disapproving kitty

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Small Pleasures

1.  Knowing that there is dinner waiting for you in the crockpot when you get home.
2.  Someone else being in charge of dinner.
3.  Coming downstairs from putting the kids to bed and discovering that J. has cleaned the kitchen.
4.  Showering after a good, sweaty workout.
5.  Rolling over out of a deep sleep and realizing that I still have 2 more hours before I have to get up.
6.  Snuggling into bed.
7.  NPR
8.  The random occasional texts from my brother that make me laugh out loud.
9.  Having the house completely to myself sometimes.

What are yours?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Went To Sleep With Gum in My Mouth*

Yesterday was not a grand day.  I won't go so far to say that it was Truly Bad.  There was no Big Awful Thing, but it was just a day I was glad to see the back of.

It was death by a thousand pin pricks.  All the tiny things, starting with the inability to fall asleep until 2am when I needed to be up by 6 so that I could get a jump start on the school day.  Only I kept hitting snooze until 7:15 and between that and losing my phone for the umpteenthousandthtime, this time for 20 minutes** I was late to work instead of being 45 minutes early.

It was a day of little annoyances.  Of small slights, little digs and petty disrespect from multiple corners.  Whiny, crabby children and irritable adults.   It was a day of lights that turned red as I drove up and rude drivers, things dropped, many bumps, trips and near-falls***  I missed my Holidalies post.  I didn't exercise.  My pants are getting tight.  I stepped where the cat threw up and my shoulder aches and the kitchen floor feels like it's made of adhesive.  I forgot something I left at work, couldn't find a FedEx store and had to run errands at rush hour.  I hate running errands at rush hour.

Lots of it, like dear Alexander, I suspect I brought upon myself by being unprepared or absent-minded, or just plain stubborn and none of this is the universe's fault, and I had no one to blame but me. Some days are like that, Viorist says, even in Australia.

When I got home, I asked on FB for my friends to cheer me up, and they did it.  In spades.  And, amazingly, the day was better.  Not just because I was laughing or cringing**** but because it meant there were many people out there who thought it was worth their time to make me smile.

I went to bed early, but before I fell asleep I was texted a joke about two snowmen.

There is something right in the universe when you know someone who will text you a clean joke about snowmen at 10pm at night.

So it started out a pretty crappy day and ended up not so bad.  Some days are like that, too.

Even in Australia.*****


*I didn't, really.  It's one of the best first lines in any children's book ever, The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by the marvelous Judith Viorist.  If you don't have a copy, get one.  It doesn't matter if you have children or not.

**It was in my bathrobe pocket.  I almost never wear my bathrobe and for reasons not worth going into here I wore it the night before and put my phone in the pocket of this thick, terrycloth bathrobe.  Which I then put into the back of my closet, behind lots and lots of other clothes.  Guess how easy it is to hear a phone ringing through that?†

***I had a physical therapist tell me once that she suspected I have a slight disability in proprioception, and thus I bang into things with great frequency.  It's worse some days than others.  This was one of the worse days.

****a photo involving a dad, an axe and his bikini clad daughter.  You don't want to know.

*****Not that I actually know this.  I suspect, though.

†not very

Sunday, December 8, 2013

If you want brownies at 3 A.M. I can hook you up.

