capitalism permeating all facets of life including education. And, for those of us who have been in the education game for a full life cycle or more, I know that in about seven years, they’ll be a new brand that’ll bring everyone to their knees all over again. Ack! Whatever…good teaching is good teaching. Later for the hype.