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Everything Counts

I'm Not A Teacher

As a school psychologist, I am considered support personnel. I utilize educational, scientific, psychological, mental health, and other empowering techniques, strategies, and services to diligently strive to support students toward their goals of life, liberty, and happiness.

This particular XP ClassiX, originally published in 2005, might only be of interest for those who work in the schools, support personnel in particular. It may also be of interest to taxpayers or parents who are interested to see how their money is spent or to understand how schools work, or, um, sometimes don't work.

Disclaimer: All of the following is entirely fictional. Any similarities between persons, places, or events, past or present, living or dead, are entirely coincidental. Quite obviously, all of this is way to whacko to ever occur in real life!

The headline in the Bakersfield Californian stated, "All educators get lotto money." Approximately $500 for each would be made available through the California Lottery. I, as an educator, scampered on in to my administrator to ask if I would need to fill out a form or something to receive the $500. He said, "Don, that money is for classroom teachers only." I guess the money wasn't for all educators after all. I guess my students don't count.

The week prior to the student's first day, I attended three teacher's meetings. Even though approximately 99% (um, 99.999%) of the topics covered did not directly - or even indirectly - relate to anything I do in my professional roles, I'm expected to attend these teacher's meetings. A teacher asked, "Don why do they make you attend these teacher's meetings? None of this stuff applies to you." My response, "they want me here, I guess. I guess I am a teacher!" I double-checked with my boss just to make sure. She replied, "Yes Don, these meetings are for all teachers."

The directive was, "All teachers need to turn in their year-end reports." Just to make sure (always error on the cautious side), I asked if that applied to me. "Yes, of course Don, all teachers need to turn in their year-end reports." Okay, then, happy to do so. I asked if there was a form or something similar. The answer, "Well, the forms were left in every teacher's boxes." Uh, I didn't get one. Then the announcement, "All teachers need to turn in their grades." Hmmm. Am I a teacher or not? I'd better ask, just to make sure. I asked. "Don, don't be ridiculous - you don't give grades and you're not a teacher! And I'm concerned about you asking such questions." Not to worry, that [fictional] administrator was fired a long time ago.

Several years back when Governor Gray Davis and CSDE (i.e., the taxpayers) were financially rewarding teachers for, um, improving their test scores (remember the $500 to $2000 reward checks handed out to "good" teachers?), I was consulting with a principal at the start of the year. I made a simple recommendation to the principal. It was, "I don't get it, students score low on these mandated tests so all these districts leap into the remediation process, thus lowering student learning and performance (just like special education)... what if we instead made strides toward enrichment and empowerment?" Well, my recommendation seemed to make a lot of sense to her (as well it should, this ain't rocket science). She embarked on a six-month campaign of enrichment and guess what? Test scores skyrocketed and teachers in that district were rewarded with one of the highest payouts from the state that year. I, of course, didn't get a cent because I am not a teacher. I don't count. Never even got a, "Thank you."

With only two days notice, the board proudly proclaimed and directed, "All teachers have to attend graduation." Well, I am not a teacher. Now if the board had proclaimed all professional educators had to attend, I'd be there. If they had said all certificated staff had to be there, I would have been there. But no, they said all teachers needed to be there. When confronted and punished for my choice not to attend the graduation ceremony, I explained, "But I'm not a teacher." The site administrator's response, "Well Don, the next time you're confused, you come talk with me." I answered, "I'm not confused, last week you told me not to be ridiculous, that I'm not a teacher." She gently wiped some mold from her moustache.

So then I asked another boss (everyone seems to think they're my boss), "Well, what about the school nurse and speech therapist? They didn't attend graduation. Obviously by your definition, they're teachers too." The answer, "they are only part-time -- all full-time teachers had to attend." So full-time teachers are to attend graduation. Hmmmm. I'm not a full-time teacher and I'm not a part-time teacher. I'm a lifelong professional educator who has dedicated and sacrificed his life to serve and support students. I do spend a great deal of time every day engaged in educational practices, but sorry, I AM NOT A TEACHER!

In a consultation with a principal a few years back, I said, "I am not a teacher, but if I was..." That's all I got out before the principal screamed, "You're not a teacher! Don't tell teachers how to teach!!! I was lucky he didn't hit me, I know he wanted to. Not to worry, he was fired a long time ago too. A lot of these site administrators come and go in the wink of an eye because they treat some personnel like, um, well, let's just say, not like they do teachers.

I've been told I sound a bit crazy when I express concerns about this topic. I admit I am often quite confused, but I know I'm not the only one. I know a few years back CASP (the California Association of School Psychologists) asked the essentially same question ("What is the definition of an educator?") through AB 956. So maybe I sound crazy when I speak about this topic but it was an important enough topic for my state professional organization (as well as speech therapists, nurses, social workers, counselors, and resource specialists) to consider obtaining legislation to address. The difference between state organizations and me is they speak in legal terms and I speak In Real Language (IRL), in terms you can easily understand. I guess I'm trying to say we never really got an answer.

Don't get me wrong...

I have great respect for teachers. I'm just not a certificated teacher.

I have great respect for astronauts too. I'm just not an astronaut.

i have great respect for theoretical astrophysicists...

The answer/solution to this issue depends on if a district wants to have it's cake and eat it too. Two things are for certain: 1) we'll never get an official answer because districts never put anything in writing; and 2) either way, no one cares because support staff are too often considered as nonessential personnel. There, I said it.

A lot [everything] seems to depend on each site principal's definition and views. Some principals are going to think of support personnel as a teacher (i.e., someone to boss around) and some are going to think of support staff as [something else] - whatever best suits their needs at the moment. You're a teacher if they want to discipline you - you're not a teacher if money is being doled out to teachers.

Even teacher unions struggle with this question. In one [fictional] district the entire contract had been written up to address all aspects related to teachers and administration. The psychologists, nurses, and speech therapists, not being teachers, were, well, not included. Nothing in the contract applied to these support personnel - they weren't union and they weren't administration... they were, um, nothing. Finally, after about eight years of struggle, all terms in the contract were changed from "teacher" to "bargaining unit member" and reluctantly, support personnel were finally covered. That never really happened - that would be too crazy of a story to ever be true in the real world.

So, sorry if this all sounds a bit tin hat, but I don't think I'm the only one with this issue. I could go on-and-on with a million more excruciating [fictional] examples such as these, but maybe, hopefully you get the point?

I worked out an easy solution to this issue once with a principal. I said, "Rick, how about this. If you make the announcement for all teachers to be present, I'll know the meeting doesn't apply to me and I won't attend, but if you announce that all certificated staff are to attend, I'll be the first one there!" He said, "that works." The solution to this whole issue could be that simple.

This question goes out to my fellow school psychologists and all other support personnel (nurses, speech therapists, counselors, social workers, etc.): Are you a teacher?

I'm a human, a husband, a father, a son, a citizen, a taxpayer, a school psychologist, a professional educator, a social scientist, a scientific practitioner, an Educational Specialist, a professor, a certificated staff member, a 1.0 FTE, and more, and one of the many things I do on a daily basis is to provide quality services for students, but I AM NOT A TEACHER!

The next time I'm talking with a board member, I'm going to call him or her a teacher. The conversation will probably go something like this: "Hi, my name is Don. I see you work in the schools. Are you a teacher?" "No, I'm a board member." "No, you're a teacher."

I'm Not A Teacher © 2005, 2012-19. Donald J. Asbridge, Ed.S. Bakersfield, California USA Some rights reserved.

     "Are you...?"

Jimi Hendrix, 1968