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Yesterday was the end of 1st semester.  Before I collapsed around 10:30 last night I had all my grades in (except for four students out the last two days whose grades I will update on Tuesday).  We are now on a four-day weekend - teachers are on unpaid furlough for Monday.  And now, maybe now, I have some time to look back and reflect.

I said I collapsed. I went to bed, and did not finally get up until 8:30 this morning.  I am exhausted, and with one brief 10 minute break to get up and feed the cats at 5:20 so they would let me go back to sleep, I was out.  I am still tired, even with a cup of coffee and some bagels behind me.  

That level of exhaustion, and its causes, are li9ke a flashing red light - I now realize that I must seriously consider whether this should be my last year in the classroom.  That is part of this morning's reflection as well.

I invite you to continue reading as I sort through thoughts and feelings from half a year in the classroom.

I have had to make major adjustments to how I am teaching to meet the needs of my students.  Some of that takes time and energy.  The time I can clear, but as I approach 65 in 4 months and day I no longer have the extra reserves of energy.   In order to sustain a proper level of commitment to my students I have to do less and less outside the classroom.  I no longer coach, for example, either sports or musical theater.  This past cycle my political activity was significantly less than it had been the previous two.  And still I run out of energy.

The changes have had some positive effect, as I could see as I examine grades.  I have one class where first quarter 12 kids failed and an additional 5 had had Ds.  Since I guarantee a C if they will simply do all their work on time, pay attention, and then ask for help if they don't understand, you can readily realize how many were not doing their work.  This quarter only 4 are failing (one of whom, up for expulsion, is being withdrawn). One additional student is getting a D.  I have been able to reach that class.  

There is a similar pattern in my other lower-level class.  There are 3 failing, one of whom was taken out of the country for two weeks to his parents home country for his birthday - it was an unexcused absence, and the work he missed caused him to fail. That class has 4 Ds, but all of those are kids who struggle, and passing is actually an achievement for them.  Now that I have them believing in themselves, I hope to see further improvement.

My intermediate level class showed improvement overall, although some students have slipped since we returned from winter break.   They all passed, and the only D is a student with real organizational problems. Still for the very first time he got a B on an exam this past week.

The three classes of Advanced Placement Students present a somewhat different picture.   Out of 112 students, one actually failed this past quarter.  Sadly, she is one of my few seniors, and this may well affect her college admissions.  She never came for extra help -  she cannot come after school, since she is only in school half a day, and has an internship in the afternoon.  She did not do all of her work, and even when given a chance to improve test scores, did not make an effort.

I have changed how I do tests for both sets of classes.   My non-AP kids do not get multiple choice questions from me, although to prepare them for the state exam I will begin using released questions for warmups, homeworks, and practice.  Instead they get the questions ahead of time, but on the exam I ask them in a different order.  This serves to reinforce the connection between definitions and terms, and they are starting to retain material much better, and thus are able to understand more completely.

In Advanced Placement I no longer curve the multiple choice portions of exams.  Instead, they have an opportunity to look up the questions they missed and resubmit for 1/2 credit provided they can give me a proper explanation of why they wrong and why this answer is correct.  It focuses them on learning and self-correcting.  As a result their understanding is improving.  This, however, puts more of a burden on me.  Consider -  I have 112 AP students.  If they take a multiple choice exam with 50 questions, I can score all those by scantron in the space of perhaps 15 minutes.   Now presume that on average they miss 10 questions.  That's 1120 corrections I have to check that are (a) now correct and (b) properly explained.   Still, seeing the improvement in learning, the lessening of tensions when they take an exam, it is worth it instructionally, even if it is exhausting.

Academically I can have a certain amount of satisfaction.  But teaching adolescents, academics are not all I must address.  I have to deal with behavioral issues, with self-confidence, and unfortunately with issues like bullying and harassment.  That is less of an issue within my classroom - by now most of my students understand that when I look at them a certain way they need to cut out what they are doing.  And if I get very quiet someone is in big trouble.   Still, even though they by now know me and know the limits of what I will tolerate, some totally lack self-control and that creates problems.  I have a few who think they get to pick and choose when they pay attention to rules and procedures.  In one class, the really problematic one that had 12 failures first quarter, I finally had to point out the realities of the world to them this week.  It was Thursday, the day our AFJROTC students are in uniform.  I wound up explaining 4 things to them

