I’m sitting in my classroom right now, typing this on my work laptop, and trying to figure out the next nine weeks of my life. It is possible I have overscheduled myself; I got an email today from this course design thing I’m doing with IU that describes what they think the schedule is going to look like, and it’s … a lot, potentially. Then there’s the new committee I’m on at work, which is a few extra hours after school a week, then (eventually) there’s going to be National Board certification, which is just a meeting here and there right now, but soon I’m going to have to start actually doing stuff for it, and I looked up what the content area test was going to be like the other day and, well …

This is for their adolescent (11-15) Mathematics certification, which is going to be the one I’m going for. I teach Algebra, y’all, and I washed out of Calculus in high school and never looked at it again, but, like, right now I think I want to do the content area test first, and the notion that I need to relearn Geometry, Trig, Discrete Math and Calculus in the next few months when I never really learned Calculus in the first place, plus a refresher on stats?

I mean, on the one hand, at least I have something to do this summer, and on the other hand, I’ve wanted to go back and conquer Calculus, because it’s always sort of stuck in my craw that I bailed on it, and on the third hand, the one I don’t have that’s kind of a lot.

Like, I pass standardized tests. Passing standardized tests is my thing. I’ll be fine. But my studyin’ muscles haven’t really had much of a workout for the last, oh, fifteen years or so– who am I kidding, it’s longer than that, because I’m pretty sure I didn’t have to do a single second of “studying” for my M.Ed– and I’m gonna have to rediscover some skills with a quickness.

Plus, like, even just planning out how to approach all this is intimidating. I’m sure there are plenty of self-paced/free or inexpensive study guides out there, both specifically for this test and for these subjects in general, but that’s basically all of high school math that I need a refresher on plus some stuff I never really touched until college. While designing a course in Quantitative Reasoning for IU, doing whatever I need to do for this other committee, and, oh, teaching the last nine weeks of 8th grade math from school when I haven’t taught physically in my building for literally over a year and figuring out how to keep the kids who are staying home connected to everything else that’s going on.

One step at a time, I suppose.

First step: find a study guide for the test itself; Amazon probably has one. Second step: relearn all of mathematics.

It’ll be fine.

Well, shit

I have, I think, an above-average number of friends who have doctoral degrees, at least for someone who doesn’t have one. This is something that having spent your twenties in grad school does to you; if you don’t actually finish your program, a lot of your friends do, and while there has never been a single second where any of my Ph.D-holding friends have looked down on me for not reaching a terminal degree (I decided not to move forward after my MA in Divinity school, having discovered that I didn’t enjoy the research nearly as much as I thought I would, and finances fell apart at the last minute for my planned doctoral work in ed school) it has always sort of rankled that I never got one myself.

Now, note how I’m phrasing that: I’m treating a doctorate like it’s something you get and put on a shelf, like a trophy or a Batman statue or some shit like that. I have no intention whatsoever of becoming a professional researcher, nor do I really want to be a college professor, so at this point even getting a doctorate in education would literally be something done to soothe my ego and nothing else. And that’s … really not a good enough reason, unless I can do it for free, and that seems unlikely.

Enter National Board certification. This is really exactly what it sounds like; teacher certification is handled on the state level, and so there’s an insane patchwork of different requirements from state to state, and some states are much more restrictive than others about who can become teachers. Moving from state to state can be a hell of a mess, especially if you go from one with low requirements to one with higher requirements. NBC circumvents all of that; it’s basically the highest level of certification a teacher can reach (as opposed to being an educational credential like an MA or a doctorate) and most states end their certification requirements with “… or you could get your National Board certification” and leave it at that.

Most states also give you a hefty salary bump when you reach that level. Indiana, unfortunately, is not one of those states, and part of the reason I’ve not gotten my NBC in the past is that Indiana wants their teachers uneducated, young and cheap and I am none of the three already. I’m kind of stuck in my current district because the way state salary guidelines work, districts aren’t allowed to recognize irrelevant things like education when determining teacher salaries any longer, and most neighboring districts won’t recognize any more than five years of service if you’re from out of district, so I’ve been stuck in this position where if I were to change districts I’d be guaranteed a pay cut. Which … nah. I do not want a pay cut. No thank you.

There was a brief informational meeting today about a new initiative my district is setting up to try and get more teachers NBC certified. Turns out they’ll pay all of the fees for the certification (about $2200, apparently, if you don’t end up having to redo anything) and while they want a cohort (certification usually takes 2-3 years) you do the certification at your own pace, so in theory you could get it done very quickly or if you needed to put parts off you could do that as well. One of the parts is subject matter knowledge, which, pff, and another is reflecting on practice, which … well, look around. You need ten essays about my teaching practice, that’ll be done in a week. So that’s half of the four domains that I really don’t think will require a lot of work on my part unless I have to learn calculus or something; I’m not sure how expansive the math test would be. (Even if it would, an excuse to relearn upper mathematics would actually be a plus.)

