Friday, October 31, 2008

NYC Teacher Pensions -- the straight poop

If you've been thinking about becoming a teacher in the NYC public school system -- whether via the NYC Teaching Fellows, Teach for America, or otherwise -- you've given some thought to the NYC teachers' pension system. And if you haven't, you should. I'll try to lay out, as clearly as possible, how pensions work for new NYC public school teachers.

PLEASE NOTE: Do not leave any comments that are political complaints about the teachers' contract, or the UFT, or Mayor Bloomberg. This is not a post about how things should be. It is about how they are.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk PENSIONS.

Assuming you teach in the NYC schools, teach for at least 5 years, and then retire, you will get a pension -- a monthly check. This is above and beyond Social Security (if it's still around) or any other retirement savings you might have. The size of your monthly teacher pension is, roughly speaking, based on 4 things:

  1. What pension tier you're in
  2. How many years you put in
  3. Your age at retirement
  4. Your FAS (final average salary)
Let's explain these one at a time.

1 - Your Tier
Your "tier" is based on when you were hired. This is an artifact of the complex way in which pensions are usually administered. I won't go into the details, but just know that the NYC teacher pension system currently has FOUR tiers: I, II, III, and IV. Different tiers calculate their pensions differently. If you are a new teacher (actually, anyone hired after Sept. 1, 1983) , you will be in tier IV. You should know this. It affects many of your benefits.

2 - How many years you put in
This is easy. How many years have you been teaching? OK, it can be a little more complicated. If you take time off, or if you have prior service teaching, or if you've served in a war, etc. But really, this is just how many years of service you have teaching. Your pension payments get calculated differently depending on whether you've put in less than 20 years, between 20 and 30 years, or more than 30 years.

3 - Your age at retirement.
As a Tier IV person, you can only receive a pension if you are 55 or older and have taught for at least 5 years. If you retire before age 62 AND have put in less than 30 years, you get pegged with a slight penalty. For example, if you retire at age 55 and have less than 30 years in, your monthly pension checks would be 73% of what it normally would calculate out to.

4 - Your FAS (Final Average Salary)
This is the average of the highest 3 consecutive years' salaries. While this can get complex, usually this ends up basically being your last 3 years of work.

So, now that we have these 4 factors, we can calculate your pension:

Because you're a new teacher, you're Tier IV -- this simply dictates how to calculate your pension.

Step 1: from years in calculate "pension factor"
  • less than 20 years: multiply # of years by 1-2/3%
  • 20 to 30 years: multiple # of years by 2%
  • more than 30 years: 60% + 1-1/2% for every year over 30
Step 2: If retire before age 62 and put in less than 30 years
  • Age 55: multiply pension factor by 73%
  • Age 56: by 76%
  • Age 57: by 79%
  • Age 58: by 82%
  • Age 59: by 85%
  • Age 60: by 88%
  • Age 61: by 94%
  • Age 62 or above: no pentaly
Step 3: Multiply Final Average Salary by pension factor
... and there you have it. You're monthly payment.

Anyway, just thought people should know what the heck was going on with teacher pensions. And, there is a nifty calculator for figuring out what your annual pension in retirement would be here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Had my Teach for America interview today....

... but no review.

For a number of reasons, I'm going to skip giving a detailed review of the full-day TFA interview -- at least for now.

I will say that it was very well organized, there weren't too many mouth-breathers there (either interviewees or interviewers), and, overall, by the late-afternoon, I was more impressed with TFA than I was at 9am. (Hopefully the interviewers think the same of me).

I continue to get mixed answers about whether or not I'm "required" to stay/sleep at the Summer Institute (bootcamp). I've gotten a shaky YES, a fairly confidant NO, a very confidant YES, and another shaky YES. So, while the official word on whether I have to start stocking up on Ramon noodles and buy that John Belushi poster where he's wearing that shirt that says "college" on it is still out, I'm still of the mind that they can't F-ing keep me from going home at night.


OK, anyway. That's all for now. Good luck to everyone else who's interviewing in this first round.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Follow up ... Teach for America bootcamp -- living in the dorms

Just a follow up to the whole issue of having to live in the dorms.
I've gotten some info back from someone from Teach for America, and it seems like special cases can be made for people who live nearby or have certain family situations, etc.

