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An Open Letter to Gov. Rick Snyder Regarding TeachersClick to original post for the 139 and growing comments.
January 4, 2013 by Laura 139 Comments [!!!]
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Dear Gov. Snyder,
This letter is a request for help in completing the coursework required for me to apply for my professional teaching certificate. Before I get into the specifics of the request, however, I feel I should give you a little background about me and my circumstances.
I graduated with high honor from Michigan State University with a BA in English in 2003. During my undergraduate years, not only did I take several courses in pursuit of my English degree and history minor, but I also took several teacher preparation courses, which included quite a few tutoring and student teaching placements in local schools. A year after graduation, I completed MSU’s year-long teacher internship program, which required me to teach for free for five days per week in the classroom while paying to take graduate classes at night.
I worked hard. Very, very hard.
The entire program — undergraduate and graduate — was both expensive and grueling, yet I knew it would be going in, and it prepared me to approach the art of teaching with knowledge and a bit of confidence. Thankfully, my parents were able to sacrifice to send me to school, but I know several of my cohorts were not as lucky, many of whom continue to struggle with massive amounts of student loan debt to this day.
I also earned my MA in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Marygrove College’s online program in 2012. I had to go with the online option, for it was simply impossible for my husband and me to both attend and afford classes outside of the home with our two small children (the younger of whom has special needs), our full time teaching jobs, and our hours-long, off-the-clock grading and planning sessions. This one my parents didn’t help me with, and so we have quite the substantive monthly financial aid bill between the two of us.
We’re not superhuman, after all.
I spent the first four years of my career teaching in the Tampa, Florida area. As you know, Florida is a right-to-work state, so any resident from Michigan could imagine the shock I felt at the lack of resources and community involvement in education that awaited me when I arrived. I worked alongside several dedicated, knowledgeable educators as well as many, many inexperienced and thoughtless ones.
See, Florida has a heck of a time attracting quality educators given teachers’ poor salaries and benefits as well as the numerous non-educational-related tasks with which they’re charged — tasks like bus duty, lunch duty, detention duty, truancy monitoring. Schools lack a sense of the importance of education because administrators are strapped thin, counselors are strapped thin, teachers are strapped thin, and some classes contain 45+ students in what isn’t so much a classroom as it is a breakout room intended for 15 people maximum, to name a few issues.
Because of this, teacher turnover is incredible, with many educators entering classrooms without any formal training in the art of teaching and perhaps even more leaving the profession altogether within 5 years. In fact, as of 2003, “the state’s overall teacher attrition rate was pegged at 13.5 percent, compared to a national average of about 8 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”
What’s even more frightening is that it’s not even possible to raise a family there on a teacher’s salary (or that of a pair of teachers, as was my husband’s and my case). Two highly educated, dedicated professionals such as my husband and me could not afford to have one baby and a small house and hope to put food on the table without serious sacrifice. That, coupled with what came to be unbearable work conditions for us and a desire to raise our children in a quality school system like that in Michigan, motivated us to move back in 2008.
In Michigan, teachers were not responsible for what should be administrative duties like those in Florida. In Michigan, things like organizing and enforcing a tardy policy without administrative support did not cloud teachers’ efforts to provide for their students. In Michigan, teachers had one goal and one goal only: to deliver quality public education in a safe environment.
That’s why in Michigan, there was a prevailing sense of academic pride in many of the state’s public schools. That’s why in Michigan, teachers willingly attended professional development opportunities and collaborated in an effort to improve their craft and their students’ learning gains. Because you see, in Michigan, teachers’ one job was that of educating and educating well.
But all that changed when you took office.
Now, Michigan teachers are met with ill-informed evaluation procedures and pressure to teach to the test. Now, Michigan teachers await the effects of that right-to-work legislation you passed — effects like lowered standards of living and the dissemination of teachers’ unions without any of the proposed benefit. Now, Michigan is looking more and more like Florida, that place we had hoped to escape.
Because now, instead of willingly paying for required continued education with the knowledge that our comfortable salaries and benefits will make up for any out-of-pocket cost incurred presently, Michigan teachers worry if we’ll ever be able to pay back all that debt.
Because now, Michigan teachers question whether we should just leave the profession about which we are most passionate in favor of something a little less costly and a lot less risky.
Because now, Michigan teachers have to make the very real and very unpleasant decision to either continue down this path for the good of Michigan and its children’s futures or to put the needs of our own families ahead of the rest and head out of state for something better.
And because now, my husband and I (and many other teachers across the state, no doubt) are faced with having to pay $3252.00 plus $30 in “convenience” fees to take the Michigan required reading course (even though we both have English degrees and have been successfully teaching reading for 9 years) to fulfill MCL 380.1531(4) and be permitted to apply for our required teaching certificate.
This may not seem like a lot to a millionaire such as yourself, but for us it is a month’s worth of daycare expenses, three mortgage payments, eight car payments, or a trip to Arizona to visit my parents. For us, it’s more than a lot.
I’d like to stay in Michigan, Governor Snyder. I’d like to be able to pay for my continued education and provide the best possible education I can to the students who walk into my public classroom.
Most of all, I’d like to be able to do all this without worrying about what financial crisis awaits my family’s future.
That’s why I’m asking — no, pleading — for you to do a couple things.
1.) Quit corporatizing our state under the guise of helping it rebuild. You’re not trying to benefit the little guy and our state’s working families. You’re working in your own interests and those of your cronies.
2.) Quit attacking public education. You know the goal is not to rebuild and improve public education as you and like-minded politicians nationwide claim. It’s to destroy it in favor of corporate-run charter and private schools which get to hand-pick their attendees and reject the students they don’t want to bother with — at risk, low SES students who need help the most.
3.) Make continued education affordable for educators. Pay for teachers to go back to school, if not in whole, then at least in part. Big corporations do. You’re constantly comparing the private and public sectors and trying to run schools like businesses. Why not start with this? Even better, provide free professional development hours to teachers interested in improving their craft but not interested in seeking a higher degree. Master’s and Specialist’s and PhD degrees are expensive, you know, and we shouldn’t be required to pursue them to keep our teaching certificates without some sort of reimbursement of our time and money. Best of all? Amend the requirements for teachers to maintain certification in MI. I’m not saying eliminate them. I’m saying amend them to make recertification affordable.
I am not asking for a raise. I am not asking for a fancy car or a private vacation home in the Bahamas.
I’m simply asking for some help in doing what’s necessary to remain in this profession — a profession I dreamed of joining as a child and one for which I would sacrifice almost anything except my family’s goodwill and my sanity.
I’m simply asking for you to help me, my husband, and countless other teachers struggling to pay for these extra and often unnecessary credit hours — credit hours that take away from time we could be spending planning quality curriculum and providing feedback to students — just to remain in the classroom doing what we believe in most.
I’m simply asking you to take Michigan teachers seriously for a change and quit attacking its children and families by proxy.