In an attempt to get myself into the holiday spirit, and because it sounded really good when a friend of mine posted the idea on her wall, I decided to make fudge this evening.  This required evaporated milk, marshmallows, butter, and sugar among other things, depending on which kind I wanted to make.  Turns out I had all these things.  Plus four different strengths of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips* and  half a bag of mint chips.  And walnuts.
This is not unusual.
Years ago, probably during the years where I lived with my parents after college,** my brother and I had a group of friends over, and one of them lamented that we never had food at our house.  We were sorta dumbfounded because, had we wanted to, we probably could have put together a 7 course meal including 3 different breads, 2 soups, 4 meats and half a dozen desserts with what we had on hand.  What she meant was that we rarely had any insta-food.  No ready made lasagnas in the freezer, nothing you could just heat in the microwave and eat.  All the food we had was of the some-assembly-required variety.***
My cousins once went to visit relatives on their step-dad's**** side of the family in California.  While they loved the visit and everyone there, one of my cousins lamented that "They don't have any ingredients."  I'm sure they had food around, but nothing you could use to whip up pancakes, a casserole or brownies because the mood just struck you.  I'm not sure what these people do when the desperate need for baked goods strikes late at night when there's bad weather for driving.  Maybe this explains why Californians are thinner than I am.
The point is, I think, that I have ingredients.
I like the magic of taking things that you can't just eat straight (well, you could, but I wouldn't) like flour and eggs and chocolate chips (ok, I eat those straight from the bag) and turning them in to nine kinds of deliciousness.  I like thinking about my pantry and freezer and refrigerator as the day passes and thinking "I have all the things to make chicken and rice, or enchiladas or pizza for dinner."
I like that my mother can visit and say "Where are the ...?" and know that I will have whatever it is she needs.*****
I have ingredients, and I know what to do with them.  I feel good about this.  I'm no good at household repairs, don't understand electronics, and am pretty bad at self-defense so when the revolution comes there's a good chance I'll be among the first ones against the wall, but if I'm not, then I'll be very good at cooking meals for the rest of the survivors.
I can live with that.


*which I think should be called something other than chocolate because it's false advertising and makes you think "ooh! chocolate!" when it's totally not and it's sort of like eating sweetened suntan lotion.  There's only disappointment there.  I don't even know why I had them.

**along with my younger brother.  I can't tell you how happy they were when we finally moved out into an apartment together and started acting like actual adults.  I try to remember this phase of my life when I get judgy about people who live with their parents after age 23.

***Please note that this is not a disparagement of insta-food.  Stouffer's lasagna is the food of the gods, and my freezer is filled with fish sticks, corn dogs and nuggety food that I heat for the kids on a regular basis.  I'm a working mom.  Don't judge.

****One of the sweetest, most generous and kind souls ever to have walked this earth.  "Step" often has negative connotations, and I didn't want anyone to think there were any here.

*****Except onions.  I love onions, but I can't digest them anymore.  More's the pity.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pointless, Uninteresting and Incoherent, but Maybe Salvagable

In trying to find something to write about today, I went back through some of the unpublished drafts of things I'd written before thinking maybe I could let myself off easy.   I pushed the words around a bit, added some, took things out and....nothing.  The essays just lay there on the screen, either pointless or uninteresting or incoherent or all three.  Just.  Bad.  I should probably delete them but I can't quite bring myself to do that.  Maybe I need to keep them there, these little failed attempts, to remind me of something.  What, exactly, I'm not sure, but I'm sure theres a lesson in them somewhere.  Or maybe I'm hoping they will age well.  When I was a kid, my best friend once told me that "art ages."  If she'd made something she didn't like all that much she would tuck it away for awhile.  When she brought it back out, it would usually be better than she remembered.  I've tried that.  It sometimes works.  I also remember a time in 8th grade art class when I was working on a still life.  It was terrible.  The art teacher, bless him, would let me come in during lunch to work on it.  I did, nearly every day, for ages.  I kept pounding away at this doomed sketch of some jumbled crap on a table and then one day, suddenly, it changed.  I can recall looking at it at the end of lunch period and going "Huh! That actually looks...good."  I can recall even better the my art teacher's look of astonishment, and his comment along the lines of  "I'd lost hope on that...but now it looks right.  Wow."  It's something to get your teacher to admit that he'd given up on you but you'd managed to redeem yourself anyways.
I've pretty much given up hope on these old posts that I will never publish, but I'm still not deleting them.  Not yet.  I never know when I might be able to redeem myself.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Look at All the Helpers

I had a parent volunteer today.

