28 Comments

  1. Kids who grow up in wealthy families capable of paying high tuition are going to do better, no matter what school they go to, how good their teachers are, and what their education costs. It’s like, are people who drink a glass of red wine a day healthier because of the red wine, or because they live a fancy life with all kinds of other good habits and non-poor person perks? My kids go to NYC public school. Many kids in my neighborhood come from extremely wealthy families, so our school gets all kinds of great stuff even though we don’t pay tuition. Mark Morris teachers DO come in to my kids’ school to teach dance! We also have residencies with the Brooklyn Museum and Alvin Ailey. But our well funded PTA pays for these well run programs. Kids in poor neighborhoods are outta luck. I love the idea of every school getting to enjoy such things, and it would be amazing if people would come in from the goodness of their hearts to offer enrichment to schools that lack a rich base of parents. But I’m not sure how you institutionalize part-time volunteer teachers across the city and how you get enough people who have full time jobs (that are somehow allowed to also have part time jobs teaching) and who will actually make that commitment. Especially in difficult areas. It would be incredible though, for sure. But the easy way to do it and do it right is it to pay for it, like our school does. I would be happy to see my tax dollars pay for these same wonderful things for kids across the city. Enrichment unfortunately does cost money. My kids get a BMW education. And it is not the same as the used, beat-up Kia that the kids in other neighborhoods get. And it is not fair.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Linda. Thanks for sharing your experience with the NYC public schools. It’s good to see that some schools are taking advantage of outside expertise. And I agree that the logistics of getting volunteer help to poor schools won’t be easy. Most of the volunteer help would have to come from retired people. But don’t discount the possibility of corporations making leave adjustments for some of their employees to help out. There are a lot of progressive companies in NYC–Etsy, immediately comes to mind–and I can’t imagine them ignoring an adjunct program adopted by NYC public schools. The real problem is the education establishment. Will it be open to volunteer teachers? I could be wrong, but I don’t think it will.

  2. I think the only volunteer adjuncts would be financially-independent.

    One of my income streams is a quasi-adjunct teacher for two private schools in our humble county of 50,000 people. In one class, I barely make minimum wage after your factor lesson planning and correcting papers. This school is also a salary position.

    My other class is more lucrative since I get paid by the person. I’m able to charge my own rate and I have more incentive to teach here for that very reason. But, I can’t retire off this one income stream alone.

    The whole public and college education system is messed up. Administrators make six figures while teachers are fortunate to bring in $40,000 at most.

    Also, new teachers are basically required to get a 5-year undergrad degree or get a master’s before they even land their first full-time gig. They are tens of thousands of dollars in debt and earn pennies, relatively speaking.

    As a taxpayer, I don’t even want to rehash how our local school board keeps requesting for more money through bonds and property tax increases but the status quo never quite seems to improve proportionally.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Josh. Excellent summation of some very vexing problems. And what kills me is how indignant the education-industrial complex becomes when you question it. How dare we challenge a system that produces less with more!

  3. Holy COW! I watched The Class Divide last week and I was thinking of writing a post about it. The teenager that committed suicide totally broke my heart. He seemed so depressed and lost, I wasn’t 100% suprised but it was still heart breaking!

    I think there will be more volunteers than people think. And it doesn’t have to be just about money or totally free. There’s lots of incentives people want other than that – social interaction, feeling wanted, karma, do good etc. But it is difficult to organize and regulate. They sort of did something like this via a mentorship program at my husband’s church when he was a young one.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Lily. So sad about that teenager committing suicide. I’m sure all the talk about “privilege” he was fed at that school didn’t help.

  4. I think the idea is brilliant. I think we would all be surprised at how many people would come out the woodwork to volunteer.

    My racist English grandmother (bless her soul) would say, “Give a Krout a gun and a badge and he’ll work for a buck an hour.”

    She was so sweet.

    Don’t forget about all those mental midgets who would jump at the chance to play teacher. And who cares if their motives are ego-driven (aren’t they almost always), and they can’t wait to get in there and start telling kids what to do – as long as the students are getting their lessons.

    The most influential teacher I ever had was an egomaniac. But he loved stirring the passion in his students. If he could find it.

