In which I am dialed back

2973026I am trying– I have said this to a number of people in the Real World, but I don’t think I’ve made it clear here– to maintain a very healthy sense of what Is and Is Not My Problem in this job.  I have absolutely no doubt that I will frequently be doing things at work that are, officially at least, outside my purview.  Hell, I already am.  I did twelve of them today.  But there’s shit that’s not my problem and then there’s Shit That’s Not My Problem, if you know what I mean, and while every previous teaching job I’ve ever had has been positively riddled with capital-letter Not My Problem stuff, I am bound and determined that I’m not letting it happen here.  I need to keep reminding myself that I’m coming back to education because the last time I had a job in a school it led to ambulances taking me from the building twice and I had to go on fucking medical leave and then resign.  I am not letting that shit happen again, and one of the ways I’m doing it is by very strictly monitoring my boundaries.

Not that anything in particular happened today that’s making me bring that up.  Not really, at least; I walked away from a couple of student conferences that I might have sat in on and participated in in the past, and I got an email during dinner just now that I’m not taking time away from my evening to respond to, because here’s another rule: when I walk out of that building at the end of my day, I’m done, and barring special circumstances of some sort or another I’m not gonna be doing Work Shit once I get home.  I kind of wish I could figure out a way to tell my work email to stop pinging the server for new messages after 4:30 every day.

Hell, there’s probably a way to *do* that, come to think of it.  But seriously: I was talking about getting too much email the other day?  I got two work emails at 10:30 last night as I was going to bed, and I damn near replied to them and told the people who had sent them to put their phones down and go to sleep.  At which point I decided not to bother and, instead, took my own advice, put my phone down, and … well, okay, I read for another hour– Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep is starting off well— but I did it in bed and without anything electronic staring at me.


I didn’t mention this yesterday, because I hadn’t pieced it together until today, but along with talking to Auntie No-Pants’ niece I had a bizarre moment at the end of the day where I heard someone shout “Bye, Mr. (my real name)!  I liked your book!” as he– it was definitely a boy– was leaving the building.

This was a problem in a couple of ways, prime among which was the fact that I was pretty sure there weren’t more than one or two kids in the building who knew my name in the first place, and none of those knew me well enough to yell goodbye at me on the way out the door– today was the fifth day of school, after all– and there damn sure shouldn’t be anyone who knows who the hell Luther Siler is.  The fact that the kid yelled goodbye at me as I was facing a different direction and he was headed out the door and I wasn’t able to get a good look at him beyond “one of the boys in the midst of this large group of students” wasn’t helping.  I couldn’t have picked this kid out of a lineup if my life had depended on it.

It had me a bit concerned, if I’m being honest.  I’ve never been anything other than clear-eyed about my own anonymity here; I’ve left enough clues lying around over the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of words I’ve written here in the past several years that a dedicated interloper could probably figure out where I work and even where I live within a few miles’ radius given a day or two of reading, at most.  I’m not anonymous to keep people from figuring out who Luther Siler really is.  I’m anonymous to keep kids from Googling my real name and finding their way here.

Oh God, now I want a word count for the blog no goddammit I’m not doing that.

Anyway, this story has a happy ending, of sorts: I managed to completely randomly discover that a certain 8th grade student has a rather distinctive last name that matches the last name of a couple of kids I had in my very first group of Indiana 6th graders, kids who I just happen to still be in fairly regular touch with, and I dropped one of them a quick text message and discovered that yes her little brother does go to my school, and then a moment after that I realized that I’d actually had a conversation with his mom at Open House and had somehow not connected that conversation with the fact that since she was at the school she probably had a kid there somewhere.

How her son’s existence didn’t come up while we were talking, I have no idea.  In my defense, it had been an incredibly long day and I was both 1) really tired and 2) trying to get out of the building so that I could get to my kid’s Open House, which was the same night.

So yeah.  I don’t have to shut the blog down or anything.

In which I’m not sure what I’m mad about

R-580242-1518276830-4202.jpegSo the district I used to work for just named its Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 school year.  I don’t know the guy; he teaches fourth grade and has been with the district for five years.  I assume he’s good at his job; typically that’s a requirement for being named a building TotY, and to be named for the entire district is a genuinely big deal.  Best I ever did was top 10.

There’s an article in the paper about him.  After thinking about it, I’m not going to link to it, because the purpose of this post is not to shit on this guy and you’re just going to have to believe me that I’m quoting this accurately.  The article is mostly Good Teacher Boilerplate until I got to this part, about 2/3 of the way through:

Like his students, (name redacted) appears to have a bottomless well of energy.

He and his wife, (Mrs. redacted), have three children, ages 4, 2 and 1.

Besides full-time teaching, (redacted) works 10 to 25 hours per week at a home improvement store and is studying for a master’s degree at IU South Bend. He was head football coach for 11 years for the team at St. Matthew’s School in South Bend.

My first thought was that it’s ridiculous that we pay our teachers so Goddamn poorly that  this guy, like most working teachers in the area, has to have a second job.  Without an MA and with five years of experience he’s probably not even making 35K a year, and if he is, it’s barely.  And that’s too low.  It’s insane that a job that requires a college degree and insists on continuing education after that pays so poorly, particularly one that’s so critical to the functioning of society at large.

And then I thought about it a little more.  Dude’s a full-time teacher.  That’s, bare minimum, 8-4 five days a week.  He’s not in a low-grading classroom where he can just pass/fail everyone, and for me grading and lesson planning was at least another eight hours a week– ie, most of Saturday or most of Sunday or longer hours every day during the week– and I was excellent at crafting assignments that took as little time as possible to grade.  No Teacher of the Year is working 40-hour weeks.  It’s impossible.

And he’s supposedly laying another one to three eight-hour shifts on top of that, plus a bare minimum three hours a week in an MA classroom assuming he’s only taking one class and doesn’t spend a single second reading or studying, plus travel time to all the above, plus he has three children all under five years old?

And now part of me is going “Jesus, this poor guy,” and the rest of me is pretty goddamn sure somebody somewhere is lying, because there literally aren’t enough hours in the week for anyone to pull this schedule off.  The reporter apparently didn’t care enough to add it up and figure out that this guy is claiming eleven-hour work days every single day ever while also somehow raising three very fucking small kids.

I seriously can’t figure out which is worse: that this could actually be his schedule, in which case he’s going to burn out and hit a wall very, very soon, and it’s not going to be pretty for anyone involved when he does, or if a guy who is already Teacher of the Year still feels the need to lie about his schedule and the reporter just shrugged and wrote it down.    That’s how pervasive the teacher-as-martyr idea is; he or she looked at all that and boiled it down to “bottomless energy” and not “on the road to flaming out and divorce at 30.”