I suffer stomach pain for the 35th hour since our administration took their second pay raise this academic year. The word “beleaguered” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling from daily occurrences manufactured from the top “executive team” down to the lowly workers: the teachers and staff. I was beleaguered on DAY ONE of the Spring semester after a short winter break. By Day two, the word was squared and by day three, cubed.
Since 2012, the college has been besieged by outside forces wishing to knock it to the ground and trample the hearts, minds, and souls of the inhabitants. Outsiders have been brought in to “fix the college”. It’s a fix, alright. But not the kind that repairs. The outsiders have been brought in to raid the treasury of San Francisco taxpayer dollars that have poured in after an election that year and don’t have a clue how to do anything but destroy the excellent education that we have offered since 1935.
Running along the increasing speed of the treadmill, the faculty find ourselves looking like Lucy & Ethel in their job at the chocolate factory, only it’s not funny as we gorge on mind-numbing and endless paperwork that we must manufacture for the “collection of data”. We have discovered that the more data we must produce, the more problems arise with no one up the river knowing what to do with the data, so it comes back to us. We must now also assess the data ourselves and provide data on the data, then disaggregate the data only to aggregate it again to make some sort of discovery as to how successful we are with our students (certain student groups, actually) and their ability to learn what we teach them.
The problem for me is, the better I am at capturing all of the data, the worse I become as a teacher, because now I have taken on a new job: statistician and data wonk. This is something I never aspired to and am honestly not very good at. LUCKILY, we have some amazing faculty at the college (note: faculty) who have created a way for us to simply do data entry and have a program produce the numbers. WOO HOO! Problem there is, again, data entry takes time and we are asked to enter more data about other things well beyond the student learning. Thus, my point on data about the data. Everything in the entire college needs to be measured and weighed with the work being placed on the already overloaded working stiff. Yes, the teacher.
I did purposefully leave out the “a” in the title because this is not about “a working stiff” but rather working oneself to become “stiff” as in “dead”. As my colleague commented to me this morning when I told him about the title: “I’ve avoided the ‘indefinite article‘ my entire life.” (God, I love him. It’s so fun to have a good laugh with a fellow educator who also cares about our students and our work for them.) Back to “working stiff”: it appears to be the wish of our government and the neoliberals who have taken control of the entire public education system to grind teachers into dust and repeatedly point at them in the news with lies about how little they do. Well, get this. Did you know that Obama’s appointed Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, isn’t even an educator? He’s been an education administrator his entire career! Pardon me, but if an administrator does not hail from the trenches from which they are appointed to administrate, then how the hell do they know what to do? They have no training! One must spend time for years in the classroom before understanding the first thing about educating people. Therein lay the problem, dear Diary. This is not about the teachers.
This brings me back to the college where they call me “teacher”. We have one person in our administration who hails from faculty and has been an active educator. That person is leaving the college for reasons not made public, but those of us who teach do understand. When you have an executive team of other administrators around you who throw crazy ideas into your daily mix without going through any due process to see if these ideas have any validity, then it forces you to consider your options. Well, we have more people opting OUT at the end of this semester than ever before, jumping ship alongside that one qualified administrator. Who can blame any of them? Working 90(+)- hours-a-week with truckloads more requests from top administration to do more as well as keep up with their crazy notions and the shoddy work of highly-paid consultants takes a toll. Who wants to continue that life when you have an option? But the saddest part is, dear Diary, that many don’t have an option. They have a family to feed and have mounting debts due to the fact that we have not seen a raise since 2007. In fact, we’ve had nothing but pay CUTS at our workplace in the most expensive city in the United States. It’s emotionally unbearable to do the math to calculate what I earn per hour of work since it includes mornings, days, nights, and weekends. I still can’t keep up. The to-do list grows and grows. I believe it’s up to 19 pages in a 4-point font.
Well, Diary. I should probably go for a walk to keep myself from the first half of the title. My head has joined in with my stomach as both commiserate in pain. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Thanks for listening.
Thank you Apophenia Inc. for the word images