I'm pretty sure she isn't the first parent volunteer I've ever had, but I'm not positive.  I've had scores of parents volunteer for field trips, and a few who have come in to help out during an intensive hands-on kind of day, but this mom came in to just do...whatever.  Copying.  Cutting things out.  Sorting things into little baggies to make kits for math or thinking skills lessons or whatever.  Stapling.  Those things which take a fair amount of time to do, and tend to pile up as I'm usually busy teaching or lesson planning or meeting or searching for any number of the thousand things I'm always trying to find.  My filing system is less than optimal.  Even when I have everything saved into the server, I don't always remember what I called it whenever I created it originally, and often it's less time-consuming to just re-create it rather than try to find it in our jungle of a server.*

She came in, with her pre-school aged daughter and took a vast pile of copying and went and did it for me.  She's the mom of one of my gifted kids, and is a smart woman herself.  I don't know her story.  Maybe she's taking time off from a career so she can be home with her kids.  Maybe she works from home but does this in her spare time because she enjoys a few hours of somewhat mindless work, and knowing that she's giving something back.  Maybe she works 2nd shift but likes to get out of the house with her young daughter during the day just for the change of scenery.  I don't know.  Maybe I should ask, but I don't want to pry, really, or have it look like I'm devaluing any choice she's made to be doing this, and sometimes even asking can seem like judging.

She, or another parent of my students have said they'll volunteer for me again.  And the 5th grade teachers always offer to share the volunteer who comes in for them since they sometimes don't have things organized enough to give to her.  That's the rub, really.  I have to be prepped in advance to have the thing I need to have copied, or the stuff I need put together set out with instructions.  I like that it compels me to be more organized and prepared.  I've been flying by the seat of my pants for most of this year (and I'm not the only one by a long shot.  It's been a very, very hard year all across the district.)  That's not the point, though.

The point, which I keep wandering away from, is that she volunteered.

She is helping.

Like Mr. Rogers said, "Look at the helpers."

This whole year has felt like we are in crisis mode and it's all I can do not to melt down regularly.  I am angry.  A lot.  I am outraged.  A lot.  I feel helpless in the face of a corporate steamroller, coming to destroy the institution I love with the assistance of elected officials they are paying a lot more money to than I ever could.

But I'm not helpless!  I have a helper.  And she doesn't ask for anything in return.  There are lots of parents, every day, trying to take a little of the load off.

So maybe I'll focus on that for a bit, instead of all the rest, and see if it helps.  If it does, then what she does for me is worth even more than just the photocoyping.**


*It's happened more than once that I've totally re-created something I made two years ago and then found the original.  They will look like near-exact replicas.  It's a little spooky.

**Which is worth a lot.  Don't get me wrong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Do You Do When You Can't Find the Funny or a Good Recipe

It's Holidailies time again and I'm only two days late!

I've been working on the first post for this December for about 30 minutes now.  I started a nice little piece about surprises, but about 2/3 of the way through I stopped.   The post was supposed to be just sort of light and pithy, but wound up lumbering along, getting far too heavy for itself as I had a bit of a self- revelation* with regards to me and surprises that frankly makes me kinda look like an ass, so we'll just let that be for awhile.  See what happens with it.

As you can tell, I'm not quite into the swing of writing yet.

Holidailies very kindly gave me a prompt-- something about holiday recipes -- but it didn't do much for me so I was winging it.  Maybe I should go back and think about recipes for a bit.

I haven't posted a whole lot since the beginning of the school year, and if you go back a few posts you'll probably see why.  It's been a challenging year.  I thought it might be best if I didn't make every December post a rant about what is happening to public education, though.  Unfortunately, that's what is taking up the majority of my brain space at the moment and it's been hard to find the light and pithy lately.

There's a cat trying to sit on the computer now, and I think I've had all the useful thoughts I'm going to have for today.  Perhaps tomorrow I will find the funny and create a post of wry observations on the nature of life or children or cats.

Or maybe I'll just post my favorite holiday recipe.