    And man…the education system is so complicated in the US. You guys and all your freedoms and rights! A little bit of socialism won’t kill you. I think you need a Europe or 🇨🇦 style school system. (Bla blah blah – you’ve heard that too much lately over healthcare I know)

    I wish you all luck. If I had to raise kids again I would home school them and take them to karate classes for socializing. No better way to learn how to get along with others.

    Great read Mr. and Mrs. Groovy – heavyweight writing!

    • Mr. Groovy

      You never fail to evoke a hardy laugh from my troubled soul, my friend. Perhaps that’s why I nominated you for the funniest blog Plutus Award this year. You are one funny dude. Have you ever considered a side hustle as a stand-up comedian? Great freakin’ comment. Mrs. Groovy started doing back flips when you mentioned home school. She swears she would never send her kids to school if she had any. And you’re grandma was adorable. What is the fascination Germans have with authority? Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always great hearing from a brilliant–and exceptionally funny–socialist from the Great White North.

  5. APRIL FOOLS! (Right?)

    But seriously, public education reform is needed. Rest assured that most unions have little bite anymore. Heads are rolling in my district and have been for a while thanks to new evaluation protocol. And that’s good. Ineffective teachers shouldn’t be protected simply because of age/time.

    Your system is great for good teachers (::brushes off shoulder and gloats:: I kid!), but who would sign up to adjunct? The smartest (book smartest?) person I know makes more money at a coffee shop with tips than he does adjuncting in higher ed. Say what we want about higher ed, but adjuncts are educating humans. Trim the fat elsewhere.

    Case in point? The head of HR in my school district makes TWICE the max rate of a teacher salary schedule (60+ graduate hours, 25 years teaching experience). For what?

    • Hey, Penny. I was hoping you would chime in. I really respect your opinions and this comment is a perfect example why. You’re an insider and yet you readily admit that there is something wrong with the K-12 business model. That’s rare. Too many insiders have swallowed their organization’s or profession’s Kool-Aid. Anyway, your example of the HR head being paid twice what a senior teacher could possibly make is spot on. Too much of the tax dollars collected for education isn’t making it to the classroom. Perhaps it’s time we take a page from Obamacare. Under Obamacare, 85% of premium revenue must be spent on healthcare. Only 15% can go to overhead. Imagine if 85% of public school spending had to go to the classroom in the form of teacher pay and supplies? Thanks for stopping by, Penny. You certainly don’t like many of my twisted ideas, but at least you appreciate that they spring from frustration over the status quo in public education and not malice toward teachers and students. And that means a lot. Cheers.

  6. Steveark

    I understand your idea but I seriously doubt that a significant number of people are going to volunteer to teach for free in public schools. Teaching is hard work and requires a lot of preparation and even community colleges that pay adjuncts are struggling to find teachers. I chair a community college board and there just aren’t many volunteers available. People with careers couldn’t possibly teach during work hours so you could only draw from the rank of retired folks, many of which are not going to want to be tied down to a regular teaching schedule. Also the thing about volunteers, and this is from someone who runs a major charity organization, is that you cannot really demand much in the way of discipline or effort. Teaching now has a huge amount of paperwork associated with it that has to do with government oversight and funding. That alone has made many teachers disgruntled enough to seek other employment. You have to pay to get those qualities. Just my opinion. Thanks for a provocative post.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Steveark. Thanks for pointing out the pitfalls of hosting volunteers. I don’t think the volunteer teaching staff would ever account for 25% of instruction in any public school. Like you said, the logistics of managing volunteers and maintaining excellence would be too daunting. But there’s no reason why volunteer teachers can’t be a small component of any public school. I keep reverting back to my dream candidate–the retired surgeon with excellent teaching skills who wants to teach the 3rd-period biology class at the local high school. It would be foolish for the school and the community not to take advantage of this doctor’s proposed gift. And I hear ya about the paperwork that now befuddles education. It is a burden. So why don’t educators just fill those forms out with same information every year? Is anyone in the state capital or Washington really reading those forms anyway?

      • Steveark

        I think you are correct. In fact I’ve guest taught for free in a nearby University MBA program on leadership and spoken at local schools and even at my community college as a volunteer so there are people who will do it and find it rewarding.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Thanks, Steveark. There are people who would love to teach a class for free. Are there enough such people to make a difference? That’s hard to say. But here’s another thing I forgot to mention. There’s no reason the adjunct/volunteer model should be limited to just instruction. I’m not cut out for teaching. But I am cut out for cutting grass and doing routine maintenance. I wouldn’t mind volunteering a few hours a week at my local school district to mitigate custodial and maintenance costs.

