- drove to San Jose Municipal airport sometime around 04h00 PST;
- gate agent bumped me to first class just before departure, setting the whole trip up on a high shelf from the start;
- sneered back at the peasantry in economy seating seventeen times over the first twelve minutes of flight;
- read Andrew Keen’s anti-Web-2.0 anti-fun polemic The Cult of the Amateur 35,000 feet above Utah’s Great Salt Flats, agreeing with much of it, estimating the percent of unhappy edubloggers who read it to be somewhere around 35, finishing it as we taxied into Minneapolis-St. Paul;
- met my twin sister (last seen: 1.5 years ago) and two cousins (last seen: 10 years ago) in St. Cloud;
- was introduced by doting grandparents to each of St. Cloud’s 62,000 residents;
- was asked an awful lot about my job teaching math;
- saw in College-Aged Cousin diligence, industry, and some other virtues I cherish and covet;
- experienced an awful moment of clarity;
- realized I am and have been wasting my diligence and industry in a profession which, by evidence of how it pays its employees (by years and units), doesn’t care about hard work or industry;
- wrote a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Obituary of a Fourth-Year Teacher” and CC’d my district;
- licked the stamp;
- called TMAO, asked him to talk me down;
- put the letter in a drawer;
- got flagged for one of TSA’s special security screenings on the flight back which seemed to fit the overall arc of the trip like a glove.
JackieNovember 25, 2007 - 10:47 pm -
Where to begin…
Do you really believe that no one in education cares about hard work and/or industry? Based upon what are you making this statement? By the amount we are paid (or not paid) compared to other professions? If that is your only yardstick, then perhaps you’re right.
However, I know I don’t agree with your statement that you have been “wasting” your diligence and industry though.
I think of the effect you had (are having) on Rosalia. I think of all of the Kelly’s you’ve taught. I think of the 4253 copies of Graphing Stories. The 9176 views of “Why I Don’t Assign Homework”. I think of the effect you have on my thinking. Really, you’re quite annoying when I’m designing a worksheet on the fly.. But you’re there.
However it doesn’t really matter what I think, does it?
I hope that both copies of the letter were put in that drawer, at least until you’ve had time to think things through. One last question Two last questions: Do you know what would make you happy? How sure are you?
Wishing you the peace of mind to sort through this and hoping you find whatever it is that you’re seeking.
JackieNovember 25, 2007 - 10:50 pm -
Apparently the “html powers that be” didn’t like the strike-through tags on “One last question”. Sorry.
Chris CraftNovember 26, 2007 - 2:47 am -
Holy cow I want to read that letter! Should you ever choose to post it, I’ll send it to our local newspaper!
Bill FitzgeraldNovember 26, 2007 - 5:49 am -
This post is great on so many levels, and I hear you on so many levels about the pay scales in teaching.
Jackie’s response raises some great points, but also points out the standard response given when teachers talk about issues of compensation: the work you are doing as a teacher is so important that the inner rewards transcend what can be rewarded with silly money.
There is truth in this argument. Teaching brings rewards that you don’t get in other professions, and the ability to wake up every morning, look at your face in the mirror and respect yourself for how you earn your keep is priceless. However, teaching shouldn’t have to be a noble profession. Among other things, teachers should be able to afford to own homes in the communities where they work.
While it’s probably good you didn’t send the letter, your sentiments are dead on, and consistent with my experience.
I’m also glad to see the TSA taking an interest in you. We need to keep the wrong elements out of our airspace :)
Bess MyersonNovember 26, 2007 - 6:40 am -
Sorry you had such a depressing holiday. Congrats though on the fyling first class score!
You do know, you are going to have to post that letter one day. Inquring minds want to know. Don’t make us shake it out of you.
danNovember 26, 2007 - 6:52 am -
While I appreciate the shoulder shaking there, Jackie, this has nothing to do with a) unappreciative kids, b) an unappreciative blogosphere, or even the usual c) low pay.
It’s that the state of California, by paying its teachers along two axes (years worked and units of professional development coursework completed) which have little or no correlation to diligence or hard work or creativity, have said, “The things which separate good teachers from bad teachers, the things which really matter to this job, don’t matter to us.”
May as well have been a Senate resolution, it’s that explicit in my head. And for a few days this break and for every day afterwards I’ve stayed off the bottle, that fact has taken a lot of the shine off this job.
Because more than I want to make more money, more than I want to help kids, I want to do the best work of my life. I want to work hard. I want to work for someone and with someone who pushes me to work harder and better.
I can’t believe I’m the only new(-ish) college graduate who feels this way.
But teaching’s compensation plan encourages mediocrity, not industry. It encourages people to settle in toward the middle and collect those automatic pay raises. It’s not like I can’t finish out a year working with a great set of kids, but I’m thinking about the corrosive effect this kind of work environment could have on A Guy Like Me (which may not be the same as and is certainly not preferable to A Girl Like You) over a career.