And frankly, I can't imagine how they would enforce such a rule. Even if I "had to" live in the dorms, what's to stop me from simply leaving at night and coming back in the morning? It'd be pretty silly of them to even try and quarantine a person like that (especially a clever bastard like myself).

So, I'm a little less concerned about this now and I can go back to being concerned about the interview on Tuesday and my lesson plan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Teach for America bootcamp -- living in the dorms??

An interesting piece of information was passed along to me today concerning the Teach for American "summer institute" -- under muttered breath, often spoken of simply as bootcamp.

While I was aware that such a bootcamp existed, I was informed today that this bootcamp takes place on some college campus where all new TFA members must LIVE for 5-6 weeks. Live. In dorm rooms.

While I can see where such room and board accomidations would be a godsend for a youngin' just out of school, I think it would be a non-starter for me. I'm currently looking into the situation to see if, in fact, I would have to live away from home (and hence away from The Wife and my home, etc) or whether I could simply go there in the morning and leave at the end of the day.

I completely understand the need for a few weeks of an extremely intensive workload, going from early in the AM until late at night. But to require that I live with the others is, well, a little cultish and creepy.

More info on this when I get it.

Oh -- and my interview is on Tuesday. I have my lesson plan mostly laid out, and I'm rearing to go.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blazer ... CHECK!

I bought my big-boy blazer yesterday for my Teach for America interview next Tuesday. Other than the suit I got married in (which is quite nice, but not necessarily appropriate for an interivew) I really didn't have anything else to wear that wasn't casual.

But no longer! I now have my dark-brown Blazer. I'm ready to rock-n-roll.

Oh, and I think I had a super-sweet light-bulb moment over the weekend while working on my sample lesson plan. And man, 5 minutes FLIES. I think most people are going to try to shove too much material and content into their lesson.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some Numbers for the NYC Teaching Fellows program

A fellow NYCTF compatriot of mine (we shall call her K) attended the information session downtown last night. She reported back with a few interesting tidbits:

  • they will be accepting only 1000 Fellows in June, down from around 1750 last year
  • around 19,000 people will apply this year
  • about 50% of applicants get to the interview (compared to 65% in previous years)
  • (and doing the math) about 10% of interviewees are accepted
  • 75% of the 200 or so June '08 Fellows jobless at the beginning of the school year have since found permanent positions

Frankly the drop down to only 1000 Fellow slots for June '09 freaks me out a little bit. I'm kind of glad I have Teach for America coming along at the same time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Teach for America -- the final interview. WOOT! WOOT!


I got an invite to the final, in-person interview for the Teach for America program today. I've already signed up for the interview on Tue-Oct-28 at the TFA National HQ in NYC. The sucker's all day. 9am-6pm. Oooooofah!

I also had to put in my preferences for subject area and region. Of course, I put down that I could only do TFA in New York. From what I've gathered already, the fact that I'm married, The Wife's job is not movable at all, and I'm a new homeowner -- should make it pretty easy for me to get NYC.

The TFA application process is starting to get a little too baroque for my tastes. I also had to enter in every single detail for every single class I've ever taken (class name, number, department, credits, grade) ... for my entire transcript. They're going to get official copies of my transcripts eventually. Strikes me as horribly inefficient.

So, I have 22 days to get my 5-minute lesson plan done and to figure out what I'm going to wear. I feel I need a blazer of some sort. In my mind, that's what teachers wear.

Yankee Stadium, children, and the woods

This blog is about teaching, and specifically it's abut me attempting to teach. I've come across plently of "education" blogs that end up being primarily NOT about teaching or education, but about politics or current events or race relations or other such issues of the day.

This blog -- is about teaching. Period.

However, from time to time, I will post something that is only tangentially related to teaching or ... maybe once in a while, not at all apropos to the subject in the least bit. This is one of those posts.

1) Yankee Stadium
On Friday, the wife and I (and sister-in-law) took a tour of Yankee Stadium. I've been a rabid, silly fan of the Yanks since the age of 8. I've been going to Yankee games longer than some of the kids I'll be teaching will have been alive. Almost twice as long, depending on which grade I end up in. I would guess I've been to over 300 games there -- but I'd never been on a tour of the stadium. It was excellent. We got to walk out onto the field, along the warning track, sit in the dugout. THE DUGOUT! Where Jeter sits! Where Mantle sat! The wife stole a bunch of dirt from the warning track and shoved it in a baggie in her pocket. The stadium will be missed.