  7. My biggest issue with public Ed may be limited to my location. Similar to the college level our local government keeps building new state of the art schools. They’ve already been caught once with building larger facilities then they have butts to fill and seem to be building ever more grandios facilities (football stadium anyone) rather then, you know, focusing on the education. Our kids shouldn’t go to a ramshackle school but they also don’t need club med.

  8. Ooh Mr. G, I love you and all but I could not get behind this idea. Teaching is a profession. Let’s leave it to the professionals.

    It also seems there would be so much time and expense spent on ‘managing’ this, as well as, ‘backgrounding’ these individuals who would spend time around people’s children.

    Perhaps people like your brother-in-law could look into mentoring and tutoring kids who struggle with math and science classes in support of teachers, not in lieu of them.

    I do agree the education system needs help and changes. And ideas from taxpayers could help in the discussions but there is so much more to think about. This is a can of worms I’d bury or at least take back to the drawing board for major revision.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Amy. I really appreciate your gentle rebuke. And you’re absolutely right. The logistics of entertaining volunteer teachers may be too troublesome to pull off. But the possibilities are so tantalizing. There are so many brilliant people like my brother-in-law who want to give back to the community. And I was just thinking of some ways to take advantage of that incredible resource. Now, I wouldn’t say my idea needs to buried. But it certainly needs work. Great comment, Amy. You never fail to make me think.

  9. I think we need to tackle the curriculum first. I’ve been volunteering my time with my school district for the last three years. Teacher and administrators put in a ton of hours and work hard. They are fighting an uphill battle with students, distractions from smartphones, youtube, social media, parents not being on board, etc. but I believe the things they are teaching are missing the mark with today’s kids.

    We need to teach more life skills, make learning fun, more project/team based, real world stuff, and less about memorizing facts, or multiplication tables.

    • Mr. Groovy

      THANK YOU, Brian! As Seth Godin points out, “We’re training kids to be cogs for a world that no longer wants cogs.” My dream school is something along these lines. An hour of math, an hour of writing, and then three or four hours of doing something constructive. Playing the guitar, creating a mobile app, building a robot, installing solar panels, converting a gas-powered car into an EV–these are just some of things I would love to see young people busying themselves with. Sticking with the status quo is just too painful to contemplate. We could do so much better for all concerned–students, teachers, and taxpayers. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I really appreciate your sage comment. A lot of wisdom there.

  10. Rocking the boat. I love it! There are so many things that need to “get with the times” as they say and education is definitely one of them. Not sure that this is the end all be all idea, but it’s a attempt to make better a system that needs improvement. Next up, healthcare.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly, Mrs. Wow. If K-12 education were hunky-dory, there would be no reason to “rock the boat.” But sadly, things aren’t hunky-dory. The education model we created in the 19th century is no longer working. So why not try something new? Why not try adjuncts at the K-12 level. There are tens of thousands of really talented people out there who would love to help out their local schools. Why not take advantage of that resource?

  11. Interesting concept. My dad was an adjunct at the college level for a time and loved it. I’d be interested in doing something like this.

    Its really about rethinking a broken system. Which we have plenty of here!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Mr. Wow. When done right, adjuncts can be a wonderful arrow in the education quiver. And there’s no reason why this option shouldn’t be explored at the K-12 level, especially when there are so many talented people like my brother-in-law who would love to give back to the community. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  12. Good lord, Mr. G. Adjuncts are horrible for higher ed (many I know get poverty level wages with ridiculously high teaching loads.) I’d hate that for K-12.

    Teaching is a skilled profession, dude. Lots of people who are incredibly bright and talented do not have the knack of transferring their knowledge in a way that excites and inspires young people to learn, much less manage a rowdy and diverse group of seven or thirteen-year-olds. (Have you worked with middle school kids? It’s not for the faint of heart, or the casually interested. You gotta be hardcore to deal with that all those adolescent hormones and all the limits those kids want to test.)

    And that’s not even going into handling kids with special needs.

