Category Archives: Work

A Retiree’s Wish for Returning Teachers

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“Go out to lunch on teachers’ first day back. And plan a vacation so that you’ll be in some exotic place on the first day of school.” Retired teachers with toothy smiles and unfurrowed brows gave me this same advice again and again in the months leading up to my retirement from teaching English and working in the curriculum office.

While their advice was astonishing in its singularity, the comments from teachers who would be returning to school in the fall varied widely:

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The Key to Education?

Graduation 74

As I look toward retirement in a few days, I’ve been thinking about the most difficult class I taught in 30 years in the classroom.   I was about 20 years into my career when I was hired to lead the English Department in one of three schools that made up my district’s first experiment in choice. Our school was the new one—the one many students didn’t want because it had no history and no ties to the community.

The boundaries for all three schools were redrawn, and our school opened with only ninth and tenth graders. If students didn’t get their first choice, they were guaranteed a spot in their new home school. Because of our signature program in the arts, many creative students chose us. We also had a large number of students who didn’t want to be there, as well as some students who had problems in their home schools who came to us to get a fresh start. Those in the second group created the perfect storm that shook my confidence to the core and gave me a dose of humility that I’ve never forgotten.

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Is the American Dream Just a Dream?

College Graduation

“You’ll git the education I didn’t git, so you can have a better life than I’ve had.” This was my father’s mantra. He quit school in fifth grade, and he began working in a coal mine when he was only fifteen. He was functionally illiterate, and my mother read every important document to him in the privacy of their bedroom. He went to such great lengths to hide his illiteracy that even his five children didn’t know for years that he couldn’t read. Continue reading Is the American Dream Just a Dream?

Suffering from Vacation Deficit Disorder?

First-year Teacher

“Go home.”

I looked up from the copy machine to see my principal standing in the doorway, briefcase in hand, tie loosened. His work day was over.

“I can’t,” I said, sighing. “I have to finish running these copies and get my room ready for tomorrow.”

I was a first-year teacher, and it was only October. The marking period was about to end, and I had a stack of essays on my desk that still needed to be graded.

“Yes, you can. You’re going to get burned out if you keep staying this late every day.”

“But how do I get everything done?” I whined. Continue reading Suffering from Vacation Deficit Disorder?