Sunday, October 09, 2005

in bed with the covers over my head -- how will i find a job saving the world this way?

The other day I told Ditch Bitch that I was having the worst day of my life and she asked me if it was worse than the day that Code Pink turned on us. It was a tough question...

I'll start with the most recent transgression against me, since I know Ditch Bitch doesn't really want me to dish about Code Stink in public (does anybody really read this? -- i think not). Not that I'll never tell the awful truth about those pink barbie vampire bitches... i will, but later. this is more pressing.

So, my dayjob is teaching. i find it incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. i teach drama and i take it very seriously. theatre is a village. there's a place for everyone. a play is a world and there's room for everyone to build part of the reality. not everyone has to be an actor -- god forbid, i spend my days turning innocent children into actors, i couldn't live with myself -- a play needs painters and writers and musicians and technicians and managers and furniture movers and audiences and.. you get the picture. mostly theatre requires collaboration and team players. it can be painful and messy and beautiful and scary and profound. and some kids really bloom in the theatre environment. and i'm honored to teach it to them.

so anyway, i've worked my way around town with various groups that teach in the schools. i'm not an accredited teacher. i'm an "artist in the schools." that works out fine since the republicans and libertarians and prop 13 have all cut arts out of schools. it's up to parents with bucks or non-profits with bucks or movie stars with spare time and bucks to bring arts back into the schools. they have to have fundraisers and sell their souls to raise money to pay us and train us to bring the very best to the kids.

a couple of years back i settled in with a group i really liked. unlike most non-profits this one treated the teaching artists like valued professionals (read: they didn't treat us like actors). they took out taxes from our paychecks (a good thing), they paid us for prep time (a really good thing), they held our hand while we learned about the VAPA standards and how to align our lessons to them so that we could kick ass as teaching artists (a challenging but ultimately empowering and wonderful thing -- i want to be the best teacher i can be).

now when i began with this org. i was paid hourly. i taught six classes a week -- i happened to teach them all in one day, pretty exhausting -- and was paid for prep time for the three different grade levels i taught. (i also taught an emotionally disturbed class but didn't get paid any extra for that because i thought i'd be able to modify my other curriculum to fit that class -- boy was i wrong. they tore through my lesson plans and i was constantly looking for new material to keep them stimulated)

then last year things started getting pretty sketchy on the pay front. they stopped paying hourly and kept talking about the "package." the pay "package" would include pay for prep, meetings and teaching. the "package" was never really explained to my satisfaction but the org refused to give me an hourly figure -- which was total bullshit since i occasionally subbed for other teachers and i was obviously paid hourly for those days/lessons so what the fuck? but, hey, this org was so much more professional than the others i worked with so, i hung in there. they were expanding so much and there were changes in the admin. so i decided to trust them. i'm just that way. and i always end up taking it up the ass when i do...

so that brings us to the present, or at least a week or so ago. i get back from dc and texas and doing things that have inspired me and and moved me and i'm wondering about my life and how i'm going to continue to feel as engaged and empowered and how i'm going to continue to contribute as much as i have this summer. and i'm really feeling like i'll be able to do it through my teaching. i'm getting excited about ways to get my kids involved in what's going on in this world, looking for lesson plans that deal with conflict resolution in creative and dynamic ways...

and my friend J calls and we're catching up. J and i have worked together for a number of years. he has called me a mentor. i used to joke that i kept him around simply because he always wrote down everything i ever said. what an ego boost! but J is an angel. a gentle soul, loving and guileless. lovely. and he works at this org too. because i got him the job, no less. and we're chatting about the pay and the schedule and that the pay went up a little or a lot or something and then he tells me what he's making and it turns out that he's making over twice as much as i am.

he's making over twice as much as i am.

he's making over twice as much as i am.

to be fair. he's teaching one more class a week than i am. he's making over twice as much as i am.

but his classes are spread out over four days -- a schedule that is more conducive to going on auditions, especially when you're making over twice as much as i am.

and he's only teaching two grade levels, so he has half as much prep load as i do. but he's making twice as much as i am.

and i remember all this shit that comes up from my days working in the business world when old white men paid me half as much money as the men i would replace when i would work my way up the ladder. the old white man would say "you can't compare salaries like that" when they meant "but men have to support a family and you don't." but i think there used to be some kind of rules like that... but i don't live by those rules. i don't have those values. so i spoke up.

