des moines, News, People, politics

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 wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Standard
des moines, Faith and Values, humor, Iowa

#OldManStudent: Lessons from the first week of class in the pandemic

The first week of graduate school is in the bag. It went well. I worry I’m on track to being one of those irritating non-traditional students who talks too much in class.

Those people burned me up as an undergraduate. They always did the reading and they were so damn enthusiastic about it.

Maybe they were more acutely aware of how much they were paying per credit hour than undergraduates. I know that’s my motivation for being a blabbermouth.

I really feel sorry for the 2020 undergraduate in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost their rites of spring. At Drake University, that means the Drake Relays and sundry parties and events surrounding that.

Now they’re back on campus (sort of) slathered in Purell and muffled by masks. There’s no fall sports at many schools, including Drake. No cheerleaders. No marching bands. No guy in the Spike the Bulldog costume.

It doesn’t look too good for basketball, which is a damn shame because with my student ID, I could go see my beloved Drake women’s basketball team for free on most home games.

There are probably other things going on across campus, but I’m too old to rush a frat or join a social club. The only club I ever joined at Drake when I was an undergraduate was the Times-Delphic, the student newspaper.

I suppose I could get a beat over there, but I feel like student newspapers are for the up-and-coming journalists who need to get their reps in. I’ve had my 10,000 hours of practice.

And since much of my career was marked by heartbreak and sadness, especially in the end, I feel like I would spend most of my time encouraging the T-D staffers to consider seeing a therapist to discover why they hate themselves enough to enter the trade.

Some, like me, take all their courses online. There goes all the fun of walking across campus with classmates or hanging out in the residence halls having bull sessions over the topics of the day.

The best part of college is the fellowship. I learned a lot in the classroom, but I learned far more from the people I met.

My best friend, Memphis Paul, taught me about the mentality of Southerners. My roommate Anthony, who grew up in Milwaukee, taught me about growing up Black in America.

Another buddy, Brent, included me in scores of events with his family from Hamburg, a quirky small town in southwest Iowa.

I fell in love a few times. Nothing came of it. I’m difficult to get along with, but many of my classmates met their spouses in college.

I felt a profound sense of sadness that today’s college student is robbed of the true college experience.

The week many students arrived on college campuses in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds closed bars and nightclubs because of increased coronavirus cases.

Think of all those poor undergraduate students who won’t get to test out their fake IDs.

I imagine it won’t be long until schools go all online. I already opted for that. I’m not looking to make friends as much this time around as I am focused on learning a new profession.

That said, I don’t mind online classes, but it has some weird quirks. Some professors require you to have your camera on throughout the class period. Others don’t.

A professor in one of my classes described being on camera for hours at a time “exhausting.”

I see her point, but we are learning to be teachers. Assuming the pandemic eventually ends, we are learning jobs that will require us to be in front of students, fellow teachers, parents and administrators every day.

If I were teaching, I don’t know if I would trust my middle school or high school students with their cameras off.

But that’s life in the pandemic, isn’t it?

We’re all asked to trust each other and act in accordance to our consciences.

The only option left us is to make the best of a shitty situation.

And pick up a six pack at the store, because we’ll not be meeting at Peggy’s on Thursday night for a while.

Daniel P. Finney does not have this much hair anymore.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Standard
des moines, humor, Iowa, News, Newspapers, People, Podcasts

Back to school at 45: Differences between 1980 and 2020

I popped out of bed and hustled to get dressed. The first day of school had finally arrived.

I rushed to the kitchen and poured my cereal and milk.

I scraped the last scoop and drank the milk.

Every schoolchild knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I hustled to brush my teeth and put on my new school outfit. I shrugged on my favorite Yankees T-shirt and a pair of cool new athletic shorts. I slipped on my tennis shoes and rushed out the front door.

And then … I turned around and went back inside to my bedroom. I sat down at my desk and clicked a button on my browser to join a Zoom call for my first class of graduate school.

The last time I was in a classroom as a student was 15 years ago, when my attempt at graduate school was put on hold to return to newspapers.

A lot has changed since my first real day of school, fall 1980 kindergarten at Woodlawn Elementary School on Des Moines’ northwest side.

1980: Mom helped me get dressed.

2020: With arthritis in my knees and back, I wouldn’t say no to a helper to get me dressed.

1980: Tied my own shoes by myself including double knot.

2020: I use elastic laces that turn every shoe into a slip on.

1980: Breakfast was Lucky Charms in whole milk.

2020: Breakfast was Grape Nuts in ultra-filtered skim milk with added protein.

1980: My backpack was filled with new folders, notebooks, pens and a badass set of NFL pencils with the team’s name etched into one side.

2020: I’m using pens and notebooks I stole from my former employer after they laid me off.

1980: They would let you go down to the library to play “Oregon Trail” for computer time.

2020: The whole class is on a computer and I take it in my bedroom, which is loaded with toys.

1980: We enjoyed a nice midday snack of apples and milk.

2020: My bladder can’t hold a can of Diet Mountain Dew for an entire 90-minute course.

1980: There was a midday nap.

2020: Same.

I could go on, but my drummer thew out his shoulder doing rimshots.

In all seriousness, today was the best day I’ve had in a long time.

I looked for a job for four months. I didn’t find one. I felt impotent and small. I felt useless. I lacked purpose and drive. I was depressed and anxious.

Before class started, I worried I would be overwhelmed or out-of-place. I wasn’t. It was class, the same as class has always been most of my life.

Today was a purposeful day. I took one step toward a new future. At long last, I got momentum.

That’s about the best you can ask from a day.

Daniel P. Finney covers head scratching and bug bite itch for ParagraphStacker.com.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Standard