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Grow up.

This was a post from TeenVogue on Facebook this morning.

Now: TeenVogue is amazing. Its editorial and content have been one of the few media sanctuaries for many of us, young and old, in these troubled times. The magazine tackles politics, social justice, and yes, fashion issues. Its holistic approach to youth and news is refreshing.

But dang, kids, really? Ageism? 

My 8th-grade students often comment on how fast I type and text. I learned the QWERTY method when I was a sophomore, in a room full of electric typewriters, staring at an overhead projector screen with our typing tasks for one full semester. Since keyboards and keyboard layouts remain in this configuration, I can still type pretty dang fast. My highest typing speed is around 75/80/WPM. They also marvel at how I can type and not look at the keyboard. I confess I do need to look at the cell phone’s “keyboard” when I text, but I manage just fine.

My mother, in her 70s, has worked for technology companies from the beginning. My father, in hospital equipment sales. My husband is a self-taught programmer, UX designer, and technological pioneer: in fact, he and I both bristle at the term “digital natives” and want to bring in more use of ‘digital pioneers.’

We’ve both noticed the subtle but constant ageism when it comes to technology: ultimately these fixed mindsets and assumptions about “old people” and what they don’t know about technology becomes boring, and take away from creative pursuits. For the commenter who said “I literally had to show my mom where the right click button was” all you showed your mom was contempt, and now if she’d like to try some new things she’ll think twice. Glad she didn’t say that to you when you were learning how to ride a bike or brush your teeth. “I literally had to show her where to put the toothpaste!”


Look, I’m a huge defender of younger generations. I caution myself toward falling prey to Juvenoia,  and try to take risks with new ideas and learning. I don’t want to be afraid to ask students to help me with Snapchat, (which I have, and they’ve created a monster, and now I use it in creative lessons), nor do I want them to be afraid to ask me how to type a five-page short story formatted for publication.

I’m working on the digital curriculum for next year, and it’s kind of a big deal. We all can learn from one another: ultimately, we’re trying to make connections and communicate. Rock, paper, scissors or keyboards, we’re all doing the best we can.




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Adjusted for awesome.


The paycheck has come and gone. There is food in the fridge. The repo man is held at bay for another 30 days, and all is well. For now. To me, July 1 is my official first day of summer break, where I am under no contractual time to do or think for anyone but myself and my family. It takes me awhile to settle into the new routines and freedom. But having time to write and drink coffee –what a gift. And teaching is a life ‘gift,’ no question.

My dear friend gave me a lot to think about as we were pulling up to the Denver airport yesterday, and we continued to talk  long past our time at the drop-off curb. (I was sharing with students a few months ago that she and I would talk for hours on the phone, and I couldn’t remember what we talked about. Now I know; anything and everything.)

Let me see if I can frame this correctly, her pondering– and in no way is this question meant to put any educator on the defensive or start to link Taylor Mali videos about What Do Teachers Make.  (There, see, I did it for you.) The essence of the question is what is a reasonable salary for teachers? And, truth, I couldn’t answer that simply. Not sure I’ll be able to here, either, but the thinking is what’s important because effecting policy change feels impossible. It’s not my question to answer: there are too many factors that affect a teacher’s salary, and the waters are intractably muddy.

However, similar to musing what I would do if I won the lottery, asking ‘what would be a comfortable salary for me’ is a fun exercise.

Some perimeters to the game:

  • Cost of living –adjust for lifestyle and long-term goals
  • Assume a master’s degree and five years of experience
  • Assume the discrepancy between the highest paid employee in a district and the lowest teacher salary are within range of similar benefits packages, PTO, and contractual responsibilities. (In other words, let’s pretend we’re Ben & Jerry’s or Costco.)
  •  There is such a wide discrepancy around the globe it’s difficult to gauge or have some kind of real ‘teacher currency exchange rate’ understanding.

And these numbers are based on if I were single and childless. All working persons deserve to earn a salary compensate with education, ambition, and to save for a retirement that allows for comfort and protections. We have a minimum of those protections and social services in our nation now because that’s not our culture or our values. We shout down those who try to make those changes with a lot of excuses.

But let’s pretend.

Say I wanted to live in the house I live in now, and though my current mortgage payment is not this, if I was buying my house today, this is what it would be.

