Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for.....

T is for.....Teaching.

I've been teaching for 15 years now. I started out teaching at an alternative high school in Minneapolis. That was a wild three years, but it was an extremely rewarding experience, and really, nothing shocks me after all the craziness I had to deal with in that job.

Meg and I moved to Tucson in '99. My first teaching job here was a 6th grade gig at one of the more challenging middle schools in town. It was a tough job, but I would have gladly stayed. There were only bilingual positions open at the time, so I moved to a different middle school on the other side of town. I finally got to settle in at a school and I was there for 10 years. This is where I came into my own as a teacher, where I honed my style. I like to tell people my teaching style is Father Flanagan mixed with Bobby Knight.

I've been successful in my career at raising test scores and two years ago I was offered a chance to participate in a federal study to see if teachers who get positive test results in one school can replicate that success in underperforming schools. There was a bonus involved, and I made the move. Last year was probably the worst year of my teaching career. I was seriously second-guessing my decision. Fortunately, this year has been the complete opposite, reaffirming my love of teaching, perhaps making it stronger than ever.

Teaching is a demanding profession. Each day in the classroom is a microcosm of life. Every day good things happen, amazing things, profound things. But bad things happen too, and you have to be able to learn from them, bounce back from them, leave them behind.

It's not the best time to be a teacher in the United States. We don't seem to have a lot of allies out there nowadays. The one thing Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that schools are failing and teachers are the problem. I would say the politicians are the real problem in public education, but that's a whole other kind of post my friends.

I could go on and on, trying to distill the essence of teaching, but I probably wouldn't do a very good job. Let me leave you with a story that nicely illustrates why I love teaching.

I took Scout and Quinn to the middle school city track meet last Saturday. I wanted to support my students who were competing. Right before I left, a former student came up to say hello. Here was a young man, now 21, who I had taught years ago. He told me what he was doing with himself, and then he surprised the hell out of me. He thanked me for teaching him how to write. He said he learned to love writing in my class, and he was really happy to have the chance to thank me.

That's what teaching is all about.


  1. Yes. That is what teaching is all about. And really, isn't his love for writing more important that whatever his test scores were?

  2. Great story about your former student, I can imagine what a rewarding encounter that must have been. I'm sure those kinds of experiences help immensely when dealing with the frustrating politics of the public school situation in this country. Excellent post.

  3. those are the best moments =)
    the buggers don't know what's good for them at the time and it takes good teachers like you to push through.
    happy t day & happy easter =)

  4. Great post. Keep Teaching as it takes special people to reach the kids, and you are one of those special people.

  5. I still credit my high school teacher for instilling in me a love of literature (especially Shakespeare) and creative writing. His enthusiasm and encouragement got me hooked.

    And I hope you write that other post some day, too. :)

  6. Squilla's AuntApril 23, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    I would love to see both you and Meg in the classroom someday!

  7. My daddy was a teacher. It's a demanding profession. Sometimes you never see the good that comes from it. And sometimes the successful ones never get to thank the teacher who helped them. I feel a blog coming on. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Great post! I am the mother of a teacher who has been subbing while searching for a permanent position.

  9. Teaching is a noble calling. It's a fine thing to know that you are making a positive difference in the world.

  10. Those moments are really to be treasured and make all the political guff almost worth it. My T post was on teaching too, slightly different angle though. It's been a popular topic. Sue@JumpingAground (Alliteration & drabbles)
    Sue@traverselife(Workplace bullying)

  11. Great post! I have huge respect for teachers, especially now as the profession is being blamed for things beyond their control. Your story of the young man thanking you illustrates that an individual teacher can really change individual lives in a positive way!

    I'm also stopping by to let you know I've awarded you The Stylish Blogger Award! You can pick it up at my blog - - just follow the rules and enjoy. Happy Easter!

  12. Have been following your A-Z posts ~ as always your blogs about teaching are great. My last blog post was an email from a dear friend who is a teacher in a State that is extremely... well go read it, made me really think about the challenges teachers face.

  13. Teachers have the most important and demanding profession - people literally give their children to you, and you are instrumental in the shaping of not just their minds, but their ethics and the way they learn to interact with others. I think it is an absolute shame that there is no more respect given by the policymakers. I work in a very small community, and year after year the class sizes are growing and the staff is shrinking.
    One example: My aunt teaches a kindergarten class of 28 students, and she only has 1 part time helper. So most of the time, the child to adult ratio is 28-1. It is acceptable, because it is the public school system. If she ran a private class or a daycare, teaching the EXACT SAME CHILDREN, it would be ILLEGAL in the state of Colorado to have more than 8 children per adult. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.
    Props and patience to all the teachers out there. You do good work.