I’m on Teacher Time

So, I retired 11 months ago from many years of teaching in the public school system.  Many reasons why, some of which can be found on my blog, but that’s not todays story.  Today I need to talk about “Teacher Time”.  You see, teachers have their own time frame —

the day starts at 7:00 am ( or 8:45 if you’re an elementary teacher) and ends, well, you know, it really never ends.

You pee every 90 minutes, and you can pee, wipe, wash your hands and check your lipstick in 3 minutes, getting you back to your room before the kids return from wherever the bell sent them.

You mark grilled cheese and tomato soup days on your calendar.

You wake before light.

You start, progress and finish everything in 10 weeks or less.  (This can cause problems if you go into the “normal” work world where people set, go figure, realistic timeframe goals for projects)

You have a “snowday” setting on your alarm clock

You know, EXACTLY, how many minutes it takes to get to work, you can figure in lights, stopped busses, deer running across the road and fog, and can still get there in time to have a cup of coffee.

Christmas break is Christmas break, no matter who wants to call it “winter” break.

Same goes for Easter.

Summer starts the day the last bell rings.

Which brings me to my point.  I have left many of the teacher time obsessions behind.  I make grilled cheese whenever I want, pee when I need to and start my day after I check the computer, have a cup of coffee and knit at least one row on whatever I’m working on at the moment.

But the Summer break thing haunts me.  I’ve been working with a non profit since the minute I retired ( the actual minute) and its been 11 months without a break.  Part time work for sure, nice, self directed schedule that only gets stressful occasionally, but steady.  And I am feeling that teacher time pull that says “you need a break”.   Not sure how I’m going to make my bosses understand….

 

Advertisements

This is not gonna make me many friends

So, I woke up yesterday, Friday morning, around 7:00 am.  Decadent.  In the life of a high school  teacher being able to sleep until 7 is unheard of….and you wake up at 5 for so long, that even holidays and weekends find you looking out the window at 5ish….

So, anyway.  I woke up at 7 am. and was immediately, IMMEDIATELY hit with the realization that it was, for my still-teaching friends, the last real day of their spring break.  Of course they still have today and tomorrow, but those don’t really count.  Everyone will be going to the grocery store or doing laundry or unpacking those Spring Break Vacation suitcases, longingly tossing their flip flops into their closets. (Because, Lord knows, you cant be an efficient teacher in flip flops, gotta keep those toes covered to keep the knowledge from sliding out your toenails…but I regress.)

So, it hit me that  yesterday was their last day.  And then I cracked up.  Laughed out loud.  Called my husband ( at work, poor sap) to tell him that “this time last year I was probably in a deep funk thinking about how I had to go back to work in three days”. Seriously, this retirement gig has turned me into a giggling idiot who can’t believe her good fortune.  I don’t have to go to work on Monday!!!!

Now , don’t hate me.  Money is an issue, a little bit.  The retirement pay is okay, but I still have to supplement income so we don’t have to make too many lifestyle changes (I am not giving up Friday evenings on our favorite pub’s deck with a mojito and nachos) . I have found two “post retirement careers” that allow me creative license and flexibility.  I am employed by a wonderful non profit that allows me to continue my passion for advocacy for children’s issues  and by an art and science workshop that challenges me to develop activities that inspire creativity while at the same time teaching core science concepts ( that left brain-right brain thing).