*The revelation was that I kinda like to be in control of things and have difficulty when I'm not in charge, which, honestly, isn't much of a revelation for anyone who's known me for more than half an hour.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

I was going through this blog and found this unpublished bit.
DS is a 1st grader now.
He made it out of Kindergarten with flying colors.
I'm thinking his teacher might feel we need to repeat it, especially given the level of forgetfulness and procrastination that putting a blog post out a year late implies.


We are failing Kindergarten.

Oh, don't worry, DS is just fine.  He got a good progress report, and the most negative thing his teacher could say about how he's doing is that he needs to work on putting more detail into his journal at writing time.

Really.

I think my teacher's main concern in kindergarten was to try to get me to quit eating paste, so I'm thinking that he's probably okay.

What we're failing at is being parents of a Kindergartner.  Each day, a very nice, organized folder comes home with one side filled with "things to stay at home" and the other with "things to be returned."  For the first several weeks of school I was dimly aware that this folder was in there, but I somehow figured that DS would let us know if there was something that needed our attention.

Um....No.

We also got a very nice notice about the other folder, his spelling folder, which contained his 10 spelling words for the week. I remember looking at it, admiring the organizational style of this teacher, and then sort of neglecting it.  Come Thursday I read it for real and realized that DS was supposed to be doing spelling homework every night.  We'd maybe done homework, oh...once.  So Friday morning before school you can guess what we had him doing.  If you've ever been around our house early in the morning, you can guess this was not the optimal time.  We are not morning people.

I'm not going to go into the "Reading Bag."  I'm just going to say that it was November before I realized that a) DS was supposed to read from it every night,*  b)he was supposed to write or color in the included calendar (even at this point I'm not sure if the title is supposed to be there or just some sort of marking to indicate he read to us.)

So, yeah.  He has a great teacher.  He's doing fine.  But if we get a report card, too, I really don't want to show it to my parents.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Demoralized

           Lately I've seen a lot of my colleagues looking downcast, and more demoralized than ever.  I am, too.  It's been hard to articulate why, though, without people's eyes glazing over.  It just doesn't connect to something they really know.
           So, if you're a teacher, and you'd like to explain it a little better, share this.
           And if you're not a teacher, but you'd like to understand a little better--whether you love the teacher or have a gripe with her, or both, read this:

The Builder

Once upon a time there was a builder.  He built houses, and he was good at it.  He could look at plans and know, from experience, which plans would work well, which needed tweaking, and which ones should be sent back for revisions.  He knew his materials.  He understood wood and cement, nails and steel.  Knew how to check for flaws, how to shape and refine the materials he used to make them exactly fit what he needed for each home.  He loved his work, loved his team, loved seeing his fine homes, standing tall and beautiful, and knowing he’d done something of worth.
Then one day, the elected head of the local building council appeared, and handed him a set of plans.   They were rather different than other plans, but workable.  They called for things to be done in a different order than the builder thought was wise, but the client was insistent that these were the finest and best plans, designed from new understandings of the principles of building.
“Very well,” said the builder.  “I will study these, and work with them.  When should I expect my supplies to arrive?”
“Supplies?” asked the surprised councilman,  “Why, you have all the supplies you need!  They are everywhere!”
Raising an eyebrow, the builder looked about at the empty landscape and asked again, “Where?  What would you like me to use?  These plans call for all new kinds of materials, and I do have lots of bit and pieces in my truck, but the house they would build certainly wouldn’t match these plans.”
Exasperated, the official gestured widely to the environs.  “Why, there are supplies everywhere!  There’s a forest right there!  It has all the wood you could need!  There is clay beneath our feet that can make fine bricks!  There is a river of water just over that rise with a slate bed!  Good grief, man, you have all you could ask for! All you have to do is look.”
The builder raised his other eyebrow and replied, “Well, I suppose I could use them, but who is to ensure the quality -- I know nothing of the kind of wood or shale or clay that is out there.  And creating these materials will take a great deal of time.  I am very good at evaluating and using materials provided, but creating them whole is another matter entirely.  What extra staff and budget is there for this, for it will far exceed the costs of just building, which is the job for which I originally bid.”
Now infuriated, the councilman exploded, “What are you, lazy?  You tell me you’re an expert builder, yet you can’t make your own materials?  Who would be better qualified?  What, you want someone else to make things for you?   Time?  Why should I give you extra time?  You have plenty of time since you only 'work' 7 hours out of the day, and often spend weeks off at a time between jobs.  Staff?  We hired YOU, the ‘expert’, to build this home, and now you’re saying you want extra help to do what anyone could do easily in a mere moment?  I suppose you could use volunteers, but you’ll have to find them on your own time. I can’t even understand why you didn’t come prepared with all your materials in the first place.  Isn’t that what we pay you for?  To be prepared?”
The official stomped away, muttering “Skilled builder.  HA.  Lazy complainer is what he is.”  Then he turned and yelled, “If you DON’T do the job, NOW, to MY SPECIFICATIONS, I’ll let everyone know what a terrible job you do, how you are incompetent at even the most basic levels and you will never work in this field again!  Send me updates twice a day on your progress, with exact data and examples to show what you’ve done.”

