"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm ready...

School systems are in difficult financial situations these days. One of the options is to trade old teachers (at the top of the salary schedule) for new (at the bottom of the scale).

Our school system has offered teachers who are eligible for retirement an incentive to retire now...so that younger, less expensive (and I might add, less experienced) teachers might take their spots. I could have retired 4 years ago (or maybe it was 5) but I saw no reason to leave what I have done for so long...and had so much fun at. Now, though, the school system is making an offer that's difficult to refuse, so yesterday, at 3:40 pm ET, I turned in my letter of intent to retire at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. My retirement date will be June 7...assuming we don't have any more snow days :)

I have mixed feelings about retiring. I got into education by accident, 34 years ago. I never really chose to be a teacher...more like teaching chose me. If my life had gone the way I had planned I would have been a musician...

In any case the decision has been made. It's been a hard decision. Those of you who have seen me in the last few days/weeks may not have realized that. I'm all smiles and chuckles at the thought of not having another recess duty or another unpleasant discussion with the administration. But it has taken me a while to justify this in my mind. I do have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Here are some of the things I've thought about...in no particular order.
  • Reason to stay: The number one cause of death for men in the US is retirement. I'll have to find something else to do.
  • Reason to stay: There are people in my school who I have relied on for support and friendship. I've grown very attached to some of them and, while I realize that the phone still works, and email still works, it's not the same as being with someone every day. That will be the hardest adjustment for me to make. I play at being really happy about this, but this aspect has been wrenching...and very difficult for me to deal with. I know it's the right decision, given all the pluses and minuses, but there will be no way to stop this from being an emotional loss. I know...I know...change is part of life.
  • Reason to leave: When I first started teaching I had some goals...Many of them have been unmet...some were not realistic...and some I've simply forgotten :) There is one goal, though, that has become more important to me in the last few years. It is this...I don't want to be one of those teachers who retires mentally before they leave the classroom physically. I've done well this year. Being in the position I'm in I've minimized my weaknesses (Classroom management), and maximized my strengths (insight into student needs). I'm not the best teacher who ever set foot in a classroom, but I'm good at what I do now, and this has been a good year. Now would be a good time to leave when I have those good feelings about what I've done.
  • Reason to leave: I'm emotionally worn down. I didn't run for an office (other than as a delegate to the state teachers' association general assembly) in our teachers' association for the first time in years. Being on the Negotiations Team, the Discussion Team, and the Executive Committee has become stressful. It's not the time involved...or the people...it's the frustration of trying to make a difference and being ignored (by the administration) or shot down over and over again. There are things that are happening which I believe are bad for schools and children...not all of those things are the fault of our administration or our school system, of course. In fact, most of them are NOT local issues, but watching what is happening to Public Education in general, and my students in particular, has become more and more frustrating. I'll still write my blog. My readership has grown (thank you all) and I can keep writing about what I see but I'm tired of fighting principals...and business managers...and superintendents.
  • Reason to stay: I still have a lot to offer my students. I understand, through first hand experience, the difficulties of learning to read, ADHD, and the related emotional baggage that accompanies those problems (maybe I should have been a school counselor ). I also have a lot to offer our teachers' association as well. I don't regret not ever being our Association President. I know that I would have done ok in that position. I know the contract...I know enough about the workings of Association/Administration interactions to anticipate trouble. I might have been instrumental in helping restore the teachers' trust in the administration (assuming they would cooperate). I might have been...but there are others who will step up.
  • Reason to leave: I'm physically worn down. My injury has taken a lot out of me. We don't heal as well as we did when we were younger (notice how I switched to the more anonymous third person when talking about "our" age)...it's taking a lot longer than I had hoped...and some of the discomfort will last for months more. Oh, it's getting better every day...and I hope to be walking my 5 miles (or however long it is) a day again this summer, but physically, this has been a hard year.
  • ...and so on...Can I afford this? I'll get to read more. I'll get to write more. Will I become a lazy good for nothing? What kind of job can I get part time? ...etc...etc.
I've worked for 10 principals - including some who are no longer with us. I've worked with approximately 150 colleagues - including some who are no longer with us. I've touched the lives of probably 600 students (give or take) - including some who are no longer with us. I can't imagine a job other than teaching, in which you get to know so many people, so well. I can't imagine another job in which you can influence another human being the way you can as a teacher. The responsibility is awesome...as is the satisfaction.

My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.

My greatest teaching joy has been to read aloud to my students...year after year. I've loved being able to watch them while they listened...to feel their excitement in a good story as they held perfectly still...to listen to the complete silence between words and sentences as they anticipated the next thought or action...to hear them laugh as Fudge poured his breakfast on his head...to watch their eyes widen when Viola Swamp entered the classroom...to hear the quiet gasps and then see tears well up in their eyes as Stone Fox helped Little Willy and Searchlight across the finish line...to hear them cheer when Charlie found the Golden Ticket. Those were the best moments of all.

Pros and cons...ups and downs...ok...I'm ready.

6 comments:

The Reflective Educator said...

This is a seriously touching post. I can definitely relate with a few things you say here even though I've only been in education about three years myself. I need to go back and read some of your older stuff.

Stu said...

Thanks for your comments. I think that you can understand the feelings if you compare it to the way you feel when you watch your classroom of children leave for the summer after spending a year with them. It's hard to see them go (most of the time [grin]), but you know it's best for them.

Schmoil said...

Very nicely said, Dad. In fact... I don't want to go overboard, but I believe this post is deserving of an "Amensir." I especially found the last two paragraphs were ones that I could empathize with... the first, about your biggest regret, is the reason why I left teaching. The second, about what you'll miss, is the one reason I still sometimes regret leaving teaching. ESPECIALLY the Little Willy/Searchlight moment.

Ellen said...

I agree with Sam. . . an Amensir would not be out of place here! There is one other job where you influence people so much. . . as a parent! I have wonderful memories of you reading to me when I was little!

Crazy Phil said...

Education will miss you, Stu.

Meg said...

Well said. I have a lump in my throat I will probably turn around and tell you this since you are in the same room! :)

We get you walking and keep you busy. I am happy for you.