My Christmas story as a substitute teacher…

A few years ago, my wife challenged me, she said “If you really want to be a teacher then take the CBEST and be a teacher.”  I know she didn’t expect me to take her up on it, but I took a look at when and where the test was being given. To my surprise the test was being given the next day in Palm Desert, only about 10 miles from my home in La Quinta. I quickly registered for the test, paid the testing fee, showed up early the next morning, and completed the three-hour exam in just over one hour. After getting the final results, I was told that I was fully qualified to be a substitute teacher.

At that time, I made the decision that I would go ahead and apply to the district that my wife was working for. Thinking that if she was sick or didn’t feel good on a given day I could sit in for her and there would be little if any break in the curriculum. However, what I found out was that there was a much greater need for substitutes who are willing to travel and be what was called a “on-site rover.” Now a rover isn’t assigned to any particular class, or to any particular grade level. A rover shows up in the morning at a site and gets his/her assignment once they walk through the door. Being a rover is a true test of your flexibility and willingness to adapt to any given situation. There were days when I would bounce between sixth grade, third grade, fourth grade, and then back to sixth grade. If I was at a high school I may be in a math class for a couple of periods, then a science class for period or two, then I might be cooling my heels in the teachers’ lounge for the rest of the day. It was exciting and frustrating all the same time.

But, there was one particular day that stood out in my mind is both the happiest, and the saddest day of my tenure as a substitute teacher. That day was December 18, 2015. I had been called in by the local school district to be a rover at a K-6 site for three days, right before the Winter recess (we used to call it Christmas break). Teachers were having conferences with parents and I was needed to cover the classrooms as the teachers cycled through their conferencing responsibilities. On my first day I was in first-grade classroom, a second-grade classroom, and fourth grade classroom. On day two, I was in third-grade, and fifth-grade. But on day three, I was scheduled to be in a 6th-grade classroom in the morning, and in a kindergarten class in the afternoon.  Being in a 6th grade classroom didn’t bother me at all, however I have to admit, I was completely terrified of kindergartners.

Now, here’s where the story gets to be a little off track. Professional teachers are supposed to provide substitutes with their lesson plans for the day. This way the substitute can continue to follow the teacher’s plan and the students will not slow down or otherwise be detained by the fact that their regular teacher is not in the classroom.  Most of the professional teachers that I worked for were perfect.  I had lesson plans at my fingertips, I understood what was needed to be done, and I did my very best to make sure that the class moved forward. But on this particular day, and in this kindergarten class, it was obvious that the teacher and all of the students were ready, VERY READY for Christmas break.  As the regular teacher was leaving the classroom, she didn’t even bother to introduce herself and when I asked about what I should be doing for the rest the afternoon she pointed at her aides and said, “just asked them, they know what to do.” I asked if she had a lesson plan for the afternoon and she said, “no not really, I usually just read to them, let them take a nap, and then maybe do some art.”  So, what, am I, as a good substitute to do?  I did exactly as I was told.  I grabbed one of the books from the bookshelf, gathered all the children for story time, and did my very best impersonation of Mr. Rogers. After that, it was nap time so the children all laid down and pretended to be trying to sleep.  After about 30 minutes, I knew this wasn’t going to work.  I needed a new plan.

As I looked around the classroom, I realized that all of the students had made brown bag puppets of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  So, with about an hour left in my tenure as a kindergarten teacher, I gathered all the children back at the front of the room.  I pointed to all the bag puppets on the wall and asked, “Do you know all of Santa’s Reindeer?” The children replied “RUDOLPH!”  I said “Rudolph was just ONE of Santa’s reindeer; do you know the other eight?  “WHAT? There are more reindeer?”  “Yes, would you like to know their names?”  Almost in unison, every single child in that room screamed YES!  It was as if I was about to reveal some magical super-secret that had been kept from them since birth….  So, I wrote the names on the whiteboard, and began to do my best Burl Ives impression…

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall, the most famous Reindeer of all?”  So, for the next hour, we sang, and sang, and sang, the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song.  We were having so much fun that we didn’t even notice the teacher come back into the room.  But when we did, at least 6 of the children ran to her and said, “Did you know there are 8 other reindeer?”  I didn’t here her response as I was being bombarded with request of “Again, again, again.”

The teacher finally came to the front of the room and asked for the children to say goodbye to me, and thank you as I got ready to leave.  I politely moved to the back of the room and gathered my belongings, but as I looked up, I saw three little girls standing in front of me.  One of the girls, looked up at me and said, “Can we have a hug?”  I looked at all three of them, and realized that, at that moment, all each of them wanted was just a bit of humanity, just a bit of compassion, and just a bit of love from a strong adult male.  What I should have done, is break District rules and given all those girls a big hub, unfortunately what I did was spout the District line that I couldn’t and offered them a “fist bump” instead.  I was instantly angry at myself for being so weak.