“But….” began the builder, but the client was gone.  Shoulders drooping and head bent, the builder picked up his wheelbarrow and tools and trudged toward the rise, to begin work.  It would be a very, very long day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Poem

Body Image


Her index finger
mutely traces a path
along the jagged U of a
varicose vein
that decorates my thigh.
She practices counting
and connecting
the infinite beauty spots --
moles, really
not “beauty spots” --
that dot and freckle
every inch of aging skin.
She pokes and jiggles
the soft flesh
beneath my arms,
giggling as it moves
and quivers as she
molds it with her fingers.
She delights in this body
that is painted, and soft
and unpredictable
with scars and stretch marks
undulating and never smooth.
But to her it is wondrous
and perfect
and exactly the way
her mother should be.
She is too young yet
to have learned to fear
and loathe those
imperfections.
The world will teach her.
Soon. So soon.
But for now
perhaps I am old enough
for her to teach me
that I am beautiful.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A letter I sent this evening to my State Senator and State Representative:


Dear Representative Kunze,

As you know, schools across Ohio are preparing for the challenge of the "3rd Grade Reading Guarantee" that will force retention of any 3rd grader who cannot pass a standardized reading test.  While I question the validity of using such a method to assess a child, I would leave that issue for another time.  What I would to ask you is why is Ohio choosing to do this when it has been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that grade retention does not work any better than promotion to the next grade?
There is ample evidence both online and in scholarly publications (Please see here for guidance, should you not have read any of it.)
The money wasted on a strategy that has been proven ineffective could be much, much better spent on other solutions.  For example, why not insist that schools spend the money on extended school-day programs for struggling readers, intensive summer school programs, smaller class sizes or hiring more reading specialists to work in the classrooms?
The idea that we will flunk children who cannot read well *sounds* good.  It sounds like a logical course of action and satisfies our need to hold children and teachers accountable.  Yes, the 3rd Grade Guarantee sounds very good.  But it isn't, and you should know that.
Please, be a leader and insist that our state choose a course of action that actually IS good, and stands a chance at working, rather than one that flushes precious dollars down the drain for the sake of "sounding" good.
Sincerely,

Educator

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teachers, Unions and other Thoughts

So I'm cleaning out some stuff from FB and found this.  It's from about 2 years ago, when the debate was running hot with regards to unions in general and teacher union's in specific.  The debate will rage again, I am sure, even though it's quieter now.
This piece would probably be better with citations, rather than my vague recollection of facts once read about in Time or Newsweek or heaven knows where, but I can't be bothered at the moment.  So, should something I mention be outdated or even fairly wrong, go ahead and let me know.  The errors, if there are any, aren't there to tick you off.  They're there because when I wrote this I was dead tired, overworked, and outraged all at the same time.