  • Mortgage: $2500
  • Car: $650
  • Food/Gas $700
  • Clothing: $150
  • Student Loan: $450 (to be paid off when I’m 82)
  • Credit Cards/Debt: $300
  • Utilities/cell: $1000

So far we’re at $5,750. That doesn’t include professional development costs, the occasional soft-serve yogurt, or retirement savings or emergencies. That doesn’t include my two sons. (Sorry kids!)

I would need to make $69,000 net. That would be simplistically $86,250 gross. I don’t make that, even with my Board’s stipend (which, incidentally, also varies state to state and school to school.)

All right.

Now I know some would argue that I don’t deserve to live in a house. Therefore, with my Masters +90 level education, that means I am removed from any equity that home would offer. Remember, I didn’t budget in savings, retirement savings, or investments. Some would say I should use public transportation. Sure: but there is none between my house and my job. So there’s that. And, get rid of my cell phone. Sure. You do that too: let’s all pitch them into the metaphorical sea.

Her other question or wondering came in the form of how teachers should work — I’m not saying this right — let me try again: if teachers were salaried employees and worked 12 months out of the year, instead of the contracted ten months, what would that look like? Well, as we all know, our bills and rent don’t get summer breaks, so let’s continue with the legitimate demands of 12 months of bills/expenses, but also be realistic. Teachers are under contract. In Washington State, it’s an 180, plus in-service days, 7.5 hours per day. No teacher worth his salt works those contract hours solely. (Teacher geek alert! Salt gave us the word ‘salary’.) According to US News, 2014 numbers come in at a high of $68,400 to low of $43,470.

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about teacher pay, Show Me the Money, so this is something sitting on my mind for a while. But my friend made me think about it differently. If I didn’t pursue other avenues for income, what would be acceptable and reasonable for a teacher to make as a public service employee? We don’t produce or manufacture anything tangible; we are in essence a social service. We provide education and knowledge-building skills for our children. We produce ideas. We create. Our metrics and rewards come back in the form of former students who, when they can, tell us how important we were and are to them. Another dear friend recently posted an encounter with a former student, now a high school graduate, both apologizing for his 8th-grade behavior and thanking her for all she did for him. She also tagged other teachers and me, because he mentioned us, too. You’re welcome, young squire.

And I LOVE these stories. But damn my practical side–they don’t tip the milkman. If you want to discuss pure, hard numbers, EducationWeek posted, (very timely, thank you very much!) this article by Walt Gardner, The Truth About Teacher Pay.

My apologies for posting the entire article, but I think some folks don’t have access to this publication.

With schools closed for the summer, the debate about teachers’ salaries always arises.  Critics argue that no other field provides so many weeks of vacation for so much pay.  There is some truth to that claim, but I believe that a better way of addressing the issue is by comparing teacher salaries in the U.S. with those in the countries we compete with (“Teacher pay around the world,” Brookings, Jun. 20).  That’s because tests of international competition are closely watched as evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Other developed countries that we compete against pay their teachers much higher salaries than we do. The size of the gap depends on which countries we look at.  Finland is the usual benchmark because of the quality of its schools.  According to Brookings, we would have to give a 10 percent raise to our elementary school teachers, an 18 percent raise to lower secondary teachers, and a 28 percent raise to upper secondary teachers to be even minimally competitive.

I know the argument against boosting salaries. Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine are among the most vociferous in claiming that public school teachers are actually overpaid (“Public School Teachers Aren’t Underpaid,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2011).  “In short, combining salaries, fringe benefits and job security, we have concluded that public school teachers receive around 52 percent more in average compensation than they could earn in the private sector.”  The only caveat, they stress, is that this premium is stated in terms of averages.  The best teachers in science and math are likely underpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector.

Since the entire argument is stated in economic terms, I’d like to ask Biggs and Richwine a question:  If public school teachers’ salaries already contain a premium for the weeks worked, then why isn’t there a flood of college graduates making public school teaching a lifelong career?  After all, economists always cite the law of supply and demand.  Why doesn’t it apply to public school teachers?  The fact is that teaching today is far harder than they can possibly understand.  I maintain that if salaries were to rise even 20 percent, there would still be too few college graduates opting for a career in the classroom.  Yes, higher salaries might be enough to recruit them, but higher salaries would not be enough to retain them.