As I got up, and got ready to head out the door, I felt a tug on my shirt.  One of the girls wasn’t quite ready to give up.  She looked up at me, with these incredible eyes and said, “Mr. Kevin, are you Santa Clause?”  I didn’t say anything, but I put my finger up to my lips and whispered, Shhhhhh, gave her a wink and exited the room.

I went to my car, and for the next 30 minutes just cried my eyes out.  Our children are so desperate for basic human contact, a simple hug or a pat on the shoulder.  They desperately need to believe in someone bigger than themselves.  And yes, these same children still want to believe that Santa Clause and that dreams can come true.

Exploding the Myth of the Underpaid Teacher (Part 2)

In part two of my expose, I am going to use the information readily available to anyone who cares to look, to expose the truth about the teaching profession, teacher’s unions,  and their cronies. No matter where you are in California or the rest of the USA, take a moment to Google Teacher Salaries in [my district].  Now, please understand, this is just BASE SALARY and does not include any overtime, summer pay, or benefits.  Again, I am using Desert Sands Unified School District (DSUSD) in California as my example.

There are two documents easily accessible to anyone via the web.  It takes less than two minutes to locate with a simple Google search. If you wish to look for yourself, here is the link to the 2016-2017 Salary Schedule for Certificated employees for Desert Sands Unified School District.  The second document that you should review is the teaching schedule or School Year Calendar.  Again, I invite you to download this document for yourself.  Click on the link to find the 2017-2018 School Year Calendar for Desert Sands Unified School District.

While the salary schedule is important, the School-Year Calendar is a more important document because it exposes the disparity between the teaching class, and the professional class in California.  Most teachers that I know want to be recognized as professionals in their field, so for the purposes of this review, I will be comparing the salary and benefits of other similarly educated professionals (Engineers, Architects, Urban Planners, Managers, etc.).  I have specifically chosen to not compare Teachers to Doctors and Lawyers because of the massive disparity in educational requirements and the cost of entry to the profession.

Over the course of my career as and Urban Planner, I have hired dozens of young professionals (YPs) right out of college and put them to work.  The entry level hiring package for these private sector professionals peaked from 2004-2008.  At that time, the need for competent and talented YPs was great, and there was tremendous competition in the marketplace.  However, since 2008 and through the duration of the last recession, entry level salaries and total compensation have dropped dramatically, to the point where typical entry level salary for a college graduate in a professional field is now between $35,000 and $45,000/year.  There is no guarantee of continued employment, and you must prove your value to the firm annually.

For teachers, the State Union (CTA) has “negotiated” contracts with the local school districts that make teaching the new “dream job” in the minds of many college students.  If you come out of college with a Bachelor’s Degree and you have completed the “fifth year” which is necessary to complete your teaching credential.  You are hired in at close to $55,000/year with a benefit package that no private sector company can hope to match (more on that in part 3).  If you keep your nose clean, you are granted tenure within 2 years, and now you have a job for life, or at least that is what the Union wants you to believe.

So, the typical teaching professional, right out of college, begins his/her career with a $10,000 to $20,000 head start in annual pay for no more effort than is required by any other profession.  But the disparity really begins when you cross reference actual working days between the teaching profession and other professions.

Most YPs are also happy with one-two weeks paid vacation, and a handful of national holidays (usually 7-10). That means the typical young professional, right out of college, works up to 240 days per year, compared to the same young teacher who works only 184.  This same young teacher, has the ability to work overtime, weekends, and summer if he/she chooses to further increase his/her annual salary.

So, are Teaching Professionals underpaid when compared to other professionals of similar education and experience?  Let’s break this down by combining the Salary Schedule and Working Days and determining a per working day wage:

Entry level Teacher:  $55,000/yr. divided into 184 working days = $299/per day

Entry level Professional: $45,000/yr divided into 240 working days = $188/per day

The bottom line is that when you compare apples to apples, Teaching Professionals begin their careers with a MASSIVE financial advantage over other similarly educated professionals.  Of course we haven’t even discussed automatic annual pay raises, step raises, and benefits available from the Union, banks and credits unions, and private sector companies that increase the gap dramatically.

In Part 3, I will expose the Benefit packages that our Public School administrators and teachers enjoy.  It’s amazing to me that so many teachers still complain about having to pay an incredibly small co-payment, or a singularly small deductible, while the rest of us pay the equivalent of a HOUSE PAYMENT just to have health insurance.

It’s time for all of us to speak #TruthToPower #TakeBackCalifornia #MakeCaliforniaGreatAgain #WakeUpCalifornia.

To your health, happiness, prosperity!

