Monday, January 19, 2009

The Easiest $1700 I Ever Earned

It is called the TEEG Stipend. Either the Federal or the Texas State Government promised to award $1700 to each of the teachers in our social studies department last year while I was teaching in Brownsville. Our department was told that we could earn a stipend for jumping through a few more hoops set by the NCLB puppets last year. Although the application, when downloaded from the district's website consisted of 54 pages, we were told all that was required for the stipend was to observe 4 other teachers and fill out a few forms. It was an attempt to encourage us to grow in our teaching profession.
Observing other teachers certainly helps to develop your skills. My only objection is that each of the 20 teachers in my department were promised around $400 per 45 minute observation. This same governing body tells us that it is far too costly to take PREEMPTIVE measures in order to improve education in suffering districts. How about making class size smaller? Or even enforcing student-teacher ratios, let's just say it is probably a better learning enviroment with less than 40 students per classroom. Or investing time in staffing at-risk programs that cease to exist in the place where there is the greatest need. Some funding is there most often, but what do we do with it? It is obvious. The money is tied up in archaic, unproven, hastily developed bandaids such as the TEEG stipend.
There is another part. I'd forgotten about the stipend since I had been hearing about it at almost all of our faculty meetings for an entire year. I don't know, I guess I must have been trying to do something with little monetary value, so as to not waste precious time at these meetings. Things like pointing out to a 14-year old kid with a criminal record that he was on the same road as the other men in his immediate family: prison. Or I could have been trying to write a lesson, one that would teach kids to think, not memorize, or sit still. I could go on! I digress.
I heard many bored reminders to fill in the forms and turn them in by the deadline. I did observe other teachers, but something happened and my forms were never brought to light! It never occured to me that with all that is lost in that system, that these 4 pieces of paper would actually turn into a $1700 check from Uncle Sam. I thought, ' We can't even keep track of each student's credit hours so they graduate on time, how can this paperwork game be a priority?'. Well, someone, somewhere, with some REAL power, thought THIS should be taken seriously. As it turns out, 2 of my dear teacher friends had $1500, after taxes, directly deposited into their accounts a few months ago. I emailed my principal and he explained that they never got my forms so I was ineligible for the stipend. There you go. Maybe that's why I am disquieted! I had asked this same principal, a few months earlier, if I could observe teachers at better and worse schools in our district. Of course, I phrased it in as ' Your Wiseness' tone as possible! I was denied. Now, when the goverment threw absurd amounts of money at us in an attempt to mend the crisis our schools face, I missed out! There are at least 2 lessons from this. Lesson one; always jump through every bureaucratic hoop, there might be an incongruous monetary rewardon the other side. Lesson two; We are wasting money and our kids are still left to squander.

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