    Kids need stability, G, not instability. When they lose teachers over the course of the year (which is what happens with adjuncts or even poor pay, because poorly paid teachers leave for greener pastures), they learn a lot less and their test scores show it.

    I mean, Jon’s bright and good with his hands. He can work on cars and plumbing and obviously he can learn from YouTube. Do you want him doing surgery on you? Hell no. You want a well compensated, well-trained, financially secure (and therefore stable) group of health care professionals.

    And that’s what public education should provide…a skilled team of professional, trained, and skilled teachers and the resources and facilities they need to succeed. For elementary kids, that means a stable, well-compensated classroom teacher. An assistant so that the kids who need extra attention get that (and the teacher has a little time to plan or run to the bathroom.) Resource teachers for art, music, and PE, and maybe even a foreign language. A library with books that aren’t 20 years old (that’s the average age at LB’s nice, wealthy North Raleigh school…I can’t imagine what poorer schools deal with) and current technology so kids can learn tech skills. And the support system as well….teachers who can help kids with special needs, counselors, and administrators who help keep the school functional, all in a building that isn’t falling apart.

    I love you, man, but this is a terrible, awful idea, kinda like the Grinch’s raid on Whoville. I really hope none of our NC legislators read it.

    • And if I was an administrator in one of these schools, I would quit the next day. REALLY. I love bantering around different ideas, but there is a total lack of reality here in what actually happens in a school. I SO wish I could have invited you into a nice “small city” school last year where I worked. We had trained teams of teachers who struggled to teach 20-40 minute lessons with some groups of kids. Remember that public schools teach all kids – and everything they bring with them (or don’t) each day. As a principal, I often had to cover classes because we couldn’t find substitutes. What happens when the adjuncts decide “teaching” isn’t for them? What a nightmare (and this comes from someone who scheduled classes/teachers for over 1800 kids each day…)

      • And I also was an adjunct and regular professor in higher ed. As an adjunct I made about $10 an hour – (my son made more as a bus boy in a restaurant.) AND IT SUCKED – even though I did a great job and my students learned a ton from all of my practical experience. As a full professor, I made $55K – with 25 years of experience and a doctorate. Is that enough??? And I was the one teaching students who want to be teachers. There is a lot more to this problem that people just don’t understand… and don’t want to listen to either.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Damn it, Emily! You’re too smart for me. Here is my feeble response to your excellent points.

      I agree with you that the adjunct system at the college level sucks. And that’s a shame. When I was a journalism major, I had two fantastic adjuncts. One was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from the New York Times who was assigned to cover JFK’s funeral. The other was a professional writer who co-authored or ghost-authored books for many celebrities, including Montel Williams and former NYC mayor Ed Koch. But these two adjuncts weren’t doing it for the money, and they weren’t looking to become tenure-tracked professors. I think one way to stop the adjunct abuses in college is to mandate that any course taught by adjuncts be offered at half price. After all, if adjuncts don’t get paid anywhere near a tenured professor, students shouldn’t have to pay full price for the class.

      As far as adjuncts/volunteers go at the K-12 level, why wouldn’t it work? Let’s take a dream candidate–a retired surgeon with excellent teaching skills who wants to teach the 3rd-period biology class in the local high school. Why would the school be adverse to giving this doctor a shot? He or she could spend a year assisting an existing biology teacher, working with kids individually and giving 10-15 minute lessons to the entire class once or twice a week. And then the following year, if the school is confident in the surgeon’s teaching abilities, he or she could have the 3rd-period biology class all to him- or herself. I really don’t think it’s complicated. But what do I know? I’m just a little ol’ country blogger from North Carolina.

      Finally, here’s my biggest gripe with the education-industrial complex. Ever since the Nation at Risk report came out in 1983, our K-12 educators have been telling us, “We got this. All you have to do is give us more money and everything will get better.” Well, we’ve been giving our K-12 educators more and more money and nothing’s getting better. Every year scores on the SAT and ACT refuse to budge. Every year we hear about the achievement gap between black and white students. Every year we send more and more kids to college who need remedial math and English work. Apparently, our K-12 educators “don’t got this.” And what are we supposed to do? Nothing? Just keep doing the same things?

      Sorry for the rant, Emily. I just have little faith in the current K-12 business model.

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