2) children
We also went up to the Adirondacks this weekend for a big family hoo-haa (the wife's family, not mine). There are tons of little'ins on her side. Lots of 'em. Tons. Scurrying around like rabid little honking squirrels. There's something about the unconditional love and trust you get from kids. It's makes the world seem not so awful.

3) the woods
I'll skip all the Thoureau quotes and just say that spending a weekend up in the middle of nothing, on the shore of a deserted lake, with a ton of awesome, loving family, puts all of your real-life decisions in perspective.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

NYCTF articles we have to read...

Some more on the NYCTF interview process.

We were given two articles to read.

The first article (available here) was a hit piece on the NYCTF program and on teaching in NYC in general. Don't bother reading it. I'll sum it up for you: TEACHING IS AWFUL! DON'T DO IT! YOU'LL END UP CURLED UP IN A FETAL BALL, CRYING, CURSING MANKIND....

... that was the basic gist of the article.

I'm not going to say that I think teaching will be easy. I'm positive it will be absolutely strenuous and it will take years ... YEARS ... to really figure out what the hell I'm doing. That said, I think the subject of this article was, oh .. I dunno .. perhaps a little too emotionally unsound to be going into teaching, and maybe a little nutter-butters? Some people just aren't meant to teach -- she strikes me as one of those people.

But I shouldn't let hubrous get the best of me. This is all like someone without kids saying, "What's the big deal? Raising kids is easy!" I could very well end up curled up in a fetal ball, crying, cursing mankind. And when I do, I will absolutely link back to THIS post as proof of what a moron I am.

The second article (available here) is the exact opposite. It's all about how teaching is inspirational and wonderful and, though full of setbacks and various ebbs-n-flows, is just like in the movies, and you're Michelle Puh-Feiffer.

Neither of these articles is overly illuminating. I wonder why people think that, in trying to hash out an issue, putting up to extreme examples of thoughts on that issue is a good idea. Teaching is likely neither of these two things, but somewhere in the middle.

I'm guessing, based on these articles, there's going to be some group discussions at the interview where we have to talk about the hardships of teaching and how we think we'll deal with them, etc. I'm feeling pretty good about having to have a discussion about that, especially with the chance that I may be having it with a bunch of young'ins who've never been out from under Daddy's waistcoat, haven't worked full-time while going to school at night, haven't budgeted their expenses, paid rent/mortgages, planned a wedding, and on and on and on.

Ewww .. that came off as a little snarky. But really, i think that to a 23-24-25 year old, teaching will seem brutle and unbearingly strenuous.

That's all for now -- next big date is just around the corner. I find out on Monday if I advanced to the in-person interview stage for Teach for America.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

NYC Teaching Fellows, advanced to interview, WOOT WOOT!

I got an email today at 3:30p from NYCTF telling me to go look in the applicant portal. Ohh! Ohh! Ohh! As I was logging into the portral -- my fingers kind of jittery over the keyboard -- I was a bit more nervous than I've been in quite some time.

Happy Happy Happy! Joy Joy Joy!

My status had been changed to "Advanced to interview stage" -- Yippy!

Very excited.

A bunch of new materials to read through in the portal. I'll come back with a bit more information once I've digested everything. A few points off the bat:

First, they say the interviews will take place in december ... DECEMBER!!! ... So the interview won't be for like 2 or 2-1/2 months. Ugh. A wise man once said*, "The waiting is the hardest part."

Second, I had to choose my subject area preferences. It said I was qualified to teach 4 different things: English, Secondary Special Ed (grades 5-9), Elementary Special Ed (grades 1-4), Elementary Education. For each, I had to put 'Most Preferred', 'Preferred', or 'Not Preferred'. I didn't want to put 'Not Preferred' for any of them, because, at the end of the day, I really just want to teach. I put English as Most Preferred and everything else as Preferred. There was also a spot for me to leave a comment. I wrote that, among the 3 less prefered topics, I would like Secondary Special Ed over the others.

Anyway, lots more to talk about once I go over it: articles to read, interview prep materials to go over.

More later.

* OK, it wasn't a wise man, it was Tom Petty.

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