So rather than envy teachers for having most of the summer off, let’s admit that they deserve every day to recuperate.  I urge skeptics to try teaching for a semester to understand why.


Clearly, Biggs and Richwine are no friends of teachers. As my mother says, “they don’t buy me any ice cream.” Not even Ben & Jerry’s. Heck, ESPECIALLY not Ben & Jerry’s!

It does seem uniquely American to pay teachers for martyrdom and nobility of character versus a middle-class income. And I mean a real middle-class income (see my bullet points above). This would take a wholesale restructuring of district budgets, demanding an accounting of administrative versus teacher salaries, and wading in that murky, murky mess of suits v. laborers we can’t seem to let go of. I do have a lot of ideas of how teachers can earn the salaries they need if they wish. Yes, I used “need” and “wish” in the same sentence. If a teacher wishes to work a contract day, is not interested in further out of pocket professional development, or other credentials that result in stipends, so be it. But access to those opportunities should be plentiful and available. Biggs and Richwine strike me as unimaginative kumquats. And good teachers have imagination and problem-solving skills in abundance. Let’s talk, and see what we can come up with.

PS And dang, doesn’t “Biggs and Richwine” sound like some evil Dickensian characters?


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Language, people!

As our culture’s norms and protocols shred and tear, an issue I’ve noticed is amazing content laced with profanity. Now, most who know me know I can have a bit of a salty tongue myself. I’m sure it’s from a past life when I was a pirate. Or perhaps it’s just a stress-reliever, kind of verbal punching bag. Maybe it’s when I was a pirate in therapy. Who knows? Regardless, there have been many times I’ve wished to use the perfect clip or content to relate a concept, yet it’s laced with vulgarities. What’s a teacher to do?

Case in point: John Oliver’s latest post about the primary and caucus rules, state by state, was amazing. I won’t link it in case there are children present. There have been multiple Daily Shows, clips from R-rated movies (as long and as bad as it is, Troy with Brad Pitt shows his naked hiney, so I can’t show that….). Glory with Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick, also fantastic, but says the “f” word, contains war violence, and uses the ‘n’ word; however, a case is made to understanding the context of the ‘n’ word. Years ago when a publisher switched out the ‘n’ word for ‘slave’ in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is wrong for so many reasons.

Here’s my wish: if there is some content that could be easily edited, or comes edited with the language ‘gone.’ There are some programs that allow for this:

I haven’t looked into VidAngel, but it might be worth a shot.

Look, I realize I’m beginning to sound a bit Ned Flanders about the whole thing. I would no more censor The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian than Huckleberry Finn, so how is it that content in visual formats more shocking?

So — teacher friends — how do you decide what’s worth showing? I know one that is always a hit:

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Into the maw…

Look how cute! A baby leatherback turtle!

Exhibit A: Leatherback turtle

Just like my i-Pod from years ago:


So sweet. So innocent. But yet, they grow:

Three external hard drives...
Three external hard drives…

But my digital life has turned into this:

Inside the mouth of a leatherback turtle (See Exhibit A)

Yes, this is how I currently feel about my digital hoarding. See that external hard drive with my name on it? That has ten years’ of lessons, plans, photos, videos, etc. on it. And the other day I found it in the laundry room garbage.


There were other terrible, unmentionable things in that garbage, too, and it was on its way out the door when I spotted it.

I have no idea how it got there; lately, I’m believing in house gremlins because my Apple watch, a  gift from my husband last fall, has gone missing. I have looked high and low. It’s gone. No, it wasn’t in the laundry room garbage pail, or under my bed, or stuff on a shelf. It’s gone. Will I replace it? Probably not. It was pretty cool, though. And now I’m sad.

But what would I have done if I hadn’t noticed, and rescued, the Holy Grail of Hard Drives from the bucket? Would I have missed it? Felt this strange sense of grief without being able to place it? I’ll never know. What I do know is I’ve tried to curate, delete, organize, and consolidate my digital tomes many times, and have met with odd and undermining obstacles.

