Florida D.O.E. Not for Student Success or Teacher Retention

I had previously worked in the textile industry first, as a painter for several fashion houses. I found my niche and, through hard work, sweat, eating Ramon Noodles nightly

Photo: http://bit.ly/2ctXQX8es 

and more hard work, I climbed the ranks to became one of the youngest color and trend forecasters without a degree in that field. 9/11 happened and, I gave that career up. Fashion and the latest hot, color trend seemed unimportant. I crawled home and lived with my parents after many years of living independently. I moved back to Florida.

My rant is directed at the State of Florida… specifically, the Florida Department of Education. I loved my job. In fact, I wanted to make teaching my career. After-all, I did begin my college career in Florida Atlantic University’s Education Department, shortly after moving back to Florida.Why take out over $25k in student loans for nothing? I got married during my second college experience, found out we were having a baby and did not want to student teach while pregnant. I graduated FAU with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I switched my major to avoid possible bodily harm to my unborn son, while attempting to student teach high schoolers. Perhaps, that seems like an unfounded fear however, just before I learned that I was pregnant, the local news155815_1634096685274_1326482_n featured a story about a Kindergarten Teacher in Palm Beach County, who was kicked in the stomach by one of her 5 year old students and, she lost her baby.  I would protect my baby, no matter what and, switching my major seemed the least I could do. I could teach later (I thought) and, my certifications were mine. I earned them.

I had my son, spent some time home being a full time Mom, wanted to work and created a writing business a few years later. Several years passed by and, I thought about teaching. Had I missed my calling? I wanted to try my hand at teaching and, a few substitute teaching days and, I wanted in! I found that I  loved it!  Attempting to get my Professional Certification proved extremely difficult WHILE teaching full time. How is a teacher supposed to take 4 college courses and 5 state exams in less than three years?  Impossible. If you have done it, I can’t imagine you had any other responsibilities and, my hat’s off to you.

Now, I loved the high school I taught for, won awards for hard work and dedication and, my students thought I was tough on them however, they thanked me for pushing them to img_20160913_124945do their best, not settling for just mediocre, and being honest with these young adults was my specialty.

When most Teachers and students have already headed back to school, this former teacher is disheartened by a system that discourages good, hard working people from pursuing teaching. As a parent, I want the best for my child. If that means that a person is not certified to teach a particular subject, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t get put through rigorous training in that field of study and, they had to have met all the criteria in order to be in a classroom with children. (Fingerprinting, Background check, blood work, etc.)

For three years, I taught under a Temporary certificate, firstly for a poorly run charter school and most recently, for a local, public high school, which won my heart over. I passed 4 of the 5 exams and completed 1 of the four college courses needed to gain a Professional

At the end of each school year, my students would voluntarily sign letters that would (eventually) spell my full name.

Certification. Essentially, attempting to keep the job I loved. All while holding down a full time teaching position, being a Mom and a wife. Cooking meals, taking care of boo-boos, helping with science fair project boards and renovating a house.

If you are a parent of a Florida public school student, you should be outraged that, a teacher that loved her job and won awards for her dedication to her career and students, is no longer in the classroom.

Ask yourself- Would I wake up at 4:30am every weekday and head to work to plan two hours in advance of actually beginning on the clock? Would I stay hours after work to sponsor a club and/or bring work home, if I didn’t get paid extra to do so? Would I lose sleep over students’ lack of progress/graduation/behavior if, I only got paid what can only be described as, minimum wage (based upon the amount of hours worked)? I did. I ENJOYED it. I would have continued to serve Saint Lucie County as a teacher happily if, it wasn’t for the ridiculous tests that the State of Florida Department of Education forces upon specialists with degrees in that field.

Shouldn’t years of writing for International businesses supersede for or, at least count for ONE college course?! Having to retake courses I already took in college to prove my worth for a pathetic, $37k-38k a year. Say what? Oh, yeah… When I switched my major in college from a Secondary (Upper-Level) English Education major to an English Literature major, I lost ALL of my credentials. ESOL endorsement, endorsements for Reading, you name it, gone.  But, I was an “A” student in those classes!?!??!?!!!

As parents, are you not outraged that this is happening to hard working, great teachers? (and, potential Teachers!) What will it take for parents to get angry enough to do something about their children’s Educators?

Perhaps, you will scoff at this. See this post as just one angry woman who couldn’t hack it/wasn’t smart enough/flexible enough/ caring enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I was an, “A” student throughout college. If I needed to study for a test, I studied. Worked 164803_1697177942266_4072348_nabove and beyond to get what I wanted. Hard work has always been the key to success for me. I worked harder than anyone I knew when I was a starving textile artist in NYC.  Hard work is my forte. I am equally as good with a paint brush as I am with a drill gun. I own my own. And, no. My tools are NOT pink.
-Off topic-
The State of Florida hasn’t a clue about how to properly measure students’ progress and confuses tests meant to measure future success with your student’s intelligence. If you aren’t confident that FCAT or, FSA or, whatever the next test is that is thrown at your child measures their success, don’t be surprised by how the State measures Teachers’ success in the classroom. How well are they measuring teacher success? Ha. Laughable. It’s this score metric that has no bearing on teacher success, calculated by who-knows-what. Yet, many counties in Florida already attach this score to Teachers’ salaries.
Another topic that the Florida Department of Education is lousy at is Teacher Retention. How can we expect qualified, educated, dedicated, hard working professionals to WANT to jump into an (often) thankless career for meager wages? And, while we pay them poorly, say, “Oh yeah, you have three years to take 5 tests and four college courses and, you have to pay for them yourself!” At $250 a pop per test, you are not going to throw away your money and not study!

I wonder if the State can quantify success by how many students a Teacher helped stay out of jail? Saved them from homelessness? Made a difference with a personal/social or family problem at home? No. No one can quantify that but, that is what many teachers do. That is what I did. For $21 an hour. Happily. Until, my three year, Temporary Teacher Certificate expired.

I hope that if you are angered, confused and frustrated by our broken system (as I am), you will share my post. Spread my story and, share this blog post on every social media outlet possible. My story is not exclusive. I am not alone. Many Teachers face these same tests. Other professionals and experts are currently going through similar experiences.