Friday, July 30, 2010

I'm Doing it For the Money

Two years ago around this time period, I received my first investment banking analyst bonus. The process went exactly the way authors have described it in books and directors have portrayed it in movies.

Your phone rings and from the caller ID you see it's the head of your group. The big daddy. The brass of the brass. A big swinging dick (to borrow a term from Liar's Poker). He wants you to swing by his office. He asks that you walk in on your knees so as to make things go quicker. Okay fine, maybe that last bit isn't true, but that's how most analysts felt walking into these types of situations.

You sit down in his gigantic corner office with spectacular views of Manhattan. He tells you the following -
[insert analyst name], you've been a tremendous asset to the group this year. As you know, in our business we reward those who we value. We consider you a top analyst here at [investment banking firm]. Take a look at this and tell me what you think. 
He gives you a piece of paper with a number written on it. This is so old school, I think to myself. Anyway, this number is supposed to make all the ridiculous hours you spent working the past year justifiable. It plays to your greed and makes you think, maybe I can do this another year. You take a quick peek, smile and immediately offer your thanks. You never tell him what you think, that's a big no-no. Just take it and go as Russell Peters would say.

As twenty-three year olds, most investment banking analysts walked out that day with an additional $60,000 pre-tax in their pocket. That means for the year, they probably made around $120,000 pre-tax. That's a shit ton of money for a twenty-three year old right out of college. In fact, analysts starting in 2007 probably could've made $150,000 all-in if they had just graduated a year earlier and started working in 2006 before the whole financial meltdown began in mid-2007. An analyst bonus of $60,000 reflected bad times. Bad times indeed.

I was inspired to write this post when I was trying to figure out how much money I'll be "minting" next year as a public high school teacher. Per the Department of Education's handy salary schedule, you can see exactly how much teachers make based on longevity and education. You can see that the number of years a teacher spends in the system (longevity) is represented by the rows (e.g. 3A/3B = 3rd year teacher). The columns reflect additional pay bumps for teachers who have obtained more credits and degrees.

Per this chart, the average twenty-something public school teacher in New York City probably makes anywhere between $45,000-$55,000 per year (depending on your experience, education, etc.). Teachers don't get annual bonuses or performance bonuses. Maybe some overtime, but that's about it. What's truly sad is this: if a teacher spent twenty-two years (last row) in the system with a masters, they would make $100,049 per year at a maximum. That's still not as much as investment banking analysts make as twenty-three year olds. Awesome.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hiatus

As you've no doubt noticed, I haven't written shit in a very long time. I apologize. I blame grad school and beautiful weather for this.

Until my classes finish (2 more weeks), I don't think I'll be writing much here since I'm already writing so much for school. There will be an occasional post here and there, so please do check in periodically. Look for things to pick back up in full swing mid-August.

Thanks for your messages on Gchat, Facebook, etc. asking for new entries and demanding that I write!

Friday, July 9, 2010

On My Visit to a School In Karachi

I've been thinking about how to write this post for a while because it was such an eye-opening experience. I need to put some things into context first:

I've been to Karachi almost every other year of my life. I'm in my mid-twenties now, so I've actually been there quite a lot for an American-born Pakistani. But then again, I don't really consider myself the typical American-Pakistani plagued with identity issues. I'm sure that makes me much less annoying (you're welcome).

In the past, I used to stay with my extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. (who ranged anywhere from lower-middle class to simply middle class). So prior to this trip, I had an incomplete idea about what the state of education was like in Pakistan. I mean, I knew there was a system in place, but I didn't know how useless it really was.

I remember my cousins spent a lot time with private tutors getting additional help. In fact, a lot of them would cut classes or school altogether and instead meet with their private tutors and/or study on their own. To this, I said, "What the fuck?" That alone should tell you something about the state of public education in Pakistan. Kids are actually cutting to learn more and better themselves to get ahead. Amazing.

On this visit, I stayed with my mother-in-law and through some family connections, was able to meet with a senior executive at The Citizen's Foundation (TCF), a private, not-for-profit institution. Their mission is to "promote mass scale, quality formal education for less privileged children" in Pakistan. TCF not only provides qualified teachers, but they also build their own schools, establish their own culture, provide ongoing training for their teachers every summer, and offer scholarships to students who cannot afford to go their schools.  It's like Teach for America, but on crack.

The senior executive at TCF arranged for me to visit a local TCF school in the Garden East area of Karachi. Although the school year was over, they were still running summer programs. As soon as we entered a classroom, every single kid gets up and in unison greets us. They had not been notified in advance we were coming - so they clearly did this often. What shocked me was that they all then sat down and waited for the teacher to continue teaching. In absolute silence. I couldn't get over how disciplined they were. And apparently, this is nothing new. I'm told most South Asian classrooms are like this (this includes non-TCF schools). Kids genuinely treat adults with respect. I have students attempting dry sex in the back of my class and these kids can't wait to get on with lessons? What the fuck am I doing in this country? 

I remember at one point, I fantasized about dragging a few of my students by their necks into this classroom and saying, "Look. Look! JUST LOOK AT THESE KIDS YOU SPOILED BASTARDS!" I'm sure they would respond appropriately:
"Mista, these kids be mad whack. They be studying all day and shit. Nerds. I'd beat their asses in a fight."
Brilliant.

After the visit, we went back to the senior executive's office at TCF headquarters. In summary, here's what I learned - Pakistan is facing is a "supply-side" problem. That is, they have students who desperately want to learn. They have the motivation, but the nation lacks schools, teachers, money and structure. A teacher is not even viewed as a respectable position in Pakistan. Plus, the salary is miserable: cab drivers can earn higher wages than school teachers per some Dawn newspaper article I was reading in his office. That's no surprise given Pakistan spends only about 2% of its GDP on education.

For the underprivileged, it is difficult getting children into schools when they are needed to support their families. Child labor laws aren't heavily enforced in Pakistan (this includes the H&M shirt you're wearing) and if you're a family of six struggling to make ends meet, you're going to need your children to work. That creates a separate problem because even if the child has access to a local school, his/her family can't afford to let him/her go. To combat this, some non-profits have begun to offer families meals in exchange for their children to come to school. Shehzad Roy's Zindagi Trust foundation is one such program and has seen some success.

This has all been a lot for me to process. As someone who is in the trenches of the U.S. education system, I now feel supremely privileged and disgusted with myself and everyone else. Here, we often toy around with the idea of paying students to come school as an extrinsic motivator. My school even has an internship program that we use to "sell" our students into coming to school. That still sometimes fails because our students just don't seem to want to come. They have access, they just would rather not. Meanwhile in Pakistan, schools catering to the underprivileged are offering families food because then they can afford to send their children to school. I feel bad just writing this.

I'm extremely thankful for my teaching experiences here, but lately, I've been wondering. Where am I needed more?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Job



I'm back in the country and I have a lot on my mind. Unfortunately, time has not been on my side lately as I started two new grad classes the day after I came back.

There will be some more posts to come in the next few days in which I intend to discuss certain aspects of my trip to Pakistan. For now, enjoy this video which we saw on our first day in my "Teaching Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Adolescents" class. I thought it was pretty funny.