  1.  If a policeman gave them an instruction to move on and they refused and argued back, they might find themselves handcuffed for interfering.
  1.  If they were in the military and argued back with a superior they would find themselves on the way to the stockade/brig.
  1.  If they were working and spoke and acted that way to a superior, they might well find themselves unemployed.
  1.  If they mouthed off in the real world it might be the last thing they ever said -  that actually got the attention of a couple of kids.  We are not a gang-infested school, but kids are aware of gangs in their communities and nearby communities. Some have seen or experienced significant violence.  And one young man sitting in that class was suspended for 5 days last month because another kid bumped him in the hall and he lost it and beat the other kid bloody.

I know the kids I teach.  By now I know those with family problems, like a young lady who has been sexually abused, or the kids with parents going through messy divorces.  We have lived through the 2 of a set of triplets (the third goes to another school) whose father was dying of lung cancer in his early 40s -  he finally passed about 2 weeks ago.  Because I made the effort to contact all the parents at the start of the year - exhausting and time consuming with more than 190 students - I have a further connection in most cases with the adults responsible for them, and that gives me some ability to reach out to the kids.  By now, most of the kids know that I care for them, which is why I am somewhat insistent on certain things.

I have 192 on my roles right now.  There are more than 2700 kids in the school.   Some I have taught or coached in previous years, or I have taught or coached an older sibling, a friend, a neighbor.  But most know me perhaps by reputation or because I encounter them in the hallway.  The behavior problems I see of kids arriving in my classes are a microcosm of the school as a whole.  We have far too many students who lack appropriate self-control and discipline.  And unfortunately not only is that problem getting worse, it is the near unanimous opinion of our faculty that we are on the point of being a dangerous environment - for students and for adults.  When kids are supposed to be out of the building by 3:30 unless in an activity supervised by an adult, yet a 4:45 a teacher encounters two students in a hallway with a large grill working frying up a whole batch of bacon, perhaps you can get a sense of our concern!

It is not that the kids are necessarily bad.  Some are, but there are not that many.  Some act out because it is the only way they know how to get attention from adults.  Some have never had their behavior properly corrected, and don't know any better.  Some have learned that the adults responsible for them will not hold them to account for anything.  Some desperately want a sense of belonging and they think their inappropriate behavior, their violations of school policy on dress, cellphones, MP3 players and the like make them cool.  Some come to school only to hang with their buddies.  

These are a minority.  They are a relatively small minority.  But they are a significant enough minority that they tilt the culture of the school to something that is not healthy.

Some we can turn around.  If they are in ROTC their instructors have some leverage over them.  If they play a sport, the coaches have and will use leverage over them.  But take some who are athletes -  they fail to maintain academic eligibility, so they are not on a team and at that point their coaches lose that leverage.

There are problems with some of our AP kids as well.  We used to give letter grades.  Thus I could get some of these kids to stop obsessing - if they already had a 94% in my class, it was going to kill them if it droppe to a 92%.  For some reason our school system decided to go to pure numeric grades.   Consider this, a simplified version since our kids take 7 or sometimes 8 classes at a time.

Old system
First kid  -  94, 91, 90, 90 = A, A, A, A =  4.0
Second kid -  98, 89, 89, 89 = A, B, B, B = 3.25

New system
First kid = 91.25
Second kid = 91.25

Now some might argue those new GPAs are a fairer indicator

But now here comes the problem.   There is a difference between  94 and a 92, and kids now obsess about those differences - in fact, we are seeing some indication of a greater likelihood to cheat even among kids who have As because the one or two points difference now matters significantly.

So far I have reflected mainly upon my role as a teacher - in my classroom, and in my building with responsibilities for student safety.

By my own choice, my role is larger, as lead union rep.  This is a time when teachers feel under attack, when our salaries have been cut - remember that forthcoming furlough day?  It will be the third of 4, and we have had stipends for advanced training and national board certification eliminated.  As school systems obsess more about student performance (an obsession that actually interferes with learning and thus with performance over the long term) teachers are increasingly feeling micromanaged, being buried with paperwork requirements that do little to help student learning or behavior.  All of that comes to me, in representing the teachers to the county-wide union, in chairing the Faculty Advisory Council that tries to address in-building issues with the principal and other administrators.  I am known to be able to communicate with top level administrators in the system and with several of the school board members.