GlennNovember 26, 2007 - 7:51 am -
Dan – I would love, love, to see the obituary.
NealNovember 26, 2007 - 8:20 am -
Funnily enough, I spent my flight this Thanksgiving from the Midwest to the San Jose Municipal airport thinking about why I wanted to become a teacher.
As a 24 year old looking to enter the teaching profession, one of my biggest fears lies in my own ability to buck the all too easy road to mediocrity. My current profession-librarian-is even worse than teaching in that respect. I have found it difficult to maintain the enthusiasm and drive necessary to be truly great at my job when the expectations and rewards for good work are so meager. And boy, if you want to drown in a sea of impassioned crusaders touting the supposedly panacean qualities of web 2.0, take a gander at the biblioblogosphere, as we call it. I find my energy sapped even thinking about it.
Honestly Dan, you and some of your blogger compatriots have played a prominent role in my own move towards the classroom. Knowing that there are other young people out there with the audacity to move far beyond the (depressingly low) minimum needed to move up the pay scale, makes me believe that I can do the same. Better yet, it makes me eager to do the same.
If nothing else, I hope you find some solace in knowing that you are inspiring at least one of your generational peers to take up the gauntlet with you.
danNovember 26, 2007 - 12:12 pm -
To Glenn and Bess: whenever I get in one of my moods here – depressed and discontent with my job, that is – subscribership takes a funny downward turn.
On the one hand, I don’t care, but on the other I recognize that people read this blog ’cause I don’t make a habit of griping about kids or about how tired I am or about how lousy this one parent phone call went. Those blogs are easy to find.
Instead, I’ve tried to build a cheer section over here for what is a uniquely challenging and satisfying job both to celebrate with those who already are teachers and so that folks like Neal might come along and see something of interest.
All that to say, that obit would counteract that goal under every circumstance but the one where I’m actually killing my teaching career. At that point I’ll also post that rap video I’ve buried ’cause, I mean, what would be the point anymore?
GlennNovember 26, 2007 - 1:22 pm -
Dan – :) I’ve been reading your blog for a bit and didn’t think that you’d post it nor did I expect you to. This doesn’t change the fact that I’d still love to see it because I know that it would be insightful and done with sharp wit. I applaud you for staying posi. The kids from 7Seconds and Good Clean Fun would approve.
JackieNovember 26, 2007 - 4:00 pm -
Ahh, now I understand your point Dan. I can empathize. As a first year teacher, I expected constructive feedback from the many reviews that are built into this year. Let’s just say my expectations have not yet been met. I too feel like I’m the only one pushing myself to do better.
I don’t want to be doing “okay” or “fine”. I too want to be great. I know that won’t happen in the first year (or the fourth), but I’d like some help in getting there. I don’t feel like I get any useful feedback (except what I get from my student aide. While this says a lot about him, I’m not sure what it says about everyone else. It is pretty sad that the comments and suggestions I get from an 18 year-old are generally more useful than that of my peers/admins).
There are steps that can be taken to deal with those mediocre teachers. I don’t know why they aren’t used. Is it the perceived notion of a teacher shortage? The better the devil you know thinking? Why are we accepting “good enough” from teachers? I push my students to excel (or try to). Why is no one pushing me?
So, no you’re not alone in your thinking. Hence my first comment happening in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep as I was pondering the meaning of it all. So perhaps the message in my first comment was as much for myself as it was for you.
Christian LongNovember 26, 2007 - 6:40 pm -
Perhaps — and forgive me for even seeking a ‘solution’ knowing that it hasn’t been called for by you — there is too much pressure to define ‘teaching’ (and ‘job’) based on the current school (and state system) that you call home today.
Perhaps one’s current classroom (or system) isn’t the only type of classroom (or system) by which to gauge the entire ‘educator’ market by as you stare over the 4-year-teacher cliff. You know this. Perhaps the focus should be on qualities you seek as forward-thinking vision first, the formal roles as tactics second. For what it’s worth.
While there are an infinite range of reasons to head on to seemingly greener pastures as a professional, perhaps it may be worth re-visiting the core terms that you want to be defined by over time and ‘right this moment’ first and foremost.
2. Math teacher?
4. Film maker?
6. Camp counselor?
8. Midway ride operator?
10. A hundred ‘other’s?
If #1 & #2 don’t end up honestly (when you’re all alone) ranking in the must-do list based on what you’re seeking — forget the myriad of ‘outside’ reasons such as the issues of unions or standards or pay — then ignore the guilt-train that tends to invade our peaceful sleep late at night.