Here are the storage sheds in my virtual world:

  • Google Drive
  • i-Cloud
  • The district’s personal server drives (H)
  • The district’s switch to Microsoft’s OneDrive/Office 365
  • My personal Dropbox account
  • My personal computer (Mac)
  • My school-issued computer (PC)
  • My old Macs
  • My old Dell (who knows what treasures still exist on that one?!)
  • Three external hard drives, including the rescued one.

And this digital list doesn’t include the binders I organized last summer, with labeled tabs, of many years worth of lessons, ideas, and curriculum maps.

Don’t think I’m not aware of my hoarding problem. Wait a damn minute, that’s not fair! I’m not a hoarder, I’m a saver! This has potential! And so does this! And if I don’t save the same thing in multiple places, what if it gets lost? ONLY PROVEN BY THE TRASH CAN CONSPIRACY OF ’16! The fact is my tendencies not to delete lessons has only been reinforced by multiple times when a colleague has needed a lesson or a file. This is the truth. But that doesn’t give me an excuse for not organizing this stuff better because it’s gotten completely out of hand.


You know that old saw of “preparing kids for a future that doesn’t exist yet?” I can think of something right now. I would pay a kid to curate my files/computers. Right now. I would outline the most important things/categories and have them save to two places: a hard drive and a cloud.

But how to label and categorize? Is it by medium, standard, theme, unit, or what?


  • Power Points
  • Prezi links*
  • Smartnotebooks
  • Lessons
  • Letters/Teacher Files
  • Photographs/images
  • How-to flip/blended classroom videos


  • Go through every lesson and label by CCSS? Oh no…but…


  • Files by thematic (units)
  • Files by Lesson overview:
    • Literary elements
    • Short stories
    • Grammar lessons
    • Writing workshop
    • Reading workshop


  • This would be fairly simple to do…right?

*So the Prezi thing — this made me realize how much of my work is already saved somewhere to some digital cloud, some other place, where it’s not located in one of my accessible hard drives. Dang, do we just gather all the links? The embed codes, and put it together?


Oh look...another image for my files.
Oh look…another image for my files.

The other day during testing, I set up a way to port files from the rescued hard drive to my Dropbox. When I check in after twenty minutes, it had over 2,800 files to go. It would take things off the hard drive as direct file folders: I had to unpack everything and try. This led to falling down the rabbit hole: looking at old video clips, reviewing former students’ work, reminiscing about times of yore. Okay, that is hoarding, I admit. Or is it?

Finding photographs of my sons from when they were younger? Being able to send a student a video of when he was in 7th grade (he’s now in the Navy), and having his mom be so happy to see it? Are we so burdened by our own narrative digital information we freely and capriciously trash it?

There’s got to be a better way.

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


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Patron Saints of Asking.

“The real secret is, I didn’t make them, I asked them. And in the very act of asking people, I connected with them…”

My daddy told me, “If you don’t ask, the answer is automatically no.” I’m not suggesting this is original with my amazing dad, but I will give him credit for knowing the right advice at the right time. Unfortunately, like most good advice we receive, it settles to the bottoms of our confidence toolboxes, and we forget how to self-talk encouragement and friendship to ourselves. When I spoke with my wonderful admins recently, I tried something new: I asked for some conditions that I know are best for students, and–here’s the revelation: good for me, too, and my workspace/happiness. These conditions are arein alignment with their visions, too. We (women) are trained from birth not to ask for help: we run from archetypal misconceptions that lead to sexism at least, and misogyny at worst.

And constraints are put on educators, too. Recently my district made stipulations to sites like Donors Choose, requiring more bureacratic obstacles than most teachers have time to overcome. And I think back to my art major period, and giving away almost every piece of art I made. My friends didn’t do that: if you wanted a piece of art you paid for it, with no apologies or explanations.

The personal question for me is, do I wrangle my own cultural, ‘southern lady’ independent, never-ask-for-help norms, or do I just say, ‘you know what…I make good stuff, and deserve to be paid for it?’

So: what do I need? I need to support this addiction to teaching. How am I going to do that? 


Link to Patreon: 

And I’m linking books to Amazon, like many other teachers/bloggers do. If you need a book, please link it from this site.

I’m still working on the Patreon page: please have patience. It is Mother’s Day after all, and I already help fund these two of these projects:

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