Then of course these issues are not unique to our building or our school system.  For better or worse, I now have a voice to which some listen, when I write, or when I talk out of view, by phone or email, with policy makers.  I am asked to help organize groups of teachers across the country, to give voice to their concerns.  I am approached by book authors and people putting out policy briefs and studies to make those visible to policy makers and the general public, to try to help people understand that there are real crises in education, and much of what our current thrust in policy does not only misses the point but makes things worse, in some cases far worse.

I have had to pull back from some of what I was doing.  I was becoming so exhausted I was making errors of judgment in my teaching.  I do not take a safe path in teaching - I am willing to push the limits in order to reach the kids.  That requires me to be very alert, to pay close attention to what is happening with all my students.  I missed some things, and that was very unfair to some of the students.   I have to accept that I cannot do all I might want.

And for my sanity, I feel I must keep some contact and involvement with issues other than education.  I teach government, and I need to model for my students what it means to be involved with and concerned about issues in the larger society in which we live.  I need to read about human rights, about economics, and I often increase my own understanding by writing my reactions, hence some of my non-educational postings here.

But I am exhausted.  I am frustrated.  Yes, I see some improvements among my students this 2nd quarter.  But at what cost?  Can I sustain that for another half year?  And then for another year beyond that?  I simply don't know.

I am increasingly finding doing meaningful and effective teaching is becoming harder and harder.  Much of that is for things outside of our school, although I can and will work on what we can do within our building to prevent teachers from being crushed by those outside forces.  I feel as if I am bailing a boat in heavy seas using only a coffee cup -  I am getting overwhelmed, and the task seems hopeless.

What is even more scary is to listen to students, in some cases very bright students who do work hard, who begin to question whether working hard and learning is going to make any difference.  They see the economic pressures of their parents.  They worry about government shutdowns.  They feel the pressures they are under, and wonder to what end.  I am supposed to help them with those concerns, and yet how do I do that while still being honest with them?  I struggle with that constantly.

I do not make major decisions when I am exhausted.  I do reflect, then step away, then come back to see how much of that reflection still holds when I am more rested, more able to think clearly.

And so I will do with this torrent of words.

Before I come to any decisions, I will still continue to try to make a difference.  Thus my next posting on education will be about an event this summer being organized by teachers and parents and others to try to make a difference on our educational policy.  I have stepped somewhat away from the heavy leadership responsibilities I was carrying, but I am still very involved in trying to help make it a success.  I will post about that either tomorrow or Monday.  

Yet even as I make no decisions right now, I realize that I must seriously consider the possibility I will not be in the same school next year, that in fact I might not even be in a classroom.  That prospect saddens me.  It frightens me as well.  But I have to acknowledge that the possibility seems with each passing month this year one I must consider more seriously, even as I have not yet thought of alternatives.  

In the background I hear a Dvorak String Quartet, I stop, and listen attentively for a few moments.  As I stopped typing two of the cats decided now was a time to cuddle me.  I am almost 65.  How much longer do I have to listen to music, truly listen?  How much longer will my life be blessed by the love of our felines?  How much of these things, important to who and what I am, have I been missing?  How much do I need them?

That, too, is part of my reflection.

Reflection is probably too generous an expression for this mess of words and feelings.  

Having typed them, and now being about to post them, some of the inner turmoil is lessened.   I can enjoy the music, which continues, and the warmth of the cats. I do not feel obligated to "do" anything.

Half a year . . .   with another half to go.

Still here -  in school, on the blogs.

But in the future?   I do not know about either. . . .

Thanks for reading.

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:58 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I sat, I thought, I wrote (40+ / 0-)

    and I have, before posting, reread.  There are things I could write differently, but this is an honest portrayal of what I am feeling.

    Do with it what you will.

    Peace.

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:58:02 AM PST

    •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

      for posting this diary. I relate. Although I am only 42, I suffered kidney failure last year.  I am still teaching first grade. I require dialysis 5 days per week.  I'm in a great, neighborhood school, but my body is fighting me.  Some days I simply do not Feel I have been the best teacher possible.

      To compound matters the other 2 first grade teachers just left on maternity leave. I am the default grade chair.  Good gosh.  If I thought that my partner (who is veteran teacher) could survive on paltry disability I would apply. Yet there is the real world.

