Sunday, November 17, 2013

sub-substituting

The only thing worse than being a substitute, is being a substitute in a long term contract.  When you sub in a class you step in for a teacher who has specific things to do and needs to step out of her classroom.  Most of those things take only a day, maybe two on occasion; but when a teacher is gone for an extended period of time, 30 days and more, the process of substituting changes into one of teacher rather than substitute.  One way to see this change is to notice what happens when the substitute gets sick; another substitute is called to take over for the first substitute who is still subbing for the original teacher. 

The real issue here is experience and credentialing over just another warm body hired to sit in a class and make sure the kids don’t actually cause themselves or others harm.  The experienced teacher is an asset and has the knowledge to keep a class moving in the right direction.  For the normal substitute almost any-body will do for one day and perhaps even three or four but when a replacement teacher is needed over a longer period the needs of the class require a well versed, well educated and prepared teacher, not a simple substitute.

I therefore propose a simple classificational change of the term “substitute” creating a sub (more appropriately a chief designation) category that designates those willing to replace temporarily but who have those essential qualification needed to step in and swap the teacher for a time, taking over the duties in mass, continuing the educational process as if the teacher were still there, this category should be paid commensurate with their leadership potential and long term needs of the class.

Most districts do pay long term subs more but the pittance currently paid in relation to the duties expected are abysmally inadequate and only the hopeful, newly graduated seem to be willing to bear the often overwhelming duties with very limited compensation.  Very often these long term needs are passed from sub to sub and the class in general tries to survive, never flourishing, never really succeeding but barely getting by as each successive, unprepared and unknowing temporary teacher wanders in, staying a few days, maybe even a few weeks and then leaves realizing the work required is not worth the money earned.  In many cases the district themselves change substitutes in order to keep them from the slightly higher pay of a long term status.  A district may save a whopping 30 dollars a day by limiting the successive days of a substitute within a specific class.  I think we can wipe out the national debt with this practice. 

My current position as a substitute has brought me to a multi-grade, multi- disabilities class that requires a considerable amount of time and effort in order to advance the students in relation to their goals and needs.  My experience as a special education specialist and special person based upon my own set of special talents and special insights have prompted me to stay with this tenuous but ever growing position.  The kids need the stability and I like the job but the pay is nowhere near what it should be in relation to what I have to do to be prepared each day.

To the district I am only a substitute.  I was called specifically for the position because of my credential in special education and I am able to stay in the position because I have a good handle on the class, the kids are progressing as they should and I have good aides that are a tremendous help but for the ordinary substitute the class would be a daily nightmare and I am certain that only a few select few would be able to deal with not only the challenges but be able to create a positive and educational environment conducive to real learning and success. 

I may be patting my own back but I am not alone in this there are many who are well qualified who work as substitutes and get paid the same amount as the 90 year old, retired postal worker who simply needs more money and passed the CBEST (California Basic Skills Test) and decided substituting was great way to keep working.  Those that are highly qualified should be paid much more than those who simply babysit.  I am not a babysitter and take great pride in doing a great job while the primary teacher is away.

Districts need to understand the difference between a substitute and a visiting teacher, a babysitter and a real stand in who knows the lines and is ready to sing or play the part required so the show goes on as before.  Why districts lump all substitutes together boggles my mind except perhaps for the desire of districts to simply not pay for the sake of being cheap. I can think of no reason not to pay those experienced and credentialed persons with a more proportionate rate to their true value.

For myself and in the current position I will most likely continue.  I feel too strongly for the educational process not to continue to serve these little guys.  I can’t imagine the trauma of subjecting them to different faces each week or those that barely qualify as a substitute trying to teach these disabled children.

I know I will be taken advantage of, and I know the district will try to get me to do as much as possible without having to pay me what I’m worth, but my position is also very clear, I know what I’m worth, I will be helping these kids regardless of the districts ineptitudes and uncaring attitudes.  For me, for now that will be payment enough but in the future it would be nice to be treated like the teacher I am and not the substitute who sleeps behind the desk or plays on his phone or simply stares into space, drooling and slack jawed waiting for the bell to ring.  We have enough of those in government, we don’t need them in school.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Darkness Intesified

The ominous and elusive prospect of Dark Matter brings to mind the eternal struggles between light and dark, good and evil with planets spinning and careening between the illuminated cosmos and the darkened underworld.  Satan himself guiding his minions through the shadowy causeways, obscured and invisible as they manipulate, conjure up likable images of pleasure and repose but never revealing themselves.