Yes, it's late again and I'm up writing responses to things said on Facebook days ago.  I'm writing it now because I've spent every extra hour I had working on Progress Reports.  60 of them.  And some written education plans and lesson plans and plans for a large field trip in May.  Most of this btw, not on official school time.  Just so you know.  And the fact is, I spend less personal time doing schoolwork than most teachers I know.  And it still adds up.

But, here are my responses to the arguments put forth about why Teachers' Unions have to go -- 

The Union protects bad workers:  As a teacher and union member, I DON’T want “Bad” teachers as my colleagues.  People love to throw this phrase around.  But there doesn’t seem to be any agreement at all on “Bad Teacher.”  A teacher who is abusive, on drugs, or otherwise blatantly unprofessional I’m sure we can all agree upon would qualify.  I’ve never met such a teacher.  I’m sure they exist, and if my union were to protect one, and keep that person in the classroom, then that is a horrible breach of trust. Let us all shake hands and agree on this one, shall we?

But what about the more grey areas – the teacher who works to contract, comes in and leaves on time and doesn’t seem to do any work outside the classroom either.  I’ve never met this teacher, either, but I’m sure they exist.  Is this person a “Bad Teacher?” 

The teacher who is burnt out – this teacher I think I’ve met, but mostly when I was a student and knew everything in the world.  Is this person truly worse than the first-year teacher who would replace him? First-year teachers are universally pretty lousy.  They make up for it, usually, with energy and verve and excitement, but they’re still pretty lousy.  I certainly was.  So should all first-year teachers just be fired?  And replaced with….? 

I am actually all FOR helping poor teachers improve or helping them out the door if they choose not to improve.  What I'm NOT FOR is someone with no teaching experience whatsoever trying to determine which teacher is which based on a single test score.  Sorta like judging a Seurat based on the quality of a single dot.

There are too many unproductive and unnecessary workers:  Just how many students do you think can be crammed into a classroom and still have it be productive?  Unions prevent schools from saving money by just upping the classroom size to completely unmanageable levels.  Anybody who thinks that it’s easy teaching 30 children with a wide range of abilities and talents, disabilities, and behavioral problems has NEVER BEEN A TEACHER.  If you haven’t been there, and don’t know what it is like, firsthand, then you do not get to say what is do-able and what is not.  
This type of thinking is typical of someone who is applying a business model to something that is NOT a business.  Our raw materials are children.  We take all comers.  We cannot send back the ones that aren’t up to standard like you can in business.  We have our raw materials for 7 hours out of the day, then we return them to their homes or other environments over which we have no control.   For a more fleshed out example, google "the blueberry story."  
In states with no unions and really lousy pay and working conditions, they have had to reduce the requirements for being a teacher.  In some cases, there is no requirement for certification or training as a teacher at all.   They can't find people willing to make that kind of educational investment for the return the district is willing to pay.  Usually there is a requirement for having a college degree, but if things are bad enough, I'm sure that's been waived, too.  Do you really, truly believe that someone with no teacher training at all is going to be better than a certificated teachers?  This is not a method for RAISING the quality of education in America.  The states that ban teacher unions are the ones at the very BOTTOM of the state rankings.  They are embarrassingly bad.  
Unions protect teachers and they protect the quality of education, too.

