Trains, Discliams, and Subaru Automobiles

My conversation starter for this morning is that I was on the same train that ended up hitting a Subaru at 79 m.p.h. down in Valencia County last night. I don’t feel any more special or worthy of a TV news soundbite, but I took the 5:27 southbound, got off at the “Sunport” stop, and saw on “Breaking News” about 90 minutes later that “my” train later plowed into this guy.

No celebrity vibe here. The only vibe I get is the implied indictment of RailRunner, trains and mass transit just because a train hit a Subaru. “Breaking News”, splashy Journal reports this morning…heck Subarus are getting hit by other Subarus in this city all the time, not to mention Chevy Vans, Fords, Hondas and Studebakers.

I agree safety needs to be a continued focus of the train service, but have to disagree with those who feel the train horns aren’t loud enough. They seem pretty damn loud to me standing at the “Sunport” platform waiting for the northbound train to arrive in the morning. I feel sorry for the guy, but to instantly go into “train bad” mode over it is excessive and betrays some biases that further imply getting killed by another car is just one of those things, but these newfangled Iron Horses are a menace to society.

And speaking of menace, my long-term plan to tick off everybody in Albuquerque got a real boost yesterday with the publication of a little thing I wrote about substitute teachers for the Tribune. Fortunately or unfortunately, almost nobody reads the Tribune these days. Of course not nearly as few as read this blog, but still a source of concern in that it seriously cuts into the number of folks that can get mad at me.

I cross-post this little dinky essay here for two reasons: 1. the off chance that I can upset somebody who didn’t see the piece in the Trib yesterday; 2. more seriously, to preface the essay with a remark or two.

I don’t think teachers are to blame for pedophile substitute teachers. At the same time, the system is broken both from the standpoint of quality instruction when subs are present and the rare feloniously abhorrent sub. One small thing the Union and teachers can do to help change this is stop going to “professional development” sessions. It’s far from the only thing that can be done, and would make a small impact, but it’s better than waiting for APS to do something and brings further attention to just how half-ass the sub system is now.

And now, after the boring pre-disclaimer above, the original version of the Trib essay (which might look different from the Trib version, but then again I never really read the version that hits the newspaper for reasons of personal loathing and embarrassment):

____
Tribune, 9.19.07

For as long as there have been substitute teachers, there have been jokes about “subs”. Thinking back, I’m sure most of us have a funny memory of a sub packed away. I know I do. But clichéd humor loses its funny with stories of pedophilia, and right now the joke that is substitute teaching isn’t funny at all.

Recent stories of suspicious and out-and-out reprehensible behavior on the part of some APS subs disturb, as does the APS response. I’ll leave the horror show that is public relations APS-style to others, instead focusing on my angle as an APS teacher.

Needless to say, my colleagues and I are distraught when such news comes out, but we’re not surprised because the substitute “system” is a creaky relic from a time in which public educators were considered as much babysitters as instructors.

Recruitment, screening, and pay for substitute teachers are based on finding someone/anyone who can stand co-existing with students in a classroom. Little or no thought is given to having subs “teach”, and the outcome expectations of teachers using subs is near zero. Often, it’s considered a wasted instructional day.

This teacher view of reality should not be considered a slam on substitute teachers, but instead a slam on a system which offers nothing but awful pay and working conditions for subs.

We all remember how we treated subs back in school. That mistreatment hasn’t changed because everybody from the district to the child knows subs are expected to know nothing about the subject or teaching. This perception is perpetuated because substitute teaching isn’t tied to teacher training.

There is no connection between the career of a sub and the career of a teacher at all. In fact, life as a sub has no long-term professional purpose other than serving as a sort of professional homeless shelter, providing meager financial support until one can start a real career or completely retire.

Teachers and administrators watch subs of fluctuating quality come and go, nameless forms appearing then disappearing from classrooms like educational ciphers. Schools try with haphazard success to tie one or two good folks down as “permanent subs”, with a very slight raise in pay and the chance to form some bonds. Unfortunately, these solutions end as the quality sub finds better working conditions.

What can be done? Again, I’ll focus on teachers with a simple proposal: fewer days away from the classroom. Instead of waiting for APS to muddle along in response, teachers can immediately attack the problem by being in the classroom more. One way to do this is by reducing participation at “Professional Development” trainings.

“Professional Development” days aren’t “In-Services” with students out of school, but instead voluntary sessions during school days. These trainings are increasingly popular as the school year drags on, providing a respite from students while ostensibly adding needed skills.

I urge the teacher’s union, to which I belong, to call for members to halt participation in such sessions until the outdated, broken substitute system is fixed. It is irresponsible to miss unnecessary days as things stand now. Any “professional development” benefits pale next to the potential costs of being gone from our classrooms.

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2 thoughts on “Trains, Discliams, and Subaru Automobiles

  1. I read these things, I try and come up with witty or insightful things to leave as comments, and I’m often left just “ditto-ing” what you said.Good blog then, I guess

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