But, man, I am so stoked that I don’t have to put on my big girl panties and go to school on Monday. 

catching up

Since Ive retired ( four weeks. woo hoo) Ive kept in touch with a few workfriends through social media and telephone calls.  The calls usually start with them calling me a five letter word — rhymes with witch — because I dont have to get ready for work the next day and they do….but we quickly move into a discussion about the mess that is public education, today.  I taught for 23 years in the state system, and did a couple years in private schools too.  I remember when it was fun — the kids learned, the admins did their evaluations,  I wrote lesson plans, spending Saturdays with my papers spread out in front of me on the family room floor –my peers and I went to happy hour and did secret santa swaps.  we made each other Christmas Presents and had High Tea one dreary day each year, in March, when nothing of any excitement was going on.  We brought in guest speakers, we took trips, we wrote three page permission slips to take the kids to see the remake of Romeo and Juliet, and Rudy, and to the imax theatre to see roller coasters…

You get the spin here.  Learning was all encompassing.  We touched, smelled, tasted, listened to and looked at everything.  Incidental learning occurred throughout the day — sometimes you could see the lightbulbs over their heads when they saw something, processed it and really understood.

Teachers met in the lounge during break.  some of them smoked.  We drank soda and brought in leftover birthday cake and Mardi Gras Beads….When the internet came to our district we researched woodstock and made crossword puzzles. We got excited when they called for snow —

It was fun.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun.  The kids sat for testing once a year.  The scores mattered, but no more than their daily performance, their scores on teacher generated assessment.  Teachers walked the rows, checking for notes written on hands or calculators stuck under desks. 

 

Somewhere along the line something changed.  Businessmen began to tell me how to teach.  What to teach.  programs came into being where someone with a degree in engineering could take a few classes and be a high school math teacher.   There were shortcuts to everything — attendance was mandatory, but not really. students were expected to do homework, but we couldnt count it as a grade.  Noone has to stand up as we say the pledge of Allegiance.  Testing starts in October and continues through May.  Teachers are evaluated based on test scores of students they may not even teach.  Expected to develop growth goals with a cadre of kids, and held accountable for their progress towards the goal.  Kids move in and out of a school three or four times a year.  Parents take them out of the country for birthday parties or to “see my aunt, shes sick”.  Teacher observations are held and computer generated based on 4 or 5 components…The dreaded improvement plan is a vehicle for firing a teacher — administrators are told that there has to be areas of improvement noted on every analysis.  Its like starting with a zero and working your way up, when we all know that starting with 100 and being responsible for maintaining works better.

Administrators at the main office make decisions that have nothing to do with best practices, or they come into a building with grand plans and ultimatums and then they drop the ball on follow through.

Call me a b—- if you must.  but I got out.  I left mid year.   I dont miss it. 

loss

As i ponder the events of the last couple days i am left with a sense of emptiness, loss and, deep in my core, fear.  My family, my little cocoon, hasnt experienced any crisis, blessedly we are all intact, coherent and with the ones we love.  But, here in little Delaware, where everyone knows someone who knows someone, a tragedy unfolded, or I should say, added another layer — at the courthouse — and way too many people that I know and care about have been affected.  And I weep as i realize that guns and mental illness and unthinkable actions do affect just normal little people trying to live their lives.  And I realize that, although I always tell my students to trust that doing the right thing nets the good ending — it is, sadly, not true.

 

I am leaving teaching because I couldnt continue to lie to my students.  Politics and bad administrators had made that decision fairly easy.  But what do i do with this message of mine, this belief that good things do happen, that faith and perserverence and fighting the good fight will pay off in the end.  I feel deflated.  Even though this situation has nothing to do with me — I feel like my base has been shaken.  How do I teach young people to steal themselves against harm when this random, yet so predictable incident, occurs.  They look at me, scared young women, trying so hard to believe my message of doing the right thing, and taking the high road — as I try to talk them through the tragedy that their friend has just lived through  — losing her mother to this crazy man– and I realize, that I have nothing to say to make this make sense.  And as I admit this to them, as I tell them that all I know is that I love them, I want their world to be safe, I will always be here if they need me–I see them age a bit, harden a bit — and that scares me even more, i mourn their loss of innocence, of hope.  And I marvel at the card they make for their friend, at their attempt to gather baby clothes and text messages.  I am proud of their ability to push on.  I am saddened that they have to see this, to feel this.

A crazy man shot the mother of his grandchildren, in the courthouse.  She died.  Her friend died.  Two police officers were injured.  then the crazy man shot himself.  end of story.

