Friday, July 24, 2015

Why I am retiring now

I always have said I would teach until I dropped, that I would probably collapse in the classroom one day when I was in the middle of a discussion on Portrait of the Artist of something. And if I could just teach kids, just focus on them, work with them, help them to love learning and discover that inner spark of creativity, I probably would have. But next month I will be entering my last year of teaching, and it has nothing at all to do with teaching.

It has everything to do with exhaustion. If you teach long enough, you see so many new and "new" theories and concepts that are foisted upon us for a few years each from "on high" and then abandoned--trendy things that may or may not have actually been good ideas, but are never around long enough to find out because something new comes along to replace them. I've been teaching since 1978, so I have seen a lot of these things come and go. Consider that the list on the white board below begins in 2001 and, BTW, is not even close to exhaustive even for this era. Every fall we return to school and hear about "new" concepts that we are supposed to implement in our classrooms based on all kinds of "new" research. Young teachers are often excited by this, but older teachers have seen it all before. We know this is either A) retread material of things that have been around forever or B) some new trendy thing that will be gone within two years, and in either case we also know it's going to be more of a pain in the butt for us than anything else.

And the crazy thing about it is that it is not teachers who come up with this lunacy. It is governors. It is Arne Duncan, Obama's worst appointment ever. (OK, I *might* accept Larry Summers as an argument, but at least he didn't last long.) It is politicians, not educators, who have messed up education and made educators continually jump through hoops instead of, say, teaching kids.

As I say, it's exhausting. If it were still, as it once was, all about the kids, I'd do it forever. But it has not been about that for over a decade now, and I've been fighting it for awhile. And in Illinois, there is the additional worry about our pensions, which are the sole means of support we have in our retirement because by law here we are not allowed to pay into Social Security. (Further, until the late 90's, we were not even allowed to have individual retirement funds.) The government started raiding the pension funds to balance the budget in the 80's, and teachers shouted how dangerous it was, not to mention a violation of the state constitution. The Chicago Tribune just trumpeted praise for the GOP governor who did it, saying how he "finally" had a balanced budget. And then it kept happening over the next several decades, governor after governor, though we kept yelling. And now? The state is insanely in debt and the pensions are one huge reason why and the Tribune, of course, is blaming it all ON THE GREEDY TEACHERS who demand these luxurious pensions. They blame it on the pols too, but we PAY (I think it's up to 9% or something?) for our pensions! And they--and the new governor--want to take them away or diminish them. It's all a nightmare.

So I'm getting out. It's too bad, really. When I'm in the classroom, or when I see former students, as I have done often this summer, I am in heaven. I wanted to be a teacher in sixth grade, when I had an English teacher who instilled in me a passion for what teaching can be. But it takes a younger, more energetic person to maintain that passion these days. My daughter Melanie​ wants to teach English. I hope she does. I hope she and *her* passion find ways to beat back the insanity.

Or, even better, I hope that the insanity, like the candidacy of Donald Trump, finally reveals itself for what it is and we can all get back to just teaching kids. It will be a much better world.
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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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