There is no proof, no real evidence of their existence and so it is with Dark Matter.  The only verification is in the diminishing number of tested theories, leaving the matter of Dark Matter an unknown variable in the ever expanding question that is our cosmos.

The Father of Darkness is genuine for some and nothing more than a child’s tale to others.  It is the mind of man that seems to determine the viability of the unknown.  If it is real within one’s mind then it has credence in the realm of veracity and so it is with the search for Dark Matter and so it is also with man’s search for the divine or that opposite entity of evil.    It may not be enough to simply believe but the evidences of absence can be a very strong indication of possible unknown truths not yet discovered.

As it was for years with the Higgs Boson discovery at Bern that illusive but monumental discovery is closely related to all that is dreamed but still undiscovered.   This process of eventual and incremental detection is fundamental in science where far too often the grandiose has taken precedence for funding purposes leaving the basics of the scientific process at odds with the realities of honest peer review.  

Not directly related to the search for Dark Matter but more influenced by the Father of Darkness is that determination to get recognition prior to substantiation and duplication of facts, moving all science away from the light of true discovery.  The very essence of the scientific process has been compromised to such an extent that it will take years of peer study and duplication to verify the claims of so many that the literal cause of science has been reversed by decades leaving a huge mass of darkness where once only light and progress existed.

The search for Dark Matter has at least been spared many of these charlatanistic processes and even though the search is still ongoing it can be said that the search is still viable and on track. With each new discovery that one theory is not going to work positively limits the field of potential theories with a growing hope that the remaining will prove successful.  What did Sherlock Holmes say? “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.

The parallels between Dark Matter and its obvious influences on gravity and light can be related to the unseen but often felt influences of darkness from that Father of Lies who has done an excellent job of disguising his existence.  On one hand you have a form of matter that is being sought after and the other a form of influence that is being discounted and overlooked.  Both have a profound effect on our daily lives and both are espoused by theoretical principals that govern their proposed existence but the later is mostly ignored and placed conveniently in the category of Greek or Roman Mythology and never really given the respect it’s due.

Theorizing that something exists is perhaps the first step in understanding the motivations of that something.  By contrast ignoring evidence for personal gain is not only dishonest but it is personally damaging.  It’s OK not to know but it’s not OK to ignore or be ignorant of the obvious.  Are we influenced by Dark Matter, the assumption is that we are, and are we influenced by the darkness that shadows the light of discovery?  Should we ignore the obvious despite the negative consequences that those apparent signs of evidence loudly proclaim, even when those signs cause us to rethink our motivations or prompt us to change?  I think we all agree that we should not.  It’s like driving down a winding road and a large sign warns of danger, “slow down”, do we speed up or do we heed the warning?

Warning signs can be obvious or subtle but they are ever present, telling us to be careful, reduce our speed, merging traffic, be considerate but most important don’t be influenced by the darkness that permeates our existence.  That darkness is an important part of our lives. It never ceases and never lets up.  The darkness will always be there, it will always be a persistent and almost all encompassing force to overcome. “According to the Planck mission team, and based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the known universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe and 26.8% of the total content of the universe.” (Wikipedia)

We are surrounded by the darkness.  But that darkness can be overcome and with a single spark of light that darkness disappears replaced by the shining light of inspiration, the glow of sight and the dispelling attitude of knowing that we are not alone in our fight against evil.  Let your light so shine ….and for heaven’s sake don’t shine your light under a bush, it won’t do you or anyone any good.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Spying and lying

As a kid one of my super powers was that of invisibility, I wanted to be able to secretly move in and out of rooms without anyone knowing I was there.  Robbing banks would have been a snap and getting into a movie for free would have been great and there were other things that crossed my adolescent mind as well that I don’t need to elaborate but being invisible just seemed like the perfect super power to have.

