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.