I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gordon Gecko, 3rd Grade Teacher

Via the always excellent Digby, there apparently is an email going around Wall Street that warns America to back off of criticizing the new Masters of the Universe; if we don't, they are all going to become teachers!
Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’t retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that. 
For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much. So now that we’re going to be making $85k a year without upside... [Empahsis mine]

May I respond? Thanks:

First off, allow me to be the first to welcome you to the teaching profession! We always need bright, committed people to join us in educating the youth of America. I can see from your little speech here that  you're used to hard work and you have a strong bladder: that's good, because you're not allowed to leave the kids by themselves for even one second, no matter how badly you've gotta go. In fact, you can't even pick up the phone if your broker calls with a hot tip or leave early when the new models roll off the truck at the BMW dealership.

I take it you've done everything you needed to do to get your license. No? Uh, listen, passing the Series 7 doesn't count - you're in a whole new world here, my friend. You can't even get in the door of a school without a teaching degree: I'd suggest math, science, or special ed, because you're not going to find a lot of work these days in Jersey in most other teaching areas (I assume you're a B&T-er - you're parroting Chris Christie's rhetoric perfectly).

Of course, you could get into Teach for America or take the alternate route to certification. Understand this means you'll almost certainly land in an Abbott district - basically, one that has a lot of poor kids. But, hey, you've stared down market makers - you can take on a class of 35 poor, jaded, disinterested 16-year-olds and teach them algebra, no problem! Or maybe you can get that Kindergarten class of 28 5-year-olds who've never set foot in a school, whose parents are nearly impossible to reach, and who don't speak English at home.

Now, those summers off are going to have to wait, because you've got to get your coursework done so you can trade in your provisional license for a full one. And you're not going to get higher up in the pay scales without at least a master's degree - no, an MBA isn't going to cut it, sorry. Plus, you're going to have to work during the summer, unless you want to live on a salary in the $40's.

Oh, no one told you? Sorry - that $85K you're talking about is going to take you at least 20 years to work up to - and, again, you're going to need a masters in teaching (at least - most districts' highest pay level is MA+45, which mean 45 additional credit hours; sometimes it's even MA+60).

And the tenure? That's only in the district where you teach - when you move to another district, you lose it. So, if your plan was to start at a lower-paying district, get some experience, and then try to move up (which many teachers do), you'll have to go through the three-year tenure cycle again.

You'd better build up your portfolio and get some good reviews. A word of advice: this "eating off of others plates" stuff doesn't really fly with administrators. Teachers are collaborators; if they can't work together, they can't do the job.  Besides, you aren't really judged by your work anyway - you're judged by the work of your students. Better hope you get a good group your first year...

I'm afraid I've also got to tell you that the baseball coaching thing is probably going to have to go on hold for a while. See, extracurriculars like that are usually reserved for people who actually have built up some cred. Maybe you can be an assistant to start - probably unpaid. Hang around, work your way up - someday, you could be the varsity coach! Then you can deal with the booster club, and ordering supplies, and insurance, and scheduling, and academic probation, and budgeting, and rule violations, and college recruiters, and...

Oh, yeah, overtime and time-and-a-half: it doesn't exist in teaching. You get paid the same now matter how long it takes to grade those 100 papers about The Tempest. But you're used to those long hours, so no problem. Enjoy your weekend with the passive voice.

Finally, let's talk retirement. Sorry, you can't retire until 62 if you want your pension. Assuming you're 35 right now, you'll get about half your salary - if the system is solvent. You'd better hope it is; you're going to be putting a mandatory 5.5% of every paycheck into the system. You're only getting this, by the way, because of union negotiations. Plan on a comfortable but modest retirement - certainly nothing like you saw on the Street.

Again, welcome to teaching. You're going to find some true satisfaction in the job; maybe not as "satisfying" as short selling and then driving a stock down, but satisfying nonetheless.

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