Friday, February 18, 2011

in defense of teaching

My facebook post on the events in Wisconsin has generated over 50 comments today. Phew.

I applaud my friends and family who stood up for teachers.

First, my friend Tiffany, linked me to this diatribe on teacher pay.

Then, after watching her profession come under attack all day by her daughter's "friends," my mom weighed in and blew all of our socks off. I almost cried when I read this and I have to say how PROUD I am to have been raised by this woman. We've had MANY differences and disagreements over the years, but this is truly amazing. If my facebook wall had a "slow clap" feature, Mom would've totally set it off:

When you say things like "... the average teacher makes $50k per year, with three months of vacation time, during which time they can make more money. It doesn't even mention the fact that most teachers retire comfortably in their mid- to late 50s, a good decade before the general public," it's clear that you have no idea what really goes on with educators.

Yes, it's easy to simplify with a statement like that, but the reality is that salary is based on an 8 hour/185 day a year contract. I challenge you to find any teacher that works an 8 hour day, 185 days a year. Most of my colleagues show up at school around 6:30 a.m., work a full day with the students, stay 'til around 5 or 6 p.m., at which time they take work home with them, unless they have to stay late for school programs or a parent conference.
Oftentimes, phone calls to parents and home visits are made in the evenings. If the parents are divorced, those calls/visits must be made twice - one to each parent. Staff work days are spent in professional development classes, often paid for out of pocket. Materials for things such as bulletin boards, snacks for the kids who come to school without having had breakfast, personal hygiene items for those who go without, and clothing and shoes for kids who's parents can't afford them are paid for by teachers.
I myself have driven kids to the eye doctor, taken sick children home, paid for field trips, bought winter coats and boots, backpacks and pencils, contributed to Thanksgiving baskets...the list goes on and on. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn - in fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a teacher who DOESN'T do these things.
Our "three month vacation" is actually MUCH LESS, when you consider the fact that most teachers are paid for ONE day to clean up their classrooms before (as I would imagine you think) dancing out the door to enjoy doing nothing - or god forbid trying to make ends meet by taking a second job - all summer long. The reality is, most work for at least a week afterward because custodial staff has been cut and things like scraping hardened snot off the bottoms of desks and chairs, or shampooing the puke stains out of the carpet are left up to us. It's not unusual to see teachers return to prepare their rooms for the upcoming school year in early to mid-August. And the "vacation time" you talk about? Not really - professional development is required by many states for recertification. Classes must be taken, papers written, homework done, materials bought, again out-of-pocket.
As for the "I pay your salary" argument? Are you kidding me? Keep in mind that WE PAY TAXES, TOO! People seem to forget that. I also pay for YOU to use the highways, get your drivers' license, take the bus. You do not belong to an exclusive taxpayers' club. We ALL belong!
I am NOT your servant - I am a public employee, I work WITH you. Without me, and others like me, we would all be much worse off than you can even begin to imagine.

war in wisconsin: why i care

I know I should be focusing all my time and energy packing right now since I'm able to flee the state and not seek political asylum, but I can't help but be caught up in following one of the most amazing civil rights demonstrations I've witnessed in my life time.

I posted yesterday about why I'm upset about Walker's actions (although I was corrected that the National Guard thing was sensationalized). 

I thought I'd just post real briefly why I am standing with the teachers and the unions:
  • My mother has been a hard-working public school employee for the bulk of my lifetime.
  • Several of my friends have left their previous careers to go back to school for education degrees, almost with the same devotion that people used to do this to join the clergy -- it truly is a VOCATION. No offense to my corporate friends out there (heck, I'm one of them again, very soon),  but I've never heard anyone utter words "I have this strong calling to go be a corporate actuary/marketing/HR person to fulfill my dreams AND make the world a better place." I admire and support those who give their lives to others and are SO UNDERAPPRECIATED FOR IT.
  • The democratic process is NOT a sneaky bill introduced to pass in four days and things like teacher walkouts are a valuable lesson. A couple of days off school are not going to damage our children for life. And if I had children I'd personally LIKE them to learn about civil disobedience and peaceful protests. In fact, as a student at a Jesuit High School (yes, I split my education between public and private schools), I was required to take a whole semester on Peace & Justice.
  • For those using terms like "Union Overlords," do you really not take advantage of any rights that unions have fought for that now apply to everyone? 8 hour workdays, weekends, child labor laws, health and safety laws. Really, I'd, REALLY like to know. 
I understand the frustration of folks that are in private jobs that don't have "Cadillac" benefits, and to close I offer two discussion points:
  • If we all stood behind universal healthcare, wouldn't some of the issues at stake here, simply be NON-ISSUES
  • I do agree that Unions do need to make SOME concessions. If you are strongly pro-Union or a Union member, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. What ARE you willing to give up?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

wtfisconsin: collective bargaining battle

I knew after the November elections that it was going to get bad.

