Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Being Alternative in New Mexico

In 2008, just weeks after my son as born, I interviewed (via telephone) for a job teaching theatre in the Deming Public Schools.

Among my questions was this: "How much work will be required for me to complete licensure?" My case is a little different because I already hold a master's degree. The district told me I would have to demonstrate competency by fulfilling some teaching hours, teaching some credits in reading, and passing an examination (or three).

Since I was a new father and anticipated that the job would be very demanding, this was a critical question. This answer seemed doable. I accepted the job (turning down an offer to work for Bet Tzedek in Los Angeles) and we all moved to New Mexico.

I had a choice of two schools of education to complete my course work. I chose Western New Mexico University. WNMU had shall we say a different idea of what my checklist was supposed to be. A much longer checklist, shall we say. In fact, a checklist that resembled their regular degree program for new teachers. Many more courses than what I was told to expect, at a cost of $700 each with redundant fees and expensive text books included.

Western has also kept me entertained with affectionate pranks such as multiple demands for my academic transcripts, periods of non-communication, evolving answers to questions, technological issues (to save money, Western is developing more and more on-line courses), and dropping me from classes without announcement when it is too late to resolve whatever the problem is.

What was supposed to be a few credits has turned out to be an extended obligation to be in graduate school at night as I continue to protest that this wasn't what I signed up for. My district, the state, and WNMU (aka "Western") all have different ideas about what I am supposed to be doing to establish my so-called "alternative licensure."

This farce is coming to a head because I am approaching the time limit by which my licensure is supposed to be completed. There is a very real possibility that this nonsense will cost me my job in 2011, if the state's budget problems don't get me first.

The most discouraging thing about this is the lack of clarity itself. It cannot be that I am the only "alternative licensure" candidate in the history of this school district. Who screwed up? Is the district wrong? Is Western just gouging me? Does the state have me in the wrong file? I have no answers.

While we're waiting to hear of my fate, I can recommend some interesting reading on the subject of education.

Diane Ravitch, writing for the New York Review of Books, has this response to the Guggenheim documentary, Waiting For Superman. In "The Myth of Charter Schools" she takes on Guggenheim's pro-corporate slant and scapegoating.

Also, the December issue of Monthly Review has Dan DiMaggio's first-hand account of the mills of temporary workers who grade standardized tests -- an industry that is set to grow during the Obama era.


Anonymous said...

Oh Oh Oh - Hang in there. Go with what the state says as they trump district and school. Can your (will your) principal help? Sometimes they have the power to pull strings. ugh. Feel free to call or write. Been through a lot of this in my state and district.

Anonymous said...

As you know, we share some common experiences with WNMU. However, I was a little luckier getting everything put together to complete all of my requirements. I was VERY happy to receive my "regular" license as opposed to the "alternative" license. As Sarah noted, I would deal with the state rather than the district or WNMU.