Cavener opinion

Cavener

The State Board has set the end of June for the Gem State’s teachers to submit Master Educator Portfolios in the hopes of earning their blackbelts. I am hopeful that many teachers in Idaho will be dutifully awarded this distinguishment as those portfolios are evaluated.

But I won’t be one of them. See, like most teachers I would consider to be Jedi Master quality, I don’t have time to crunch the keyboard for days filling out an enormous application. Instead, I suspect I am not alone in the Gem State in filling my days full of activities that will actually improve my students’ instruction in lieu of filling out paperwork in hopes of a minor pay bump.

I am attending a weeklong conference to go over the changes the College Board made to the Advanced Placement Microeconomics and Macroeconomics exam and curriculum. I am attending an additional conference to get updated training in AVID academic strategies in my classroom. I am taking professional development courses through university. I am doing all these things because I know it will benefit my students.

Like most of Idaho’s teachers, I use the summer to reflect and improve on the curriculum. I type out improved scaffolded notes for my exceptional learners. I digitize my materials and put them online. I borrow new textbooks from the library for my content areas, and dream of the day the state provides enough money to update my history books which currently end with an event called September 11th. Because that helps my students.

The purpose of the Idaho Legislature in passing the Master Educator Premium was to recognize, and financially award experienced, exemplary educators. However, the State Board has made a calculated decision to take that legislative intent and morph it into a process so onerous that most master teachers I know have made their own calculated decision to spend their time working to improve student outcomes, not improve their pocketbooks.

Which is not to say that Idaho’s teachers’ pocketbooks don’t need improving. I work my normal job during the school year. I stay a couple extra hours after the end of the normal day to teach night school. I teach online during the summer. I do these things to earn enough money to have the privilege of calling myself a public school teacher. I know I am not the only Idaho educator who has several side gigs in order to pay the bills.

Which is exactly the point. The purpose of that legislation was to reward Idaho’s most talented educators for work that they already are doing. Instead, the State Board of Education has purposefully created a system in which our most talented educators are asked to take time away from those tasks which makes them excellent teachers to instead complete a mountain of paperwork.

But the stateboard can keep my blackbelt and their check. The greatest blackbelt of them all — the father of karate — Ankō Itosu had Ten Precepts for his students, with the first being the most important: “Karate is not merely practiced for your own benefit.”

Teaching is not merely practiced for a paycheck to benefit me. It is an art practiced to serve our students and to fulfill Idaho’s promise to provide a thorough education for every child in the Gem State’s classrooms, regardless of the zip code they live in. I’ll spend my summer making sure my practice benefits my students.

Levi B Cavener is a social studies teacher living in Caldwell. He blogs at IdahosPromise.org. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Independent-Enterprise.

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