Someone asked the presenter at one point how many teachers in the district were already NBC-certified. The answer, which surprised the hell out of me: zero. None. There are 16,000 kids in this district and who the hell knows how many teachers. Zero? Seriously?

And suddenly, between those three things: free, at my own pace, and one of the first teachers in the district to get this certification, and I think I’m in, when I was only attending the meeting to help talk myself out of this.


On my future


This is going to be my twelfth year of teaching, and my fourteenth year of thinking of myself as a teacher.

It’s time– it may be well past time, honestly– to start seriously figuring out what the next step in my career is going to be.  This is the weird thing about my job; unlike basically every other career out there, there isn’t really any way to get promoted as a teacher.  While I’ve spent my career in middle schools and I’ve often sort of thought of the eighth grade math teacher as the apex predators in the building, I don’t actually think that for any real reason.  The person who had my job last year was a second-year teacher; it’s not like you have to prove yourself to get into that end of the building any more than you do anywhere else.

I can change jobs as much as I like, but short of flipping school districts somehow (and I suspect the other districts around here actually pay less than mine does) there’s no way to actually increase my salary that way.  I can increase my marketability for other districts in various ways and I can shift my own focus on my teaching in some ways, but precious few of them will lead to a whole lot of change.  Let’s run through the possibilities, shall we?

  • Go back to school and get my doctorate.  This will not actually increase my salary so long as I live in Indiana, whose wise Republican government decided a couple of years ago that there’s no point rewarding teachers for getting education.  It will also cost me money unless I can manage to get someone else to pay for it, and while I haven’t actually looked too deeply into this I don’t really think that there’s a whole lot of money for funding out there.  I cannot acquire more student loans.  I currently owe nearly ninety thousand dollars for student loans as is.  That number will not be increasing under any circumstances.  Further issue:  there is no college offering an Ed.D or a Ph.D in education within non-pain-in-the-ass distance of my home.  Online degrees are a bloody joke and there are any number of obvious issues with, say, trying to commute to Ball State (nearly three hours away) for classes.  This takes something that already had major issues and nudges it thaaaat much closer to impossible.  That said?  I want a doctorate.  I know lots of people with advanced degrees and goddammit I want one too.  I know it’s irrational; shut up.
  • Administrative certification.  This would require classes, but not necessarily another degree.  That’s kind of weasel-talk, though, since most of the time admin prep programs are meant as Master’s Degree programs anyway, and I already have two of the damn things (that’s where 89 grand in student loans came from) and don’t want a third.  Becoming an administrator would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, increase my salary.  I would also probably hate the job, as principal jobs– and, especially, the Assistant Principal job I’d certainly have to spend a few years in before becoming a principal– basically mean you spend all of your time doing precisely the parts of this job that I hate and seek to minimize at all costs.  I posted “Do I want to be a principal?” as a Facebook status the other day; damn near every single person said I did not.
  • I can always get certified in additional subject areas, which widens what I can teach and ensures that I can continue job-hopping every few years for the rest of my life.  This does have its attractions, mind you, but I’m already one of the more heavily certified teachers in a district that employs thousands of them and it ain’t like it’s putting money in my pocket.  You do reach a point where you hit overkill, y’know?
  • National Board certification.  This provides flexibility in that it instantly certifies me in most of the states across the country, meaning that I can move somewhere where having your National Boards actually matters.  Most states provide financial incentives– some of them quite sizeable– for teachers who attain National Board certification.  Indiana, naturally, is not one of them.  Board certification is difficult and moderately expensive, but cheaper than an entire degree and, frankly, it would probably be more helpful.  Effect on my day-to-day life as it exists right now: zero.

Noticing a pattern?  I’m kinda stuck, and I don’t like it one bit.  The best answer appears to be “move to a state where people actually give a shit about education,” and that would be great if, oh, I lived by myself.  It gets rather more complicated with a wife and a baby in the picture, particularly when moving means taking both sets of grandparents’ only grandchild away from them.

Seriously?  The only thing I can think of that might be workable is to start writing books.  I can’t make myself write fiction to save my life; my struggles with that have been amply detailed in any number of blog posts since forever, but I can sure as shit talk ad nauseam about teaching.  The weird thing is, while I can’t actually make myself write fiction, I have tons of ideas for stories, and I can actually get myself to sit down and knock out a thousand words of nonfiction at the drop of a hat but I have absolutely no idea what a book about teaching from me might actually look like.  Like, none.  I’ve fiddled with the idea from time to time and gotten nowhere with it.

Although I WILL SLAP RAFE ESQUITH IN HIS STUPID LYING FACE would be a great name for a book, wouldn’t it?  And its sequel, MAYBE YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE BECAUSE YOUR PANTS MADE THEM THAT WAY, YOU ASSHOLE, due a year or so later.