Public Schools should be privatized:  And with that, the law requiring that children from ages 5 – 18 attend school would naturally be abolished, because a government should not be allowed to compel a citizen to pay for a service he or she may not want, correct? And if they can compel it, then what about those who can't afford it?  A tiered system?  Separate-but-equal schools for those with money and those without?
I think the end result of that is obvious to pretty much anyone:  those with an extra 8k a year, per child, would send their child to school.  The rest would try to care for them at home and provide what education they could.   Or parents just let the kids run wild while they (the parents) were off trying to make a living.  A “government-subsidy” method (as was suggested) would be enormously cumbersome and probably unfathomable to someone with a poor education, or who spoke/read English as a second language, or, in general, was impoverished.  The gap between the haves and have-nots would be enormous.  And without an educated populace, the country would suffer tremendously.  I have been in a country where they do not bother to educate a large section of the population.  Squalor is too nice a word to describe their conditions.  I, for one, do not want to condemn anyone to that sort of life.  Public education can prevent it.
And that doesn't even begin to address the needs of those kids who fall outside the "typical" range.  The kids who need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, a full - time aide, or a classroom where there are only four other children and three adults at all times.  Where would those kids go?  Right now, the cost of caring and educating them to the best of their and our ability is spread out over all of society.  It has to be.  It's enormously expensive.   What will happen when the burden falls solely on the parents of those children?  Will we head back to the dark ages where the mentally different were chained in basements and backyards because no one could afford to do any better?  Private schools do not have to take these children.  Public schools do.  Privatizing would leave the very least among us with nowhere to go.  Having a child with a severe disability would ensure that you would be impoverished for as long as your child lived.  Most Americans living now do not recall the utter inhumanity of how people with disabilities were treated 100 years ago.  Privatizing would all but ensure a return to that.
By spreading out the cost of educating the all the young among all people and businesses, society as a whole benefits.  But we have become a society that is so short term in its thinking that we have lost sight of that.  We can only see that "x dollars a year are going towards property taxes and I don't even have a kid in school yet!"  or "I don't have a kid at all!"  
Private schools run at least 6k to over 20K a year.  My property taxes are cheap by comparison.  And even if I didn't have children, I need a society with an educated population to work in it, live in it, be part of my society's economy.  How many businesses really want to hire employees who can't read?  Can't write?  Can't use a computer?  Can't add?  Can't get along with others?  Would you hire someone with no education, or want to pay for remedial training?  That's that taxes pay for, not just for your own personal child to go to school.

Teachers should have “Merit Pay”:  This has been tried a few times, and the result is – no effect on test scores.  None.  Zip. Zero.  But then, test scores are a piss-poor measure of a teacher.  Even if you take Child A, test him and test him again with a similar test one year later and compare that to how he did the previous year it’s STILL a piss-poor measure.  Why?  Because kids do not grow evenly and even if they did, paper-pencil test don’t accurately judge what a child can do or understand.  Or what about the gifted kid who took the test last year, got a 99th%ile score on it and next year, missed one question and got the 98th%ile instead.  He went down a point!  Does that mean the teacher is a failure? Not hardly. It means he maxed out the test BOTH years, bonked his head on the test ceiling and the test makers haven’t got the faintest idea of what he can do.  Or what about the kid who got a new baby brother 10 days before the test and is being woken up 4 times a night now by a colickly newborn?  What about the kids whose parents got divorced this year, or lost their jobs, or moved or 1000 other things – should we penalize the teacher for a child’s lousy life situation? 
Now, one could argue that we should take the information, over several years, in aggregate, and we should see some trends. Like Teacher X always has kids that perform worse than Teacher Y who teaches the same things at the same grade level.  If that’s the case, then maybe Teacher X needs support, mentoring, professional development and assistance to improve his teaching skills.  There ARE districts that have tried this, and used other teachers, who know and understand teaching, as part of a team to evaluate teachers’ performance and recommend for rehire or not.   It’s done with respect and support and these pilot programs may work, though the jury is still out, to my knowledge.  Pay, as far as I am aware, isn’t a part of it.
The whole “merit pay system” has such a nice ring to it.  But all those who use it haven’t the faintest idea of how to go about devising it.  So unless you have something tested, accurate, valid and reliable to use, then quit saying it’s the way to go.  
I have had experience working in the private sector, albeit briefly, and one thing I know is that salaries are kept 100% private.  They are highly privileged information.  When something gets out about how much person X is paid versus person Y, intense anger/rage/jealousy/annoyance/dissatisfaction ensues.  Teacher salaries are public.  They have to be.  A “merit pay” system as devised by those who know only the business world would inevitably result in teachers being demoralized, angry, and outraged at one another.  That’s hardly going to result in improved teaching.  

If you have not had experience in the world of teaching, only in business, then you need to either spend significant time in a classroom before making your judgments and pronouncements, or you need to SHUT UP.