Sunday, August 7, 2016

Almost at Plus 30 and not even a luftmensch

Last night I signed up for another post-grad course: Indexing theory and practice. I hope this investment works for me. “Investment” can be both helpful but can also be dangerous - keep one stuck in a bad place if one has invested a lot in it already. Stuck in a career, stuck in a relationship, stuck in a house. I have mistakenly invested in all three - I hope I am a bit wiser this time.

There are times I feel like I wasted the past 12 years and tens of thousands of dollars I spent as a school media specialist. I was only three credits from my “Plus 30”— the 30 post-MA graduate credits required to get a raise beyond my current levels. In my state, Plus 30 usually means an additional 3 or 4 thousand dollars a year. I came close about eight years ago, but made the mistake of taking my last two classes while going through divorce. It was too much for me to handle, and I didn’t finish either of them. When I switched districts, still paid at low levels because of the pay freezes of the past decade, I was determined to complete it. I needed three more classes. Three months after I started in the new district, I took a grant-writing for libraries course over the summer; in the fall, a theory course on classroom management which I was required to take anyway to make up for an error in my certification. So this summer, had I stayed in education, I would have taken my tenth course (iPads in Education was first on my list), thirtieth credit, and started with a raise this fall. 

Except I didn’t. The new grant writing skills went to waste as I scrambled to meet the absurd and sabotaging demands of my principal and, even aside from her, the ever-increasing duties and paperwork required in the profession. I had written a grant for my daughter’s school, but the administrator who was receptive to it is no longer there, and I have learned to just let it go. 

The classroom management course I took last fall, in a way, made my situation worse, as I kept trying techniques that I thought would make a control-freak happy. There’s a lot to be said for a “bag of tricks” to deal with various student behaviors. However, it did not help for me to constantly try to apply new tricks in the situation I was in. Being pulled in so many directions - what I thought was right, what she wanted or said she wanted, what the professor wanted, what other teachers wanted - was counterproductive and took me off focus. I couldn’t think or operate coherently anymore, at least internally, by the time I finished the course in December.

Seven months later, it still kills me that I came so close, and even years ago, to that Plus 30 raise. It would have made a difference to my pension and unemployment benefits, too. At the same time, it was that hope for a raise, and all the money and time (summer months, mostly) I put into it, that kept me in a profession I should have left years ago. So, I have to make peace with that time, and money. And I can use it to my advantage in indexing - I have learned and read and been exposed to enough teacher education material to give me expertise in indexing it, once I learn the indexing techniques. 

And I am signed up for my tenth post-graduate course after all, even though it won’t benefit me in a school system. I’m not even sure it counts as post-graduate credit, since it’s an “extension” course. 

I’m not what some derisively call “a professional student” — maybe what others would call a luftmensch, constantly taking classes and not trying to make a living. Although a lot of my post-grad classes were wonderfully interesting, my theory and procedure-oriented courses were not, they were more of a time-suck than useful. 

I’m not taking Indexing for fun—as I noted to my friends, it’s something that would probably put the average person in a coma. And it’s a financial investment as well as time - about $700 plus books. But having tried out indexing and its software with M1, I find that I like it. For me, creating an index is like solving a puzzle, filling in blanks in a searcher’s mind, putting myself in the shoes of a 6-year-old new reader or a 50-year-old scientist or a 30-year-old fact-checker or a 40-year-old traveler. I have always like helping people find information - whether it was for the purpose of travel, for reading, for research - and this is another aspect of it. I find some of my dormant skills waking up as I try it out.