Kevin

Exploding the Myth of the Underpaid Teacher (Part 1)

Good day everyone,

Recently, I was pulled into a discussion/debate about teacher salaries and the perception that teachers are underpaid, overworked, and burdened to the point of physical and emotional collapse.  In this debate, I was called several rather disgusting things and accused of being a “hater” or “liar” for bringing out the facts.  So, before I begin my expose, let me provide some personal disclosure so that everyone is aware that I do not “hate” teachers and that this isn’t just a witch hunt.

  1. I AM a teacher.  10 years ago I started working, part time for a major university teaching Business, Marketing, Management, to undergrad, and graduate students.  I LOVE being a teacher.
  2. I am also an experienced professional and I regularly hire graduates from the California University system.  I know exactly what kind of student is being allowed to graduate now, and I know exactly how much time I need to spend to correct his/her thinking to make him/her a productive employee.
  3. I am married to a teacher.  The woman that I love has MULTIPLE Master’s degrees, multiple credentials (including math, physical education, and administration).  She has taught in 4 different Districts and at one University.
  4. A few years ago, on a dare, I sat for the CBEST.  A 3-hour test that I completed in 70 minutes and was told that I had passed before even leaving the testing facility.  Based on this one, incredibly easy test, I was allowed to begin my public teaching career, as a substitute, in our local school districts.  To say the bar for entry is low, would be an understatement.
  5. I have done my research and will provide the data to back up my assertions.  While I will focus on one particular District in California, Desert Sands Unified School District (DSUSD), the data and information for all Districts is readily available for any who wishes to look into their local district.  While there are slight differences in pay and benefits, the State Union, California Teachers Association (CTA) ensures a relative balance between all districts in the State.
  6. During my tenure as a Substitute Teacher, I discovered how most tenured teachers completely revile the work that substitutes can provide. During this expose, I will reveal stories about my experiences teaching everything from Kindergarten, up to High School Business Students, AND I will tell the story of how the CTA and Local Union forced myself and my wife to pony up over $3000 to give a handful of exceptional students, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

My goal here is not to tear down the teaching profession.  There are a number of men and women in my life, many of them teachers, that have contributed to who I am today.  I would name names, but I do not want to embarrass anyone, living or passed.  These women and men, from 3rd grade to 5th-6th grade, to high school English, history, and Community College all contributed in amazing ways to the man  I am today.  But it is time for the Union lies, the Progressive Lies, the Liberal Lies, and the Democrat Lies… TO STOP

It’s time for #TruthToPower #TakeBackCalifornia #MakeCaliforniaGreatAgain #WakeUpCalifornia.

To your health, happiness, prosperity!

Kevin

Get out from behind your desk and go for a walk

I have to admit that I am probably the very last person that should be giving diet and exercise advice. I’ve been battling obesity since my teenage years.  Some years winning, most years not so much.  I’ve tried every diet on the planet, and every exercise routine known to man. The reality is most of them work, at least for a little while. But at some point you feel as if you are a war with your own body. You cut back on calories and for a few weeks you lose some weight. Then your body stabilizes and the same amount of calories does nothing more than keep you at the same weight. Same way with exercise. You increase your caloric expenditures and initially there is a significant boost in your metabolism and you lose some weight. But after a while it seems as if regular exercise does nothing more than to keep you in your regular place. Your body tends to stabilize at its own level of comfort.

So, when I saw this article by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, I was encouraged. I always knew that walking was good for you. As pointed out in the article walking is very low impact, you probably won’t injure or wear out your joints, and it’s an exercise that can be enjoyed by just about everybody. But the best part is that all of those healthy runners and joggers that scoot past you so quickly have no idea that walking actually delivers MORE benefits than jogging or running.  According to the good Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, there’s a new study that evaluated the health boost to get from equivalent energy expenditures with moderate intensity walking and vigorous intensity running. In other words, if you run for 15 minutes you expend the same amount of energy as if you walked vigorously for 30 minutes. Walking vigorously is between 3 and 4 mph.  The study showed that:

  • Walking reduced the risk for developing hypertension by 7.2 percent; running, 4.2 percent.
  • Walking slashed the risk for developing high cholesterol by 7 percent; running, 4.3 percent.
  • Walking cut the risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 12.3 percent; running, 12.1 percent.
  • And walking nipped the risk for developing coronary artery disease 9.3 percent, running 4.5 percent.

So, if you’re interested, give this a try:

Weeks 1-2: Walk continuously for 30 minutes (1 mile in 16-18 minutes), three times a week.

Weeks 3-4: Go for 30 minutes (1 mile in 14-15 minutes) five times a week.

Week 5: Increase to 45 minutes almost every day.

Over time, aim for 10,000 steps daily. And if you combine daily walking and 20 minutes of aerobics three times a week, amazing things happen!