      Having read your wonderful review of The Death and Life of the Great American School, I purchased the book. I am working with other faculty members to develop a more well-roUnded curriculum (at least one that can fly under the radar as enrichment). Otherwise I do not know how much more "Singapore math" I can endure along with the insistence that What has failed in other states is the silver bullet For Florida.  

      Thanks for a chance to vent. I'm a huge fan...keep writing
      Jay

  •  Cats & Music Are Good (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this diary.

    In the background I hear a Dvorak String Quartet, I stop, and listen attentively for a few moments.  As I stopped typing two of the cats decided now was a time to cuddle me

  •  Your point about the grading is a good one. (5+ / 0-)

    When I was in high school (sometime back in the Middle Bronze Age), we had 5 grades--A, B, C, D, F. It was tough for the kids who had 88s and 89s, especially in the honors track since there was no extra credit for honors. My kids had numeric grades (with an additional 5 points for honors and 8 points for AP classes). I honestly find it hard to see the difference between a 92 and a 93. I work in higher ed, where we have letter grades with pluses and minuses. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

    •  got an email yesterday evening (8+ / 0-)

      from a parent of an AP student.  Her average is 89.4632.  He was asking me to raise it to a 90 because she had worked so hard.  I told him in the days when all we had was  A-B-C on the report card I might have been inclined, but since it is a direct numeric average, the only difference between 89 and 90 is that she does not have all As the quarter.  Besides, for calculating a GPA as an AP course it is a weighted grade.

      I also pointed out that had she not missed one homework assignment, for which she got a zero, we would not be having the conversation.  But that is the kind of thing happening with the new grading system.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:23:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Teacherken, you are such an extraordinary person. (8+ / 0-)

    I'll tell you what I told DH when he was struggling with the decision whether to retire (at 62) or not. Just because you take retirement does not mean you can't keep working. You just have more freedom to target your energies and talents in the direction that can do the most good.

    You clearly have a wealth of talent, skill, and love that you bring to bear in your life on a daily basis. Your diary is not a hodgepodge of thoughts; it is an incredibly moving reflection by a clearly dedicated, caring, SUPER human being. I was moved by your diary to do more than I'm doing now, or at least better than I'm doing now, in my own retirement, to help this world.

    Thank you.

    •  thanks 4 kind words (6+ / 0-)

      one of the people in our school told me she is still working full time but also drawing SS because she turned 66 last year.  I would have one more year before that would kick in .  I would then have SS and school pension - together those would total around 4,000/mo.   I could work less hours and/or for a much lower salary and still be able to pay my bills.

      As I noted in diary, I don't make decisions when I am exhausted -  or when I am either depressed or in a state of high excitement.

      We'll see.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:27:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You always present an alloy of hope and reality, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, AnnieR

    the temper is always experience.  This has been a sobering read today, there are many out here wishing you peace, stamina, and many open doors to people who can make a difference.

  •  Thank you. I'd like to say (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, emal, Stwriley, AnnieR

    something about this

    What is even more scary is to listen to students, in some cases very bright students who do work hard, who begin to question whether working hard and learning is going to make any difference.  They see the economic pressures of their parents.  They worry about government shutdowns.  They feel the pressures they are under, and wonder to what end.  I am supposed to help them with those concerns, and yet how do I do that while still being honest with them?  I struggle with that constantly.

    You might want to reflect on the long view and convey that to your students. As bad as things are we have been through and survived much worse. During the Cold War there was legitimate concern that we could all be incinerated. During WWII the country was on war footing with no family untouched by dead or wounded relatives and friends and where we had rationing at home. During the Civil War 600,000 died in a population of 40M and until the last year the Union was in doubt and at the end the rebellious states were a defeated nation. They pulled through.

    These are just some highlights of truly troubled times. There are many more. What we face today does not hold a candle. As angry and frustrated as we all get with the current economic and political situation we must recognize that this too will pass. We will survive and prosper, as individuals and as a nation.

    I know you know this but I needed to say it anyway.

  •  Thank you ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, AnnieR

    for struggling to overcome the complexities of teaching. You made (make) a difference in the lives of those 190 kids. A few cats, and so many more ...

