Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's Not About the Money

Some things make me so angry that I want to leap upon the blog page and send forth a lightning bolt of words to let everyone know. To set everybody straight. But anger like that gets so big that it prevents me from saying what I really want to say. I have taken a number of deep breaths this morning and I am going to try, bit by bit, to face what set me off and make sense of it.

This morning, fellow blogger and friend Bill Woodcock at The 53 Blog takes a moment to dwell on the Howard County School System budget issue. My take on what he says is that HCEA president Paul Lemle rubs him the wrong way, but that all in all, teachers probably deserve more than .5 raise.


First, about Paul Lemle. I guess we don't all have to like him. But, like it or not, he is the elected president of the HCEA. He is doing his job. But, consider this. We live in a society which has come to criticize and distrust teachers just for being teachers. Professionals with both experience, education, and continued training are dismissed--"How can you believe that argument? He's a teacher you know." Do we say that about doctors when they speak about medicine, or plumbers when they diagnose a problem with the pipes? Do we sneer at concert pianists who talk about their music, or an IT professional who works to unsnarl tech issues?

Bill writes,

And that brings me tooooooo--- HCEA President Paul Lemle is the kind of unimpressive person I like. He could choose to truly BE impressive, if that's what he wanted for himself. He should be so, so, SO much better-- but he just isn't. Always knee-jerking, always looking for the chance to grab a headline, or create some tagline. Especially with his facial hair, Lemle would like you to think he's hip. But he's not hip. He's hype.

This looks a little bit too much like a breezy, cleverly composed personal attack. I just don't like it. But more than that, I think it is important to note that if you hold teachers and learning in high regard, and you understand the negative work environment they have been enduring, the description would be markedly different. Then he would be "Paul Lemle: always ready to jump in to advocate for teachers, always looking for an opening to make the case for his colleagues, working tirelessly to communicate with stakeholders that the concerns of teachers are the community's concerns."

It all depends on how you look at it. Doesn't it?

And to clarify, I don't think I have ever even met Paul Lemle. And any personal feelings I have about his manner or his facial hair are completely irrelevant. Or should be.

Now, about the money. It's not about the money. Or, rather, it's not simply about the money. Teaching has never been a lucrative profession and no one expects to get rich doing it. My personal opinion is that it's crazy that our teachers can't afford to live here, or that many have to work multiple jobs to survive. But money alone is not what caused 500 teachers to turn out at the Board of Education meeting last week.

Respect. Fair treatment. Working Conditions. Do those things matter to you? Well, they matter to teachers. Since the beginning of No Child Left Behind teachers have worked in an environment that says standardized tests know better, and mean more, than teachers, parents, and students. They have watched as millions of dollars were spent on testing and its accoutrements, as valuable hours were taken away from real teaching, and have spent countless hours in increased workload. More forms. More meetings. More meetings about how to fill out the forms.

The five hundred teachers who showed up, plus all those who supported them in spirit, have a message for us: wake up. This is bigger than money. This is about your children. Teachers need our support so that they can give our kids their best. Isn't that what we want for our children and our community?

Politicians and bureaucrats often drive a wedge between parents and teachers, to cast teachers as "other". This takes power away from both. If parents and teachers truly made the connection that we are all on the same team, the force for good would be unstoppable. As long as we are separated into different "camps" our ability to influence change is neutralized.

I applaud the PTA Council of Howard County for working to educate parents on important issues. Here is the information for their (rescheduled) meeting.

The PTACHC general meeting has been rescheduled to next Monday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 pm. Same location: BOE, 10910 Route 108.

On the agenda; HCEA Panel: What's Changing in our Schools, being better partners with our educators; FY15 Operating Budget and other issues; Updates on the Student Privacy and data collections; Common Core Forum on Feb. 23; and the MD Legislative Session.

We look forward to seeing you next Monday and hope the weather cooperates. We apologize for any conflicts this reschedule may cause but the weather does not always cooperate.

For every child, one voice,

PTA Council of Howard County office


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