OK, that last part was added by Dr. Oz.  I personally have no idea if amazing things will happen, but I’m going to give it a try.  I know that I need to get up, get out, and get healthy and there is no excuse for not taking a daily walk.

Embrace the Green Economy – Work from Home

For the past several years I’ve been getting myself in a little bit of trouble with some of my peers in the Traffic and Transportation (T&T) planning and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) industries.  I have spent a great deal of time writing and speaking about the need to reduce, or in some cases completely eliminate, roadway expansion for larger freeways and the new construction of virtually all mass transportation systems. Of course, in California, where the car culture was born, nurtured, and come of age, these thoughts border on heresy.  Unfortunately, while I do enjoy my cars, the reality is that our car dependent culture here in California has become a burden to many people, and a benefit only to those who are connected to the liberal political class. Every year, as the population continues to grow here in California, so to the number of trucks, cars, delivery vehicles, repair and supply vehicles, and all other modes of getting to and from our homes and our workplaces.

However, the advancement of technology and communications, has eliminated the need for many of us to drive to work.  For very large segment of the population, we wake up early in the morning, slam down some coffee, jump into our cars, commute for an hour or more, arrive at work already worn out and frazzled, then spend the next 8 to 10 hours looking at a computer screen and typing on a keyboard, just so that we can do the reverse commute at the end of the day. This means that for the average commuter, he or she is away from home on average 11 to 12 hours a day.  This is time spent away from family, children, your neighborhood, and your community.  Hundreds of sociological studies have shown that one of the major issues facing young families is the fact that one or more of the parents is away from home nearly 12 hours every single day.

So, imagine a world, where you did not wake up in the morning and go to work at an office.  You wake up in the morning, have breakfast with your children, make sure they got their homework done, see them off to school, then slip into your own home office with the latest and best technology, log on to the office server, and start your workday. No commute, no stress, and no sitting in traffic.

Beyond the important benefits to your health and your family, there would be fewer cars on the road.  This will obviously lead to better air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  Additionally, with fewer vehicles on the road, the need to expand our freeways, will also be reduced.  This will free up billions of tax dollars so that high-speed communications infrastructure, green power, and fresh clean water from desalination, can be delivered at reasonable rates to every household in the state.  Other benefits will include greater home ownership rates, lower daytime crime rates in our neighborhoods, children that will be supervised and have mom or dad, or both, at home after school.  Participation in local social organizations, churches, clubs, and sports, will also increase, providing for greater quality of life for everyone.  Lastly, the local economy of all of our small and medium-sized towns, all across California, will be enhanced because people will be spending money where they live instead of spending money on the road.

Granted, this scenario will not work for every person in every situation.  But when you consider how many people get in the car every morning and go to work in a cubicle, it seems to make far more sense to spend hard earned tax dollars on communications infrastructure so that we can link our homes to our workplaces, and truly find work-life balance.

This blog post inspired by Want to be Green? Forget Mass Transit. Work from Home, by Joel Kotkin.

An Open Letter to Travis Allen

Dear Assemblyman Allen,

For the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to contact you or members of your staff in order to gain information on your platform and how you are going to re-energize the Republican Party in California. To say that I received information that was less than satisfactory would be an overstatement.  It appears, that much like many Republican candidates of the past, you are just repeating the tired, old, political statements, that have resulted in Republican defeat, after defeat, after defeat.

The people of the State of California deserve better than what they’ve received from the Democrat Party over the past 40 years.  The people in the inland communities, especially the deserts and inland valleys, are suffering with some of the most overbearing regulations and laws in the entire United States.  These regulations have destroyed personal initiative, eliminated creativity, held back innovation, and created unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, in some of the counties that should be leading the way toward a future of health, wealth, and prosperity.

Those of us that live in Inland California need to hear from you, and understand how you are going to restructure this State from the top to the bottom in order to unleash the potential of the inland valleys and desert communities.  We want to know, that you’re going to dramatically reduce taxes.  Not just the taxes on personal income, but on corporations (large and small), sales, and energy, and gasoline. We want to know that you will work to rollback regulations that inhibit growth.  That you will revisit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and dramatically streamline the development and permit process so that everyone in California has the opportunity to buy a home without government subsidies.

We also want to know what you’re going to do about California’s infrastructure. In particular we want to know how you going to develop California’s water resources; how are you going to extend and grow our ability to generate clean power, and most importantly, how are we going to connect with the greatest communications infrastructure in the entire United States.

Assemblyman Alan, there’s just a little over 10 months until the election for the next governor of California.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I want to work.  I want to grow the economy, and I want to make California great again.  It’s time for a major change of leadership and a major change in direction in the Golden State.  It’s time that we have a plan for change that will unite the people of California and truly advance our ability to create a healthy, innovative, and prosperous state.

Sincerely,

Kevin L. Maevers