But, the ripple effect continues on and on and on.  Children left without their mothers.  A beloved granddaughter left with out grandmoms hugs.  A teenage girl, trying hard to do the right thing, left to raise her baby and help with her sisters — left to twist in the wind.

16

16 days left to work in the public school system as a high school teacher.  After 22 years 9 months and 22 days (thats what they said) I am DONE.  Ive talked about why in earlier posts, but today I talk about how.  Ive been packing for a while.  My decision to retire early was made easier by the idiot administrator who said — in oral and written communication– that I should remove all personal items from my room.  Noone needed to see the pictures of my granddaughter reading a book ( three years old, I teach early ch ildhood education to high school students, seemed appropriate to me), small spongebob and mickey mouse figures balanced on the top ledge of my desk, an accent lamp circled with pictures of students and grandchildren….that was all deemed to be clutter, i was told to edit and toss.  So, i don’t have to worry about my “stuff” when I leave., it has been safely carted home.

So now i spend every spare moment ( hahahahaha, teachers know how few of those there are) going through files and bookshelves.  My copy of Very Hungry Catepillar is going with me, as well as my lesson plans.  Thats right.  I am not leaving my lesson plans for the new teacher.  There, I said it.  I am leaving with my expertise, experience, history , scope and sequene and skill tucked under my arm, labeled 1,2,3,4 — correlates with the levels I teach.   Thats HOW I am leaving.  the Curriculum, videos, puppets, teacher guides and technology ( “take all student generated signs off the wall, the boss will want to know why you have technology and arent using it”)  will still be there, all bright and shiny, but the heart of the program will be gone.  Now, I know they will build it again, and it will be wonderful, it better be, my students deserve wonderful, but let them build it on their own == they devalued what I had done,  Im taking it with me.

Also, I am leaving a room adorned with paper chains, paper dolls, student generated “bully prevention posters” and cartoons on the wall……..let the admin tell my students why their work isnt appropriate for display.  And the printer is probably gonna be real low on ink, weve been producing a bit of technology based signage also.

pre retirement

been spending a lot – A LOT- of time thinking about my upcoming retirement.  Its coming earlier than I expected, but Ive always believed you listen to your heart and you will know what is right, and my heart, in many ways is telling me to get the hell out of public education NOW.  My health was suffering, my mood was a mess and i was being jerked around every which way but loose by the district office….so, even though noone who knew me ever thought Id walk mid year — I submitted my paperwork in December for a March 1 retirement .  I have slept like a baby every night since.  With the exception of the fact that I will miss my students terribly, and hate that I am leaving things unfinished with them, I have no regrets, no second thoughts, nothing but the knowledge that it is time.

However, with my impending retirement came the most awesome thing== administration is leaving me alone.  Im not being told to take student work off the wall or put a lid on the scrap paper bin.  Im not being ordered to buy a leather sign in book or take the cardboard off the top of the wooden cabinets.  Im teaching.  Im laughing  .  My students and I are learning from each other.  Laughter and conversation fills the room.  Computers are whizzing as they research their topics for the projects.  It is reminiscent of the best years of teaching I have had.  the fools that felt they needed to tell me what to do, to make the dog and pony show pretty, have gone on to other victims , and I am left to do what I do.  Teach.  The kind of teaching that has won me awards, has graduated scores of students who have become successful members of society, that has made me sought after for committees, standard writing, curriculum planning, praxis recomendations and a myriad of other professional tasks.  It feels good to sit and watch my students discover things, question things, speak their mind.

 

So to the bullheaded administrators that essentially made my professional life a living hell for the past year or so, thank you.  Thank you for reminding me of what teaching is supposed to be.  I go out with my head held high, my students aware that I am making a statement about respect and honesty and the knowledge that you’re gonna miss me. 

I however, will be at the beach, or at my business, or on the couch, eating bonbons.