But readying the National Guard against peaceful protesters?

I thought we elected Walker, not Wallace.

And giving throwbacks to the Unions that supported you in the Election? Despicable.

Yes, I am leaving the state. But this an issue that should be watched from an international level. You can't just assault the rights of workers and get away with it. There should be a fair and public discourse, not a hasty bill that opens up holes into larger funding issues.

Private sector employees are allowed to negotiate benefits. Why shouldn't public sector ones as well? Why should people that want to serve the public be punished because elected officials can't properly manage spending?

Want to know more? My friend Mandi offers a nice examination and balanced viewpoint here.

As the Catholic Church points out 'there is a "moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.”'

I only hope that one Republican in the Wisconsin legislature can step up and stand up for human rights.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

endorsement: jim sullivan for milwaukee county executive

Realizing I have nothing to lose now by being overtly political, I'd like to announce that I'm off to vote for Jim Sullivan for Milwaukee County Executive in the primary. While I had high hopes for Chris Abele to bring fresh blood and ideas to the office, Sullivan seems to be the only one who grasps the dire straits of parks and transit. If Abele makes it to the general, I can only hope he will educate himself on these issues and come up with more original solutions that the retread "cuts, cuts, cuts."

Also, would one of these candidates get on a bus one day themselves. Milwaukee, please realize that transit is an economic development tool, not a social service. Keep that in mind when you vote today.

Monday, February 14, 2011

brew to bay

The following is an amended version of what I emailed to my close friends and associates over the weekend:

In short: I have really big news.

Many of you know this already, but how big? Life uprooting big.

In just a few short weeks I will be living and working in San Francisco, California -- realizing a goal that I’ve had since I was 10 years old. (I'm not joking, I fell in love the second I set foot in that city).

I gave my notice at my current employer on Friday, and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Even though my industry in Milwaukee faces COUNTLESS challenges (don't forget to vote tomorrow!), it truly has been an incredible experience working there. It's only been slightly over three years, but I feel like I've learned about twice that. My last day will be Thursday, March 3.

I begin my new job, setting marketing and communications strategy and implementation for a company a new industry for me on March 14. I will post more about my new job and employer when I am settled and started, but I'm very excited to work in a very creative industry, but with still a technical edge.

I will fly out at 8 PM on March 10 to make my triumphant return to the West Coast.

It was not an easy decision for me to make. Yes, I have been increasingly disgruntled with the political climate here, and that was, admittedly, the catalyst for me to investigate living elsewhere. However, once I began looking, I found that the opportunity for me to grow personally and professionally is really elsewhere at this time in my life.

Will I miss Wisconsin? HELL YES.

What I will I miss about Milwaukee?
  • THE PEOPLE!!! Some of my best friends are here. I’ve spent my entire adult life here and it’s going to be really hard to leave amazing people behind.
  • Summer.
  • Things just being super awesome and cool, and not knowing or trying to be that way.
  • A ton of things, which I will write about, in due time, when I don't have an agenda 3,040,108 items long.
Why I am I moving to San Francisco then?
  • My family (in Portland and Seattle) will be much, much closer.
  • Outside of Milwaukee, my highest concentration of close friends is located in SF (including some ex-Milwaukeeans).
  • I’ve mentally exhausted myself in the past few years trying to defend even minimally progressive programs in Milwaukee, I need a break and also to test and see how these programs work in practice.
  • With my change to an active lifestyle over the past 18 months, I’ve had an increasingly difficult time dealing with winter here. I need to try at least one in a moderate climate again.
  • The type of workplace I’m looking for is commonplace. Flexible hours, telecommute options, casual dress, Macs (!!), social media engagement, collaborative / “flat” office structure, encouragement of creativity. I realize this stuff isn’t for everybody, but for me, it will contribute to my overall happiness and ability to succeed.
What am I doing before I leave?
  • I’ll be spending the next few short weeks packing like a madwoman and purging my apartment of 13 years of Wisconsin collectibles. Watch my social media feeds for information on my EVERYTHING MUST GO FURNITURE BLITZ. If you need shelves, storage units, kitchen islands, a bed, dresser, dining room set, etc. let me know!
  • Throwing going away bashes on February 25 (late night) and March 4 (happy hour). I also will be celebrating one of my final nights here at the Mucca Pazza concert on March 8.
Will you ever see me after I leave The Island?
  • As long as Wisconsin people keep getting married and having babies, I can’t yank myself out of their lives. I’ll be back the weekend of April 15 for a wedding (negotiated that into my job offer) and I’m sure for others down the line.
  • You can virtually track me, as I will be blogging at my new blog, Brew to Bay, so you can track me there or on Twitter. I'll probably still update here occasionally as well.
Recommendations are welcome for San Francisco, in regards to excellent people to know or places to go. 

I owe a post on my all my updates as well, but I think we can safely say I've accomplished #1 of my 31 by 32 list!

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