Bill to remove teacher test is an A+ idea

A bill that would remove testing as a requirement for teaching licenses is before the Iowa Senate. 

It passed the House unanimously. 

Dear Iowa Senate, please pass this bill and get it under Gov. Kim Reynolds pen at once. 

I rarely speak publicly about political issues anymore, but I confess my vested interest in this one. 

I’m student teaching this semester and if this bill doesn’t pass, I’ll have to file a blizzard of paperwork and pay $300 to a private testing company for evaluation. 

If I pass the evaluation, I’ve finally earned the right to pay the state $165 for a license to do a job so very few people want to do for wages that impress no one.

A $300 fee may sound small. If you took your car to the mechanic with a “rattle rattle, thump, bang bang” and walked out for less than $300, you’d be thrilled. 

But that’s not the whole picture. 

My tuition at Drake University this semester was more than $12,000.

Yes, I could have gone through a different school with lower tuition, this is a master’s program.

I’m 46 years old. I can’t afford to start over to the fresh-out-of-college salary scale. Most districts will start a new teacher with a master’s degree in a higher pay lane. 

Student loans funded every dollar of my last two years of school. I’ll be paying that until I die. 

So it goes. I’m pretty sure dying in debt is basically the same as dying rich. 

What’s another $300 on top of that?

It’s more principle than anything.

Presently, there are two kinds of tests you can take to earn a license. One is a pair of exams, one for general teaching and another specific to your discipline such as English or math.

The other is a complex collection of video recorded work with students, unit plans, and essays with 17 different rubrics.

Both tracks cost $300. 

You generally take them as you’re student teaching. 

Student teaching is the capstone of education school for both undergraduates and graduate students. 

You worked side-by-side with an experienced teacher for roughly four months, including leading classes for four to six weeks. 

Student teachers are not paid. 

They are working full time. They are not getting paid. 

You are actively discouraged from having a part-time job, though some of my classmates do. 

How they handle it is beyond me. Student teaching is the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. The level of executive function — the sheer amount of stuff you have to keep straight — is staggering. 

I come home from days and collapse into bed by 7 p.m. 

As a student teacher, I’m evaluated twice a week by a mentor teacher — usually a retired teacher interested in passing along good pedagogy to a new generation. 

I’m observed nearly every minute by my classroom teacher. 

I talk regularly about progress with both teachers and my professors at Drake. Our class has weekly seminar meetings — also a class I have to pay for. 

In the end, I need three letters of recommendation from people who have seen me teach. 

If I haven’t impressed my classroom teacher or my supervising teacher, I’m in trouble. 

My point is this: How many tests are enough?

I’ve taken pedagogy. I’ve taken subject classes. I lived the journalism. 

I’m constantly observed and have excelled at an accredited university that sets its standards in line with both the state and the latest ideas on teaching teachers. 

The thing is, the test isn’t a measure of potential in a future teacher.

It isn’t even a measure of how good they are at taking tests or writing rubrics. 

It’s a grift. 

Private testing companies shakedown education majors for a few hundred bucks after they’ve already stacked up thousands in debt to take a job that faces historic shortages. 

I’ve only been in a classroom since January. Already I am a changed person. I had no idea what I didn’t know about this job. 

It is hard work. It might be the hardest civilian non-first responder or peace officer job there is. 

Sometimes I think I’ve permanently scrambled my egg to think I could do this. 

But I’m getting better everyday. And I think I love even on the days I’m cursing into my pillow at night. 

So, yes, please Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Reynolds, remove one expensive hurdle for me and the thousands of students working hard to become the teachers our state so desperately needs. 

Former journalist Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Gazette. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

This could be the last post on this blog ever

I believe writer’s block is an affectation experienced by successful authors who have made enough money to let their egos be picky.

I am not a successful author. I’m a former journalist, maybe even a failed one.

But I have found it hard to write of late.

I am tired. The fall semester drained me. The classes were hard. They shook my confidence. I went from knowing I could teach to thinking I could teach.

Maybe that swing is good. A person needs to earn swagger. I earned a little in paragraph stacking, but I have none in teaching.

I begin student teaching in January.

I have some decisions to make about my public writing before then.

I have lived a partially public life in the age of social media.

I have accounts on all the major platform and about 11,000 combined followers.

That’s not much if you’re Beyonce.

It’s decent if you’re some random fat guy in the Midwest who typed up police reports and weather stories for the local newspaper.

The decision: Do I delete all those accounts?

The easiest answer is “yes.”

The problem is I sometimes say things on these platforms that people find objectionable.

I try to stay out of politics and religion, although I’ve dipped into both over time.

Mom 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines hairdresser who raised me after my parents died, always tried to keep those topics out of her beauty shop. I keep them out of my feed as best I can.

But everything is an argument these days.