    I appreciate the time you took to reply to my email inquiry about re-posting some of diaries on our Democratic Club website. So far I have not yet had an opportunity do it.

    JON

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 08:31:11 AM PST

  •  2nd semester of GOV (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stwriley, linkage, peregrine kate

    Ken:

    I'm not sure of the order you teach GOV, but the 2nd semester is where I really see all of my students (AP and reg levels) become more interested in the content. We're starting off Tuesday (in-service Monday) with our mock Presidential election.  I do Federalism after we conclude the election as an extension of the executive branch unit, and I usually get good student feedback using Hurricane Katrina as a discussion point. The AP GOV listserv (your emails on there ALWAYS help my teaching) had some solid stuff on medical marijuana that I'm planning on using this year. The rights and freedoms unit is also a good time.  We spend about 6 weeks going through all the major rights, cases, laws, movements, etc.  The students (on all tracks) love giving their feedback on rights. My text on school law really gets them speadking and thinking about how they (even at 18) still aren't a real adult with rights when they're at school.

    Babble about my scope and sequence aside, I know that your teaching is far better than mine and that your students will pick you up. The mid-winter run down feeling almost always abates as the daylight runs later, the content of GOV gets more exciting, and the end of the school year approaches.

    My thanks, as always, to your writing on here for helping all of us who teach carry on.

    On a side note: I'd love to know your reaction to the anti-Colbert flip out by MD and SM on the AP GOV Listserv.  

    •  I do things somewhat out of order (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, Mostel26

      to ensure that we study things at times when they connect with the real world.  Thus in Presidential election years I have to move the election of the President up to October to have it connect with students.

      As it happens, in AP we are just finishing the Presidency and starting w/bureaucracy -  Tuesday they will be prepped for SOTU and Wed we will discuss.

      We are somewhat further ahead in non-AP, but they will also deal with SOTU

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 08:37:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  out of order (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley

        I'm not sure if there is a perfect order for GOV.  I sneak elections into my linkage unit and (sort of) weave them in with parties.  Fall of 2008 was AWESOME because I had my gov classes design and manage the school wide mock election.  The kids did an awesome job with that. And we had a fun time making the freshman classes states like Delaware and Wyoming, while making the senior classes Texas and California.

  •  Teachers deserve so much more appreciation. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stwriley

    Although you clearly give your all to doing the best possible job and are achieving a lot, what the public doesn't understand is that so many teachers do the same, even in the failing schools where teachers are blamed for everything. Retired now, I never taught in a school that was considered successful, and yet I can think of very few teachers who weren't trying to do their best, putting in plenty of time at home and agonizing over their students. As far as I knew, their education and training had prepared them well enough for everything except dealing with serious behavior problems.

    The only teacher I can think of who should have been fired was a man with eight kids who worked nights at a second job in the post office, to support them all, and who could not keep himself from nodding off sometimes when students were supposed to be writing something; kids threw paper at him, and worse.

    Because students simply would not do homework in these difficult schools, and attendance was poor, some class time always had to be spent trying to catch students up and still move ahead with the material, trying to get enough decent work turned in and some preparation for tests accomplished, all the while dealing with misbehavior from some and even distractions from the hall, where students might pound on our door or even yell or throw things into the class. So even while all of us knew that we were trying to make the best of what we had rather than doing our best teaching, that didn't mean that we worked less or were less emotionally involved. In many cases, teachers just decided to move on and try to find work that led to more success and appreciation.

    In my own case, retirement has meant that I am poor but happier than at any other time in my adult life. The absence of stress, deadlines, and demands, coupled with time, finally, to pursue so many interests, is wonderful. Taking a nap when I want to is such a sweet pleasure and such a contrast to the sleep deprivation that goes with job pressures and deadlines.

  •  Critical thinking and dumbing down (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Stwriley, dreamghost

    I sat down with my coffee and computer this morning and read the news to my spouse as usual. I ran into a piece on Truthout that captured me while it gave me a headache trying to absorb all of it so early in the morning.

    Reading this I thought of your diary and the importance of having teachers such as you who impart critical thinking skills.

    I don't know this sociologist/philosopher Zygmunt Bauman but may explore his work in greater depth inspired by http://www.truth-out.org/...

