Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Greetings! Here we are in Blog Heaven, though I've always hated the word blog. It has sounded so much like bog as in "bogged down," the way we all are out there. I meniton the word we as if there really is someone out there who might read this. We'll see.
If you remember CEL-Talk back in the mid-90s, you will recall my voice calling out to see if anyone was reading any of our/my questions or comments, even rantings. It turns out there were some. Occasionally, someone would whisper a word to me at NCTE, "Keep talking; it's fun reading." Well, maybe.

But Henry Kiernan suggested my name for this spot so let's see what happens. I haven't been a big fan of a lot of the blogs connected to newspapers. It sounds similar to some of the people on sports talk radio (WFAN in NY) that I often listen to. Thank goodness the hosts have a button to push to turn off some of these ranting fans after 20 seconds of yak. The people who might read this are much more knowledgeable. So today is about getting the lay of the land.

Has anyone vistied the NCTE blog? Whew! These people are good, with all their information and expertise and links to Higher Education and other fancy reports. I don't think I could do that because I don't know about that stuff. I just have an occasional thought or two, while I putter around outside my house or remove leaves from my gutters, about leaders and teaching, about passion and portfolios, about supervising student teachers, and teaching developmental writing classes for very disadvantaged college students.

And very often I have to check with some of my good friends at CEL who have deeper thoughts than I do, like Pat Monahan or Louann Reid or Jim Strickland, and a bunch of other people like that. They set me straight.

But just after returning from NCTE (and that horrible Opryland where we couldn't connect with anyone because there was no place to connect), I was out at the curb, raking up some nice leaves for mulching. I had to get to class that night but along came my neighbor, Emil. He started talking about teacher salaries and then he laid it on me when he said, "Those Pennsbury teachers (the district where I live in PA) earn about $80,000 to $90,ooo, did you know that?" I looked at him, needing to get back inside to get to class, when he said, "That's not bad for a part-time job, you know, half a day, summers off."

"Emil, don't get me started," I say. And then I give him my two minute rant, citing my student teachers and all the work they carry home, all the work I carried home, and how getting out at 2:45 when school starts at 7:10 and I'm there at 6:30 in the morning doesn't exactly seem like half a day. Especially when I may have a couple hours or more of work that I will carry home, after I leave at 5:00 or after I finish coaching girls soccer practice or working on the literary magazine. But I don't really say all of this because I haven't rehearsed it well enough to have it down smoothly.

Later that night, in my writing methods class, I bring this up with my students and we talk about how they would answer that. I tell them how I regret not bringling up NCLB and 1 in 3 in 5. In my mind, I am asking Emil, a vigourous walker in his mid-seventies and a friendly neighbor, what reason he might guess for one in three new teachers leaving the profession in five years and what that might have to do with the No Child Left Behind legislation. But I don't and I am left to have endless conversations with Emil in my dreams and I can never get the words out or he doesn't understand my language and I wake up sweating.

So what exactly do you say to your neighbor and all the people who ask you about teachers who have it so easy?