because a couple of days later i sat in a meeting with some administrative something or other who, after explaining how "equitable" the system was for parttime teaching artists really is, pulled out J's schedule as an example! she actually was using his schedule to illustrate that it was fair and equitable. i finally had no choice but to say, "have you compared our salaries?" she was a little surprised. i think she was also innocent and possibly ignorant of what the fuck was going on. at least i hope so. god, i hope so. she asked, "have you talked to J?" of course i talked to J! he's my friend and i got him the job here and i practically trained him to be a teacher.

and that's where we left it that afternoon. then, that evening, i got a call from the chairman of the board who said she heard about my "complaints" and intimated that i had lied on my resume (i didn't) and misrepresented my qualifications (not required at the job interview) when i started working for the org and it all got ugly and icky and i was just so demoralized...

however, the next day the original administrative something called me back to tell me the chairman of the board had changed her mind and after reconsidering my vast educational background and experience they could offer me an additional $28 a day. this does not double my salary -- and i'm not asking that my salary be completely doubled. i do think that drive time should be taken into consideration and J should be compensated for that time. but i should also be compensated accordingly...

so after a few more back and forths i'm just worn down. adding in to all this is the fact that this org is doing these contract negotiations in OCTOBER. they are negotiating with teachers in OCTOBER. i'm supposed to begin teaching tomorrow. i've asked them repeatedly to get this straight earlier each year and instead it's gotten later. so i feel loyalty to my little title one school. my kids, my teachers. i can't just quit and leave them without a teacher. i've worked with some of these kids now for three years. there are a few whom i'm sure will blossom this year. they need this art. they are misfits who will fit... i can't abandon them.

so i give in. i'll just do it and figure it out later. even if i'm only getting paid half as much as other people doing the same job.

even if i'm only getting paid half as much as other people doing less work...

but i do figure out that maybe i have some leeway to make some adjustments to the schedule. in all of the negotiating i learned that i get paid the same whether i teach 4, 5 or 6 classes in one day. so i could teach 4 classes and call it a day, but what i want to do is mainstream the emotionally disturbed class (they are mainstreamed in their other art classes) and use the time as a "talent identified" class -- a class period i can use to pull students out of class who need additional attention. it would be ideal for isolated scenework for students who are "starring" in school productions, etc.

so i head off to meet with the teachers and make these schedule adjustments. and i'm met with a huge wall of resistance. now, granted, i can't blame them at all. like i said. since the org has it's head so far up its collective ass, i am trying to do this in OCTOBER. but the teachers, whom i normally love and laugh with, are just saying NO NO NO! (it doesn't help that No Child Left Behind and the guvernator make them teach to the tests all the time also) and then i get his with the biggest body blow of them all. one of my favorite teachers turns to me and says, "why can't you just do this after school?"

so that's what it's come to. they all just see it as a fucking hobby. even after seeing me work for years she thinks i'm just teaching party games. i've spent weeks, months maybe, researching, teaching myself, studying how to align my lessons to the standards -- not just the VAPA standards but also how to teach theatre so that i can incorporate math and history and even science into my lessons... yes, it's done. theatre is a village. there's a place for everyone and a need for everything.

and then i reflected back on the conversation i had with J the night before. he had been upset that i told the org that we discussed his salary. i tried to explain that they used his schedule to tell me that things were equitable -- i didn't go as far as to remind him that, in an earlier conversation, he gave me permission to tell them -- but it all boiled down to his saying "put yourself in my shoes." when he had said that the night before it kind of flew past me. yeah yeah yeah. but as i was leaving the school in defeat after the "why don't you do it after school?" comment, it hit me hard, hard, harder.

yeah. if i were in your shoes, J, i probably would have fought even harder. because i would have worried less about being perceived as a complainer, as "difficult." i talked to dutchman ab out it, and he concurred. this is the kind of shit that he says i'm compulsive about. i'm a seeker of justice, motherfucker!

and it usually gets me in trouble. and it usually depresses the fuck out of me... for a little while, and then i realize that i can't go on without doing what i believe is right. i'll fight for what i believe in because i can't live with myself if i don't. so yes, maybe, it is a compulsion. and maybe i'm always going to get myself in trouble, or be "difficult." so i guess the question is this: if i'm going to always be such a pain in the ass, shouldn't i be doing it somewhere it will really make a difference?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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October 31, 2005 7:26 AM  

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