Things About Me as a Reader

This post was inspired by Kevin, who was inspired by Franki. (I found myself nodding, “me, too!” as I read Franki’s list.) I was inspired so much, that I actually began this post in the morning. With my coffee. When I should have been getting ready for work! (My friend, Tracy, did the same thing!) I decided not to put a number in my title, because I didn’t know how far I’d get.

  1. I don’t remember learning to read, I just remember reading. (I seem to always put this first whenever I do any sort of “Me as a Reader” activity.)
  2. I do remember Dick and Jane, Sally, Spot and Puff.
  3. I remember my mom telling me I taught my sister to read; I don’t know if that is true.
  4. I remember losing myself in books, and in my mind, I was usually the protagonist.
  5. I remember my mom taking us to the library. A lot. Wherever we lived. (We moved several times during my elementary years.)
  6. Round robin reading was painful for me. I had no patience for word-by-word readers and I would always read ahead. And then get in trouble for not knowing where to read when it was my turn.
  7. I was always in the highest reading group. Until 6th grade. And I remember being so disappointed,  trying so hard, and wanting so badly to get in the top group. I hated 6th grade.
  8. As an adolescent, I lived a few blocks from the Mt. Clemens Public Library, and would spend many hot summer days reading the day away in the cool AC of the children’s room.
  9. I went on reading binges. When I found an author or series I liked, I wanted to read ALL of the books.
  10. I loved Nancy Drew.
  11. I read the entire Little House series in 2 weeks. When I was 11.
  12. In high school, I often had a book inside of my textbook.
  13. When I went to college, there was so much I had to read, that reading was one of the last things I chose for recreation. 🙁
  14. But, I did read the entire Chronicles of Narnia the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college.
  15. When I became a teacher, my recreational reading was children’s books.
  16. My all-time favorite book is The Secret Garden.
  17. It wasn’t until I became a teacher and started studying the teaching of writing that I understood why I loved the book–the craft of the author, Frances Hodgson Burnett.
  18. I have wonderful memories of my mother reading aloud to us, and doing all the voices.
  19. Reading aloud to students was one of my favorite things to do as a teacher.
  20. When I became a media center teacher, I loved being surrounded by books.
  21. It took me a whole summer to automate my library, because I kept reading all the books!
  22. I loved sharing my childhood favorites with students, helping them find “the book” that might hook them.
  23. When I came across a poster of all the Newberry Medal winners, I set a goal to read them all. I didn’t. 🙁
  24. The Breadwinner is a book that troubled me greatly. I had a chance to talk to a woman who left Afghanistan, and asked her how accurate the story was. She said real life was much worse. At that moment I recognized the power of story, and how important it is for certain stories to be told.
  25. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is another book that moved, troubled, and angered me.
  26. The Harry Potter books brought back the thrill of “just one more chapter” and not being able to stop.
  27. I was in a book club, and loved having an excuse to read for fun.
  28. I need to find another book club. AFTER my dissertation is done and defended.


Changing the Rules, Changing the Game: What’s Happening to Michigan Teacher Retirement?

April 15, 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of my hire date in East Detroit Public Schools. In June 2010 I will have 26.1 years of service credit in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS), due to the year I spent as a substitute teacher prior to signing a contract in East Detroit.

When I decided to become a teacher, I knew I wasn’t going to make “the big bucks,” but thanks to the hard work of those who came before me in the labor movement, I knew I would be able to have a typical middle-class lifestyle and, once my working days were over, a pension with health care benefits.

In late 1986, public school employees had an option to become part of the Member Investment Plan (MIP), or remain in the Basic Plan.[1] Those who signed on for MIP have a percentage of their wages taken out for retirement (I believe it is around 3%). An important fact to note is that the percentage could be changed—which is the main reason some chose to remain in the Basic plan during the enrollment period. The fundamental differences in the plans are:

MIP members:

  • are eligible for full retirement at age 46 with 30 years of service
  • get a 3% cost of living increase in the annual pension
  • have their final average compensation (FAC) calculated using highest 3 consecutive years of earnings.

Basic members:

  • are eligible for full retirement at age 55 with 30 years of service
  • receive NO cost of living increase in the annual pension; if the plan’s investments exceed predictions over a period of years members may receive a distribution of the excess earnings (“13th check”).
  • have their final average compensation (FAC) calculated using highest 5 consecutive years of earnings.[2]

In February, the Office of the State Budget issued a proposal to reform the retirement system to include (among other proposals):

  • an increase in the pension factor from 1.5% to 1.6% for anyone eligible who retires between July 1 and September 1.
  • an increase in employee contributions up to 3% for all employees, effective July 1, 2010.
  • elimination of dental and vision coverage for retirees.
  • a service credit cap of 30 years, after which employees will be transferred into a separate defined contribution plan.

(Governor Granholm’s press release regarding the proposal.)

Since then, there has been wide speculation. I’ve heard everything from, “It’s not gonna happen.” to “The 1.6 won’t fly, but everything else will.” and variations on those themes. Most recently, both the Michigan House (HB 5953) and Senate (SB1227) have introduced bills. You can find detailed explanations in the AFT Michigan Capitol Report for March 2010.

Because I chose to keep my 3% and stay Basic, I chose:

  • working for 9 additional years (minimum age 55 vs 46)
  • potentially decreasing my FAC by having to average 60 vs 36 months’ earnings
  • no cost of living increase

It was my choice, and I’m totally OK with it. Here’s what I’m not OK with: if (when) “reform” passes, I will have to pay 3% of my wages into MPSERS, and still be Basic. Not only that, because I will not be 55 when I have 30 years of service, I must continue working without having those additional years accruing toward the calculation of my pension.

Hardly seems fair, changing the rules 23 years later. (I won’t go into the loss of the dental and vision.) It might even be a breech of contract. My choice was irrevocable—why can the state change?[3] Some are trying to spin the change as an “early retirement incentive” when in actuality it is a benefit reduction plan which reneges on promises made to current employees with regard to their retirement.

Michigan educators and public school employees, I urge you to contact your legislators and voice your opposition to these bills. Join the conversation here. Comment or write a blog post about your situation and link back. I’m also going to send a link to this post to my legislators as well as @govgranholm.

[When I cross-posted this on my other blog, this post by another Michigan educator, came up as related. She raises some excellent points–please read it!]

[April 28, 2009: Part II of this post, with updates.]

[1] All public school employees hired after January 1, 1990 are in MIP.

[2] Your Retirement Plan: A Member Handbook for Michigan’s Public School Employees (October, 2009)

[3] In 1991, a window of opportunity was provided for Basic members to “buy-in” to MIP; again, one-time only, irrevocable decision.