    Now, headlines like "McConnell Blasts Deficit Spending, Urges Extension of Tax Cuts" have become common fare served by the American press to its readers. Confronted with these sorts of conflicting assertions, readers have little choice but to admit that the forces that decide their life prospects are beyond their comprehension, and bound to stay there. And where there is ignorance, impotence is sure to follow. It has been averred since the beginning of the modern science of politics that, given that state authorities must deal with affairs much too involved to be comprehended by ordinary folk, democracy cannot but be the rule of highly educated experts, with ordinary folk's role reduced to the periodical approval or disapproval of the expert's actions. This practice of separating actual policymaking from the "masses" has, however, strayed far beyond political scientists' expectations. The experts on high no longer need to reiterate that things are too complicated to be properly judged by the layperson and so should be left to those in the know. They demonstrate day in day out, beyond reasonable doubt (if "reasonability" is still a recognizable quality, that is), their belief that laypeople, while applying their inborn inclination and their inherited or learned tools of separating right from wrong (the only tools at their disposal), are incapable of arriving at (as different from repeating or just echoing) a judgment. On its journey upwards to the murky regions where political judgments are reached and political decisions are made, the logic that guides our (the ordinary folks') life pursuits, stops - or rather, is stopped, brutally - well below the level it struggles to reach.

    One shudders at such a surmise – but is not illogicality fast becoming the latest Wunderwaffe of the state authorities, torn as they are between the acute deficit of power and the harsh demands that their powerless political practice is much too weak to meet? .....It is a miracle weapon as cheap as it is easy to deploy.

    This seems to shed light on the pervasive "look the other way" I encounter in friends and family that I find difficult to tolerate or understand. Now at 69 I have time to read and absorb what I missed prior to forced retirement last year. It is a huge transition - bittersweet.

    Peace

  •  I can relate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Stwriley, Oh Mary Oh

    This is my retirement year and I am looking forward and back with fondness at the same time right now.  I teach science in a rural title one middle school in the South and our population is unique in some ways but exhibits many inner city like problems connected with isolation, deprivation and lack of opportunity. Its a great school and I feel very lucky to have been there for almost 20 years now. I began seeing what you are seeing this year pretty clearly as I approached 65 (am 66 as of December 2010). And all those questions of how much more time do I have to do the things I want to do and to just simply experience life (cats and music - gardening and hiking and canoeing for me) really become important thoughts to mull over.  There is also the increasingly stressful work environment where top down decisions constantly create surreal situations, and you sometimes wonder if you are in a public school or a Fellini film and unfortunately can see the cumulative negative effects on your students all too clearly. That combination convinced me that it was time to move on in my career because leaving the classroom does not mean you have to stop teaching although I think you lose that edge you have when you no longer work with children in the same setting every day.  But there are vocations I intend to pursue outside the classroom that I hope will contribute to science education.  I just finished the last of 18 years of a wonderful field trip with my students that I will never do again and I catch myself thinking "next year I will teach that a different way" and then realize that I won't get to continue that improvement which has been one of the challenges and rewards of my career.  I was reflecting the other day on how I could continue to be an advocate for kids which I feel is a huge part of my role as a  teacher and am beginning to visualize that as  part of my whole new life.  It is a slow internal transition and hearing you talk about it makes me realize how great it would be to discuss this more often with other people going through it. I do have a lot of friends who I sometimes talk to about this.  One warning for you that I have gleaned is that with your propensity for action and activism don't expect retirement alone to give you that cat and music time.  You will have to carve it out of all the other things you will want to take on as you retire.  I already see that one coming.  So neither of us is alone in this process.  Thank you for sharing!

    •  were I to retire from teaching (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thatwhichisgood, Govinda

      I would NOT be retiring from being active, merely focusing in a different direction.

      I might spent less time in external activities, and give myself more time to simply read, listen to music, and be.  But I am not the type who would totally change, buy a Winnebago and/or go fishing.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 10:54:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At times like this I go back to Kipling, (0+ / 0-)

    and I find myself doing that way too often. This bit resonates with me, both as I read your eloquent Diary, and when I listen to my wife talking about her work in an Oklahoma School District:

    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools
    ;

    My question to you would be a simple one with, I suspect, no simple answer.

    "Given the disparity between the very real efforts of good teachers to deliver learning, and the equally real signals from States that they are not committed to this ideal, how do you, a teacher of forty years, continue that struggle "in-class"?