I’ll give you an example: I have not been very excited about the most recent actor to play the lead in “Doctor Who.”

I don’t blame the actor, not really. I just don’t think the stories are very good.
I voiced this opinion in the comic shop. One of the employees sighed heavily and said, “The world was not ready for its first female Doctor.”

The implication in that comment is that the reason I don’t like the show is because I don’t like women.

I said nothing. I paid for my comics and left.

I wanted to reply and make my point more clearly, but any protest would have led to politics, which the shop owner tries to avoid for the same reason Mom 2.0 did.

I’m sure if I kept talking, I would be accused of sexism or misogyny. It’s not a conversation worth having.

This was a real-world conversation, where you can read body language and tone.

Now take that conversation online, remove context and any sense of sanity.

The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood rules the internet.

If I were to make such a comment about disliking “Doctor Who” stories in recent seasons online, one of them might find me and decide I was the worst person in the world.

Then they might go on quest to wreck my life.

A person with whom you disagree about “Doctor Who” must not be able to have a job or get a cup of coffee. They must be shunned and forced to the edges of society.

Employers hate controversy. They have a business to run. Bosses don’t need their employees drumming up problems for them by what say on the internet.

First Amendment free speech protections only prevent the government from muzzling you. Your employer can absolutely tell you to shut up about your opinions on “Doctor Who” or clean out your desk.

I plan to work in public schools.

If all goes as planned — and, please, God, let me get what I want this time — I will be ending my first semester as a fully licensed teacher by this time next year.

I have no intention of rocking the boat with mean tweets about “Doctor Who” episodes — or anything else for that matter.

So, do I just spike the whole thing?

Do I kill the blog? Should I delete Facebook, Twitter, and the rest?

I think maybe I should.

However, I also think I enjoy writing for an audience and the people who read this blog have been very kind and loyal to me for the past couple years, some of the worst in my adult life.

There are other options.

I could make the blog, Facebook page, and Twitter private. I could control who is in and who is out.

I know some people who do that just so they can complain about the terrible play of the Chicago Bears with a wider range of vocabulary than is allowed at the Methodist Sunday night potluck.

I don’t know how successful making accounts private is. I figure if you put it out there, eventually someone who is serious about getting to it will get to it.

What am I going to do?

I don’t know.

I don’t have to decide today.

Maybe over a couple glasses of eggnog and some holiday cheer, I’ll have an epiphany.

Until then, save me a snowman cookie and keep telling your story.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

The fear 4 hours before doctor appointment

My appointment with the specialist doctor is at 9 a.m.

It’s currently 4 a.m.

I’m scared.

I know that to get better, I need to see this doctor.

But I’m afraid.

I’ve never had surgery before. I don’t even know if I need surgery. But I’m scared of it.

I think about all the Drake women’s basketball players I wrote about who had knee injuries or other issues who had surgery.

To me, their condition was news — facts people should know about their favorite team.

I didn’t think about the pain.

I didn’t consider they might be afraid.

Maybe they weren’t.

Those Drake women’s basketball players I covered back in the mid- to late-1990s were tougher than I’ll ever be.

I remember one player, she got cut. She declined a pain killer because that meant shouldn’t go back into the game.

Me? I would have asked for maximum pain relief, my blankie, and my stuffed Pink Panther.

Someone I love was trying to help me yesterday.

This is her way. She takes charge. She leads.

She started to list all the changes I needed to make to get better.

Lose weight.

Listen to my doctors.

Exercise more.

She hit an especially tender spot. She asked if I thought I could walk to my classes at Drake even without my present knee problems.

Her question was legitimate. All my grad school work so far has been online because of the pandemic.

This fall, we’re back to buildings and classrooms.

Can I walk a few blocks to my classes even without a knee injury?

The answer is no.

But.

But I would have found a way. I would have paid for a parking sticker for the lots closest to the building I took my classes in.

If I couldn’t make it, I would use an assistive device — a crutch, a walker, whatever.

I was going to make it.

But her question comes with an unintentional punch.

It reminds me how much I hate myself — my physical body, how repulsed I am by the sight of me.

I know I am disgustingly fat by both medical and aesthetic standards. I know every extra pound shortens my lifespan.

I worry about it all the time.

The latest knee injury terrifies me on a scale I struggle to describe.

I worry that it can’t be fixed or will be easily reinjured. Thus, getting to class will become impossible and I won’t finish graduate school, won’t become a teacher and end up with a pile of student loans and no job to pay them with. I’ll be living down at the YMCA housing or in a hospice.

How’s that for maudlin thinking?

This is what goes on in a brain stricken with depression and anxiety.

That’s why I abruptly ended the call with my loved one.

I was rude.

But I had therapy soon. And I was hurting, both physically and emotionally.

I didn’t want to fight.

I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be OK.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311. 
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com. 
Venmo@newsmanone
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.