One of my favorite comics growing up was the Atom.  He could shrink himself to atom size and travel through the phone lines jumping out at the other end of any phone, almost instantly appearing and with super strength he would vanquish his foes with ease.  His minuscule size made him almost invisible and that was close enough for me.   The only problem was it took him longer to dial the phone then it did to travel across the country, just a minor problem I know but it’s those minor and often insignificant issues that give us the most problems.

Like spying for example, it’s great to be a spy and the information gleaned from spying is often very valuable giving the spyer an advantage over the spyee or is it the spyee over the spyer?  In any rate the act of spying has its advantages; that is until the spy gets caught, like the US did when listening in on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.  Those minor little glitches or problems that arise from well intentioned motivations are often the cause of great concern.  I’m not sure what kind of information we got from listening in on her cell phone but the consequences of getting caught may mitigate any good information and may completely negate any further relations we thought we had with Germany, currently an ally.

The information about this spying fiasco actually came by way of another spy who decided to spy on the US and disseminate thousands of pages of then classified information.  So in essence we were caught spying by another spy who was spying on us, seems ironic, we (meaning the United States government) is so incensed about the loss of thousands of pages of classified documents by Edward Snowden that we fail to see the double standard of downplaying the theft of private conversations from Germany.

Being invisible is a primary skill of being a spy. You really can’t be a very good spy if everyone knows that you’re trying to spy.  Creating that level of invisibility takes time and lots of practice, thousands of hours of preparation, timing and the manpower to monitor, record and sift through millions upon millions of bits of information, deciding what is relevant and what is not, what is simple chatter and what is worthwhile.  The NSA as far as I know is the premier spying apparatuses in the world, they listen in to our phone calls, look at our emails and basically decipher the communications of the world, maybe their reading what I’m writing right now and combing over this paper with a fine tooth comb looking for code words and hidden messages.  Just between you and me if you read this paper backwards there is a hidden message with creepy music that jumps off the pages as you read….

Many countries justify the means to an end philosophy when dealing with spying and rationalize their actions based on the security needs of their country but how far is too far and when is spying simply prying and meddling?  The more we spy the more others have to spy on us.  It’s like trying to hold a conversation in a noisy room, as the noise level rises the conversationalist raise their voices forcing everyone else having a conversation to do the same.  Soon the din is overwhelming and simple conversation is impossible, so it is with spying.

The other problem with spying is that those who know their being spied upon seem to understand the game and continue to spy on the spies while those not being spied upon take some kind of offence at not being important enough to justify spies wanting to spy.  Who wants to spy on Bolivia or Tonga but they may feel downright offended that we don’t take them serious enough to want to know what their up too. 

Even if I was invisible or could shrink myself like the Atom I would have to be careful not to run into anyone or prevent anyone from running into me.  Can you imagine driving an invisible car?  I would also have to watch overhead so I wouldn't get stepped on, in other words the best intentions may seem justified but what we don’t see or don’t expect is often the most problematic, like listening to another’s phone conversation perhaps?  My mother used to tell me it’s not polite to eavesdrop; you never know what you might hear.

I can see the need to gather Intel on those that are notoriously untrustworthy like Iran, North Korea or China but at the same time we have to expect the same from them, expecting them to feel towards us like we feel towards them, kind of like a reverse Golden Rule.  Are we more justified to spy, is our way of life more important than theirs and are we superior to them giving us the license to spy but not them?  Many would say we are justified and we do have the right and our adversaries do not should not be able to spy on us but they do and in this world of mistrust and intrigue it might make us wonder about the true motivations of those who spy and the level of uncertainty demonstrated by those who hold the power.

Let me make this as clear as I can.  I’ll spy on my kids when I have too.  I think the police and certain agencies should spy on criminals that are suspected of wrong doing and I think our government should spy on hostile nations that want to do us harm, but I do not think we should be listening in to phone calls of private citizens, friendly world leaders and others just in case.

We are a free people and that includes a freedom from incursions, a freedom to speak without reprisal and in secret if wanted, without the all pervasive listening ear of big brother.  Spying is important but it should not be a general tool that overshadows everything and everybody.  I would have thought the Gestapo would have taught us that great lesson at least.