    You speak of your other activities, many of which seem to be directed towards improving the lot of teachers, and thus, by virtue helping them deliver the quality education the students need. Might you have considered that you could do more good, for more Americans, both faculty and students, by increasing the writing and organising, and reducing the daily grind?

    I have no way of knowing, but I do know this:

    Whatever path you follow, others will benefit, and that will be your legacy.

    Thanks for what you do.

    We do not forgive our candidates their humanity, therefore we compel them to appear inhuman

    by twigg on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 11:45:33 AM PST

    •  this is myb 16th year, not my 40th (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      my words about teaching and education carry more weight because I am rooted in the classroom.  The day I leave my words begin to diminish in relevance.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 12:15:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I stand corrected on the number of years :) (0+ / 0-)

        This is difficult for me to discuss, because it's your life, your experiences and your future. I am in no position to question any of that, but you published a Diary, so I can comment and I hope you understand that my comments are meant to be constructive, directed as they are to a Diarist I have come to respect.

        That said, I will get on with telling you how to run your life :)

        The day I leave my words begin to diminish in relevance.

        I quoted that from your reply because I respectfully disagree with it. By your own admission, you have written eloquently about subjects far broader than education, in these pages.

        Even given the "rough and tumble" of the Blogosphere, your words are powerful, and have resonated with many. That is testament to your ability to persuade, even to cajole. If you can herd cats here you can, as they say, herd them anywhere.

        From the little I know of teaching, I have gleaned that it is far more than a job. It is a deep personal connection with the task of helping young minds grow. To some I am sure that is as big a high as any drug could give, and a recognition that it is "not for ever", must be a concomitant low.

        I do not know how it is for you, and I don't pretend any insights other than my own interpretation of your Diaries. This could indeed be wrong.

        Whatever ... I do know that you are relevant, and will remain so whichever direction you choose, because you are a man devoted to "making a difference", and even though you never taught me, and I have known you only through these pages, you have made a difference for me, and I don't see that changing.

        I hope I am not giving any offence here, I don't mean or wish to be rude.

        We do not forgive our candidates their humanity, therefore we compel them to appear inhuman

        by twigg on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 12:41:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  while I understand your argument (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg

          on this you are wrong.  What gives me credbility - outside of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field Daily Kos, is that I am a classroom teacher who articulates from that ongoing perspective.  Unless I remain school based in some fashion, at least on a part-time basis, then the relevance of what I have to offer is diminished.  I cannot use my connection with the current situation of schools as a lever against those who would dismiss what I have to say because I am not a designated policy expert, I didn't finish my doctorate (even though I gained all the skill that degree would represent, I simply chose not to waste almost 6,000 in writing a dissertation that was not directly applicable to my life as a teacher), and so on.

          Those people with whom I have had discussions about doing a book have an interest precisely because I am in a classroom.  I have gotten access to writing (and being paid for it) for the NY Times and Teacher Magazine websites because I am in the classroom.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 02:24:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Appreciatition (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    You do an amazing job at opening eyes around the challenges and all consuming life of teachers.

    While it's true of many other professions too..I think the social disrespect for the profession is almost always greater then many others. That cultural disrespect and the politics of school administrators can take the wind out of even the most gifted of teachers I think.

    My beloved taught mostly middle school for 18 years. When I lost my all consuming telecommunications job I convinced him to sell everything and live cheaply in an RV till we found our next chapter. Since he was exhausted (I would say comatose) after teaching everyday he agreed.

    Almost four years later we have by miracle (and much lower cost living) landing outside of Tucson and are uncovering joy again in our lives. Living frugal with a desert walk each day.

    When the times right or required you will know...

    Thank you so much for your willingness to share you passion...you are amazing.

    http://www.thatwhichisgood.com

    by thatwhichisgood on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 12:20:11 PM PST

  •  maybe we will end up (0+ / 0-)

    with "Post High School" where kids who have been out for a few years and realize they cannot get a job come back to a real school to seriously tackle the basics and get a real diploma. Of course, not if the rethugs are in control.

    The students are lucky to have you. But in a society with working parents in every family that has parents, teachers are asked to do too much.   Where is it going to end?

    Yeah, I'm pitchfork mad like that.

    by lisastar on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:56:51 PM PST

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