Depression 2.0: Let’s Cut Teacher Salaries, Please!

This post will start at one place and end at another. I hope you read on to see where it goes.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Today I got a memo from the corporate offices of my son’s school. The management had decided to cut salaries across the board, including the teachers’. Of course, I was angered by this course of action (I even Tweeted it in hopes of contacting a journalist). Teachers, along with parents, are on the front line of ensuring the healthy development of our country’s future. The dark expectations of our economy’s future has hit me personally. It hurts: not for me, but for everybody else.

In my concern, I contacted one of the members of the senior management team. I expressed my appreciation for the corporation’s perspective. Honestly, I understand where they’re coming from. Her response was, surprisingly well-articulated, her voice almost on the verge of teary breakup.

Long story short: we came to an understanding. Enrollment is down across the country and the corporation has little elbow room. Cutting costs and hunkering down through he financial s**tstorm is the standard (and understandable) strategy for preparing for the cycle of doom and gloom.

Still, I think we need a major re-think of how we do business in America. Over the course of the 20th Century a certain model for how we conduct business evolved. Most of that evolutionary process was necessary: academia merged with science which merged with business which merged with mass communication. A whole complex evolved and by the end of the century we pretty much figured a lot of it out.

The basic philosophy of our economy, from the kitchen to the boardroom was this: spend money during a boom and save it during a bust.

That’s wrong. It’s intuitive, but wrong.

What if we did it the other way around? Save (invest) money during a boom and spend it during a bust? Wouldn’t we all be wealthier?

We have lost our discipline. We have followed the wrong gods: consumerism, instant gratification, government. We are going to miss our star, unless we get it right.

For too long, we have aided and abetted a system governed by buy-now-pay-latter. This mentality has infiltrated every single one of our instituions.

And now, my child (even if only in a small way) will be affected by the cost of this childish mentality which my country has accepted as standard business.

So, since I can’t control most of the economy or other peoples’ expectations about our future economy (a nominal value is pure perspective), here’s my response to the paycuts which my son’s teachers will be burdened with (it’s more results-oriented than journalism):

  • Go even further in expressing authentic appreciation for what the teachers do
  • Hold management on the line to do the little things that go a long way for teachers
  • Talk to the teachers personally to express my sadness at what’s happened
  • Pay even closer attention to how my son is doing in school
  • Infect my fellow Americans with (realistic) optimism every chance I get

My anger wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am this evening. In spite of what’s happening, I realize that this is a time for keeping a creative perspective on how we see things. The point here, is that regardless of how hard times might be (or appear to be), there are always ways to change your perspective and create new pathways.

I wish our expectations of the economy were brighter. I wish our economic realites were brighter.

My parents came to this country fifty-seven years ago after spending six years in a Displaced Person’s camp after surviving six years of psychopathic war and oppression and persecution. They were born into, and lived through, Depression 1.0. They loved this country before they even stepped onto its soil.

When my father died over a decade ago, he died believing in America’s status as the last refuge for wrecked hopes. He also believed that Americans would one day find themselves facing the accumulation of their mistakes. He believed that somehow American ingenuity would save the day, but he also understood that nothing lasts forever.

Now that I am father to my parents’ gransdson, I realize just why my parents fell in love with our country, why they came here: America was a model, a hope, a Great Teacher. Sadly: now the Teacher is being taught a painful lesson.

Let’s never again get to the point where cutting teachers’ salaries is a tactic to survive a downturn. Never again.

If you’re reading this post and got this far: please go do something remarkable for the unsung heroes of our dying country. Thank the teachers that you know: the ones who have degrees and work in schools. Also thank the other great teachers in your life: adversities. They’re great teachers too.

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An Open Letter to (Some) Nursing Education Faculty

Dear Nursing Faculty Around The World:

First, I’d like to thank you for devoting your time to advancing the nursing profession and passing along your knowledge to the next generation of nurses. You probably don’t get much public recognition for the work you do. I wish you did. Maybe that will change (read on).

In scanning around web, I’ve noticed lately that many nursing students are frustrated, disappointed and angry with the way they are treated in nursing school. If you honestly care about the future of the nursing profession, then you aught to determine if there’s anything you need to change about your approach.

I attended an accelerated program and my peers already had bachelors degrees. I am grateful for what the teachers did for my education. I detested most of the ridiculous and outdated approaches some of the faculty embraced, but I got what I wanted out of the whole experience. I am grateful for what the faculty did for me.

But I also had the chance back then to observe some of the behaviors of the nursing instructors. Frankly, I was disappointed in what I witnessed. The way some clinical instructors behaved toward their students was inappropriate, abusive and counterproductive. Nursing schools are going to have to put an end to these behaviors.

Having spent a few years in bedside nursing, I realized that the health care profession seems to have a higher proportion of unhealthy and harmful personalities. Most of the profession is composed of remarkable people. The bad apples, though, are spoiling the entire industry.

I suspect that the intra-professional abuse that happens stems from the need to take patient care seriously. It should be serious business: life is at stake. Using that premise as a pretext for displacing anger has no place in the health care setting. It’s dangerous: life is at stake. Berating your students or peers does nothing to help patients.

So to those of you who might be abusing your students: stop it. For those of who run nursing education facilities: do your part to stop the emotional violence. We’re losing the war in nursing and physician recruitment. In an age when one person can reach millions within minutes, you no longer can turn a blind eye to the problem.

Please think about the impact your behavior has on nursing students. If you were mistreated by crotchety nurses during your education, please don’t replicate that misfortune on people who don’t deserve it. If you do that then you are ruining the most important profession in the world.

Here are some practical tips for being a better nursing instructor:

  1. Understand that making mistakes is essential in learning well
  2. Appreciate your students’ inexperience
  3. Accept the diversity of your audience
  4. Never humiliate your students
  5. Lead your students as if they were the last hope for the profession
  6. Find a good therapist
  7. Don’t take it all so seriously
  8. Know the difference between constructive feedback and destructive emotionalism
  9. Learn to turn the most difficult students into remarkable opportunities for education innovation
  10. Elicit the help of your peers and school leadership during difficult times

We don’t have much time left to rescue the health care industry from the its eventual demise. Word is now getting out about how nurses and nursing students are treated. Bad news travels so much faster than good news.

If you don’t ensure that nursing school is a safe, effective and remarkable environment to cultivate, socialize and encourage the best and brightest minds to enter the nursing profession, history will hate you.

It’s no longer the 20th Century. Mass communication is giving way to mass connection. Nurses, and nursing students, are growing networks, establishing on-line presences and constructing novel ways to distribute ideas around the world. It’s becoming harder to conceal long-silenced wrong-doing in institutions.

Think about what I’m telling you. I love our profession, but I’m disappointed in how some people in this industry can treat each other. Nursing school is a large part of the problems we now face. You are at the center of something that could be remarkable. Please don’t rip out your place in history.

It’s your choice: continue an archaic cycle of abuse or create a remarkable future for the health care of every child, woman and man on the planet.

Sincerely,

Phil Baumann, RN BSN (whatever that means)

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