Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for..........Teaching

It's hard to believe, but I've been teaching for 18 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 five 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. That first year was probably the worst year of my teaching career. I was seriously second-guessing my decision. Fortunately, the second year was the complete opposite, reaffirming my love of teaching, perhaps making it stronger than ever. I stayed for a third year, but the commute got to be too much, so I returned to my previous school, where I currently teach 6th grade language arts.

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 ran into a former student recently, a young man, now 21. 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. I think every teacher lives for that sort of moment. It is one thing to hope you make an impact and a whole other thing to KNOW you did. I am so glad you return into your former student.

    I am going to take a moment to agree with you and say that if politicians would allow teachers to teach the school system would be a better place. Not everything needs to be federally regulated. We don't need nannies in the form of politicians monitoring the progress here. And Common Core is a disaster at the federal level making it hard for teachers to teach and students to learn. Boo politicians. Boo Common Core.

  2. How rewarding that must've been, to have a former student thank you.
    I'm in awe of teachers. Every time I volunteer at my son's elementary school, and watch them show so much patience and love for their job, I'm just amazed. Maybe not by the love part, but the patience. Here's to all of you, wonderful people, for being so good with our kids!
    Silvia @

  3. Parents that expect too much of the school are also part of the problem. Teaching is a difficult profession, and i'm glad there are good, dedicated teachers like you.

  4. Those who can, teach. Those who can't make laws about teaching.

    I saw that on a button or t-shirt somewhere...

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

  5. I love the moments when I run into former students in person, or more often now, on Facebook. The wonderful things they say that you may not remember, and how they have been influenced by me and my teaching really reaffirm why I teach!

    Congrats on all your years and good luck for however many more you choose to complete!