Higher education is a real racket. I went to college, as a many people do, to learn as much as I could in order to get a good job. I paid Ball State University somewhere in the ballpark of $20,000 for my education and housing over the course of the 4 ½ years I was there. I also paid a consolidated bank and the federal government another $5,000-10,000 for lending me the original dough to go get my degree. If I work for 40 years as a teacher, that means I’ll have paid $750 a year for the honor of having my job. Or at least I would if I was say an architect, CPA or even a nuclear scientist*. Since I chose to be a teacher though, every five years I have to earn six additional college credits. Right now college courses are going for about $600 for three credit hours, which means barring the rising cost of living that keeps sending tuition prices spiraling upward, by the time I retire, my job will be paying about $1000 a year to stand in dress shoes for seven hours each day on tile floors. I’m sure there is some sort of cost analysis I could do that will predict what future credit hours will cost, but I don’t have the time or patience for that kind of math. I teach English after all. I’m guessing that in order to keep my job, I will end up paying closer to $1200 each year for the privilege of a half hour lunch break where I have to stand in line for luke-warm soup and day old hamburger patties.
And that’s if I don’t get that master’s degree everyone is pushing me toward. If I want the substantial pay raise and the ability to keep getting pay increases after I’ve been teaching for 20 years, I’ve got to step it up and get even more higher education. The cheapest I’ve found to do that right now is about $12,500. That brings my yearly total up to about $1400 per year so that I can stand in front of 32 16-year-olds and try to give them the skills they need to get jobs as managers of fast food chains and make more money a year than I do. And that doesn’t include the future renewals after my masters. Even with a masters’, I’ll still have to take more classes to keep my job.
Why am I throwing all these numbers out? This week I am taking one of those certification renewal courses. It’s from 8 am-5pm every day (although we’ve gotten out early each day so far this week), but it’s only a week long. The class is actually fun and when I got back to school, I’m sure I’ll even use some of the teaching strategies we are learning, but there’s just something about the idea of having to take these classes in order to keep my job that rubs me the wrong way.
While I can take any class offered in my major area, minor area or education in general, the easiest classes to take are education classes. The problem with these classes is that every few years someone new comes out with a philosophy that “revolutionizes” the educational process, but only ends up lasting long enough to get all your lesson plans done and finally taught the way you’d like them. Then a contradicting theory comes out, and all that work goes out the window. Or, the classes all start running together, because they keep saying things that teachers already known and have known throughout the ages. Honestly, in all the educational classes I’ve ever taken, I think I’ve actually learned about a dozen helpful things. I end up feeling like I’ve wasted an awful lot of money and spent a week snacking too much to stay awake in order to hear for the zillionth time that kids like to blame others for their problems and we need to teach them how to get out of that habit.
The classes in my major and minor areas, while fun to take really aren’t that helpful for keeping my job. As much as I’d love to, I’ll never get to teach a class on Jane Austen at my high school. I’d be lucky if I get to teach one of her books**, so taking an entire class on her isn’t really helpful. Not to mention that with the exception of the addition of some new authors, I’ve already got the skills I need to teach my subject. Writing doesn’t really change that much, neither do literary analysis skills. And I’ll be really honest, I don’t have the time to do all my reading/planning and grading for my job, raise my son, keep my house in decent order and do all the reading/writing required for a graduate level literature class. At least not if I want to keep my sanity and have any free time.
Even with these constant classes, I still get questioned about my educational practices by parents who haven’t been inside a classroom to learn anything since their high school days. They are positive they know more about running my classroom than I ever could. After four days like this, that Now Hiring I saw on the marquee of the Steak ‘N Shake seems a bit inviting.
* I realize other professions do have to take classes and attend seminars to keep up on the latest, but their educational advancement aren’t monitored the way teachers are, and often they can choose not to update their education without the certainty that they will lose their job. Plus, many of those seminars are paid for by their companies or the seminar people. Colleges, so not springing for my tuition money.
**I’ve tried teaching Emma. She doesn’t go over very well with most modern American teens, proving once again that I was a big geek in high school when I read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.