I thought that by now I would, at age 77, be completely retired, and by January we would make our planned move to the Life Care Community we have selected in Kennett Square PA, about which I wrote here
In February my wife informed me that she thought because of things at her place of employment she would probably need to work at least through next April, which made possible my teaching another year. Having given notice and my replacement having been hired, I began to explore other teaching opportunities. At first I restricted myself to independent schools, but they are very reluctant to hire someone for only one year — I even had one head of school tell me that if I were to commit for two he would hire me on the spot. I was offered one position but the compensation was ony 55% of what I had been making, so I declined.
I had retired from a large public system (Prince George’s County MD) in in 2012, and had actually been back in the system as a retired/rehired teacher 2017-2019 before going to the Catholic HS where I have been the past four years. I reached out to see if they might want me back in Prince George’s. Through friends in the system I had heard that they had a large number of vacancies. Once they determined I had left in good standing, I was invited to attend a hiring fair.
I will tell you about that experience if you continue reading;
But first, in the meantime my wife had been encouraged to apply for an internal fellowship where she could for 4-6 months receive full pay and benefit and yet spend all her time doing her own research and writing. As a scholar that was very appealing to her so she applied.
Meantime I reached out to people I knew in the system. Two I had known as supervisors of Social Studies for the entire system had moved up to more significant positions, but put me in touch ith the new supervisor. One who had been the system’s selectee for the National Teacher of the Year program the same year I won my big teaching award from the Washington Post had previously moved on to recruiting where I had dealt with her when I had come back to the system in 2017 and she kindly walked me through the process of coming back. Several people with whom I had worked were in the system but at different schools and/or different positions from what they had been doing when I had worked with them, some for example having become principals. Four were at one middle school whose first principal had been my first principal 1995-98 and who later brought me out of retirement to fill a vacancy at a charter school she was then overseeing before my wife got sick and I had to step away from teaching for 6 months. One of those with whom I had worked closely at my first school under that principal asked for my CV which he then walked up to his principal, and the feedback was that the principal was very impressed.
I went to the hiring fair towards the end of June. I saw my acquaintance in recruiting. While we were waiting to go in administrators were coming in. Perhaps because Iwas dressed prfessionally, a number of them stopped to talk with me, and two after ascertaining what I taught including the levels (all secondary) asked me to come to their tables when we got in.
When we were finally admitted, schools were in general in alphabetic order, with a mix of high schools and middle schools. I knew a lot about schools, and went looking first for the school where I knew four people, but they had not arrived. I also looked for another whose principal had been a first year teacher with me on the same team years ago, and had hired me for the school where she was then assistant principal for the 2018-19 school year, but she was not going to be there (graduate school) and as it happened they did not have a relevant opening. I then started to work my way through possibilities. I signed up for time slots to be interviewed at two schools. I spoke with one of the adminstrators who had asked me to stop by, she introduced me to another administrator, who after talking with me for five minutes asked me to come to the school the next day to meet the principal. I agreed,
Then it started getting weird. The next table to which I went one person looked at me and went “Oh my god, Mr. Bernstein!). She was now an assistant principal, but had been my 8th grade student in 1996-97, Her principal was busy so she signed me up to come to talk to her later.
The next table I went to I did not recognize the principal or his name, but he recognized me and my name. He had been an assistant principal at my first school in 1997-98. He turned me over to an assistant principal who talked with me for five minutes, then spoke with the principal who then offered me a job. I explained that I had committed to interview with several other schools and felt I owed them the opportunity to talk with me before I accepted anything. He accepted that but said that he would like to hear from me in the next hour. At the next school I was also immediately offered, but I said the same thing. Remember, I still had the school with my former student.
When I continued to walk around the room I saw an assistant principal had arrived from the school at which my acquaintances worked. I walked over and introduced myself, and she said the following words to me:
If I offer you a position will you accept it right now?
My response was what two of my acquaintances had said about the school had made it my first choice. We talked for five minutes and she offered me a position for 8th Grade US History, which I had done in my first school for 2 ½ years and in 2018-19 at another Prince George’s Middle School. I had also taught it to 7th graders in Arlington where I live for one year.
It was clear that she had been briefed on me, and told to look for me
But I mentioned that one of my friends, the one who had shared my CV with the principal, had told me about another course, about which more anon. It is called Deliberative Talk and teaches students to deal with controversial issues as well as working on a variety of skills. I told her she would be hard put to find anyone as qualified as me for that course. She then filled out the contingent contract offer to teach Deliberative Talk to 7th graders (I have several years of 7th grade experience in3 different schools). As it happens, she is the 7th grade Assistant Principal, and thus will be my immediate superior.
I went back to all the other schools with whom I had had contact, even if I had not yet had my interview, and informed them I had accepted a position at another school. As I was talking with one, the man at the next table stood up and called my name, He had been my principal i 2018-19, had even discussed my being department chair to get me to stay but I had decided to leave. Our conversation was very cordial, perhaps because he did not have a relevant opening so my not having spoken with him was not considered a problem.
I said I signed a contingent contract There were all kinds of background checks that had to be done, but once the fingerprint clearance came through, I was offered a formal contract to be signed electronically, which I did. I informed the principal who invited me to come to the school the next day to meet him, to see my room, to find out a bit more about the school.
I see why my acquaintances think highly of him. I like that he is willing to give me flexibility. And I have the largest room I had except for one year at a high school in Anne Arundel County.
I will teach all of the 7th graders — it is a semester course, and we are on an A-B day kind of schedule. There will be no tests per se, but lots of deliverables. And will be getting 40% more in compensation which will be very useful going forward.
So what about the course: Here is some key information about it::
This elective course will provide systematic strategies to increase critical thinking skills for deliberation in the classroom. Students will develop public speaking skills through a variety of
classroom simulations for meaningful discussion about current information. The simulations include targeted content which provide students the opportunity to develop the art of asking the “right” questions, deliberating with reason, obtaining useful data as it relates to the real issues to formulate and articulate an informed point of view.
● Demonstrate content mastery and application of appropriate content literacy and critical thinking skills.
● Raise questions, solve problems, reason, and reflect in their understanding of their own learning styles.
● Demonstrate learning through portfolios, exhibitions, simulations, debate, service-learning projects, that correlate to social studies content standards for evaluation
● Communicate effectively and appropriately for a variety of purposes.
The course uses materials The Mikva Challenge especially its Project Soapbox. Yes, the Mivka was the late Abe Mikva who took the lead in developing it for schools in Chicago, although it is now very wide spread
The focus is preparing young people for democratic participation, based on three key principals”
1) youth voice matters, and 2) youth are experts on the issues that affect them; and 3) our communities and schools are stronger when youth leaders are involved in all aspects of civic life.
As a side note, one of the good friends of Abe Mikva who helped get this going was the late Sandy Horwitt who was probably best known for his work on helping people learn about Saul Alinsky and who also wrote a biography of Russ Feingold. and whom I got to know with respect to both those subjects. He died in March 2022, so I won’t be able to tell him what I am doing, but I know he would be delighted.
So here I am at 77, still unable to stay out of the classroom, and excited about the possibility of making a meaningful different in the lives of young people.
Which means I was right not to change my blog names (also on Twitter and other platforms) from teacherken when I tried to retire in2012.