Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows that the New York Post isn’t a friend of this program, but can we talk about this interview for a second?
Melissa Mejia, a former student of Bryant High School in Queens, NY, wrote an impassioned essay on why she was allowed to pass a class she didn’t deserve to pass. She readily admits that she rarely showed up to her government class and didn’t turn in assignments she promised to. The teacher in question, Andrea McHale, was given a chance to respond to the student’s claims and did so in a way that belies the nature of the work we do in the classroom, and the ways our hands are tied on a case-by-case basis.
Ignoring the Post’s penchant for turning the ordinary into outrageous, this story reminds me just how many factors come into play when we teach students and, in this case, who deserves to be promoted.
As a middle school math teacher, I’ve probably promoted a few students earlier in my career who didn’t deserve it. Later in my career, I’ve probably marked a large set of my students with a failing grade for various reasons. [My standards is high!] Deserving is such an interesting word too. Educators see lots of kids who don’t “deserve” to graduate, but may have different criteria for what it means to deserve it. Did the students do all of the teacher’s assignments? Were they on time to class? Did they participate in class? Do they have behavioral issues in and out of class? How much weight do we place on teacher-made tests when the final test shows that they’re competent in the material we educators taught?
Sure enough, some of these elements are also affected by our own perceptions, too.
Is the student a boy, girl, or non-binary? Do they have special needs? Are they of color? Are they loud or quiet? Neatly kept or unkempt? Do these characteristics help or hinder their motivation to get our work in? Is it us as educators? Are we content with passing a student who isn’t thriving in our school and taking a chance on the next school working out better? Do we trust the student to mature enough to get it together by the next year? Do we trust too much?
Do any of these questions affect the enactment of the policies handed down to us as educators? Do the students in our care have paperwork which allows the student to get promoted regardless of what they get? Do we have students who did next to nothing yet a 55 was the lowest we could give them? Do we all buy into why that’s the base? Do we have an unspoken cap on how many students we can give a failing grade to placed on by our administrators?
Should we stop giving grades altogether?
I don’t have all the answers (obviously), but rather than exacerbate the meaning of this story altogether, we ought to forge a better path towards what it means to master, and to what end. Even if an educator saw irregularities, education’s whistleblower culture is, at best, vindictive. I’ve been miffed on plenty of occasions when a student who I know didn’t do work through the semester still got to pass, but the same criteria that let that student pass gave another student the breathing room to excel in the same class. Even before No Child Left Behind, we’ve had the issue of students passing who shouldn’t have.
Conversely, we’ve had the issue of students who deserved to get promoted, but didn’t because their test scores were too low or the teacher just didn’t like the student. We need to develop a better set of criteria for student promotion, and we need consensus on what learning looks like. More than just promotion in grades, we also need to promote better learning throughout our systems. Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied with the imperfections of our promotional criteria, and hope we can make good choices in our contexts.
So complicated, right?
In this economy, count yourself as one of the lucky ones if you have a job. But what if you’ve had this job for some time and you feel you’re overdue for a raise? How do you convince someone to give you more money when there are five other people lined up for your job who would do it for less in a heartbeat?
First, put yourself in your manager’s shoes. Would you give yourself a raise? Do you really deserve one, or just want one? Be brutally honest with yourself and about yourself. If you ran the company, would you give your money, your hard earned profits, to you?
If you can honestly say “yes,” then move forward with these seven steps:
1. Did you contribute to the company’s profit in a substantial way since your last raise or since you were hired? Do the research and come up with the hard numbers.
2. Be prepared with several examples of what you specifically did to make the company more successful–a project, a cost-saving measure, a new hire, etc.
3. Do the research to see what others are being paid for this work so that you can name the amount you want and back it up with facts.
4. Create a professionally formatted document with the profit numbers, the examples of what you did, and the amount you want.
5. Make an appointment in advance so you have dedicated time to discuss your raise with the decision maker. Note: Try to make the appointment when your manager is least busy. For many, that is after lunch.
6. Practice what you want to say and how you want to say it with a friend, family member, or in front of the mirror, including several scenarios of what your manager may say or ask at the meeting.
7. Come to the meeting dressed like you care, be aware of your body language, and present your request and the facts that back it up. Keep it brief and to the point. Give your manager the prepared document just before you leave.
In a perfect world, the manager says yes and you go off happy. In the real world, the manager will promise to get back with you after reviewing the facts and discussing the raise with others. Say thank you and leave with a good handshake.
Don’t sell yourself short thinking that middling economic growth precludes any sort of raise.
“Even during difficult financial times, we work to provide even small annual increases. We utilize an industry salary guide and factor in the cost of living for each city that we have employees,” said Gwen Griffin, president and CEO of Griffin Communications Group. “As a result, our team members know that they are being fairly compensated based on their experience and skill set. We hire the best and we don’t make them ask for what they deserve.”
Give the process a few days, then if you haven’t heard back, make another appointment to discuss the decision or the lack of a decision.
Hopefully, this will all go your way. In the unfortunate case that it does not, ask if your manager can tell you why and what you can do better to increase your chances in a few months. Then take that information and make it happen.
Above all, be professional, courteous, and appreciative through the entire process. That will be remembered for the next time.
Dayna Steele is the creator of Your Daily Success Tip and the author of 101 Ways to Rock Your World: Everyday Activities for Success Every Day. Follow her on Twitter @daynasteele.
[Tackle Image: Nicholas Moore via Shutterstock]