Instead, look at teaching as one of the best training grounds for every conceivable career extension possible…and proudly be able to nod knowingly when someone says, “Hey, I’m a teacher” at some future cocktail party or simply ask the ‘right’ questions when you visit your kids’ teachers during parent night.
Assuming #1 or #2 are even still in the hunt after additional soul searching, the obvious come to mind for any left-over SnG’s you might have left:
10. Community College?
11. Adult Ed?
14. Infinite more?
Your readership, colleagues, friends, and family — oh, those kids, too — will certainly rebound no matter what choice you make if it falls outside of the current educational Venn Diagram that defines your current pay structure, blogosphere reputation, notch in the school/district pecking order, and real/artificial curriculum boundaries. Since ‘noble bitching’ has long since been well trodden territory by the vast majority of educators at some point in time — whether via blog posts or in the teachers lounge — it seems unnecessary to value-judge your need to explore that ‘dark’ space to the left/right of the ‘maybe I should quit’ for ‘reason x, y or z’ cave calling your name.
Bitch and wonder-away without apology. Respect that need or calling. Put it to a bass beat on the mixing board for good measure. But don’t limit the problem-solving boundaries and design-solution parameters by what ‘lacks’. While temporarily satisfying, it’s ultimately reactionary and played. Instead, focus on what is a ‘must do’ for your long-term career/personal development…and trust its voice as options become clear and intriguing.
No matter what, ‘teach’ — however you choose to define that — wherever you go (or stay) and whatever you formally call yourself. But get over the constant headlock of a battle with regards to the very intellectually transitory nature of one systemic battle vs. any other which can more than rope-a-dope even the most passionate young (and experienced) educator in the mix.
For what it’s worth, there’s nothing noble about staying just to stay. There’s nothing noble about leaving just to leave. And you won’t be the first on either side of the coin, and certainly not the first ‘young’ teacher to explore that territory. In fact, you’d undoubtedly find infinite research and anecdotal evidence about the 2-5 year teacher if you decided to see just how much company you have.
The Clash said it best in a goofy little early 80’s track you’re undoubtedly finding yourself humming right now. Should I stay? Or should I go, now? It’s simply a choice you have to make on very solo terms, no matter how many blog comments come in the virtual door. A million times for the rest of your career. By any titles you care to claim over time.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying living vicariously through you as I think back to the many career decision intersections I’ve stood at in my still-young career as an educator. Oh, yeah, and as professional on many fronts.
P.S. Being restless is a bitch, Dan. Especially when you are ‘able’ on so many fronts. Good luck with that. Truly.
P.P.S. I say quit. No more bunny-rabbit cuddlin’. Just quit. Instead of raging against the pedagogical machine from inside the hamster wheel, I say you should just swim unapologetically hard towards waters that are more intriguing to you at this point in your career. For any reason you care to share publicly or privately.
Worst case scenario? You’ll see for yourself that the answers are all inside. And you can always ‘come back’ or create your own ideal ‘teaching’ environment based on a marriage of passions and opportunities.
But definitely give ‘quitting’ a more solid consideration in the next few months. It might actually free you up.
For what it’s worth.
kenNovember 27, 2007 - 5:19 am -
@christian: your comments throughout this blog could serve as a blog all on their own. Phew! Me’s a tired…but informed!
@dan: I’ve always told my parents, wife, students, strangers that if the job really ever wore me down; if it ever became absolutely unbearable, like ‘ugh, I don’t want to get up’ unbearable, then I’d go fold sweaters at the GAP.
Usually, I recognize the stupidity of that statement seconds after it is uttered.
So you’re a math teacher and I’m an English teacher and here’s the funny part: I’m a better English teacher because of some math teacher who lives far,far away from me.
Oh…and I’m 36, I’ve read Keen’s tome, and I’m not an unhappy edublogger. But thanks for the really large brush stroke over my status in life.
danNovember 27, 2007 - 6:49 am -
Christian, there’s a lot of art in your comment that this math teacher couldn’t reckon with but I appreciate the forthrightness of your second postscript there.
Ken, I reckon only 35% of all the bloggers torqued by Keen’s polemic actually read it. Still room for you at that table.
SilasDecember 5, 2007 - 8:44 am -
Your thoughts mean a lot to me. I am a young professional who seems to be thinking about very similar things, but has ended up on the flip-side of the coin. I work in education policy at a non-profit, but am constantly thinking about the classroom. I’m currently teaching Saturday school on my day off at a KIPP charter school.
On salary: one thing that has really kept me from making the shift to the classroom is the salary. But it’s not what most people talk about, low base pay. I’d actually get a really substantial raise by becoming a teacher (non-profits don’t pay so much either). The problem though is that the rate of increase is so slow that within 2 or 3 years my salary would fall behind what I could make elsewhere and never catch up. What’s more, I studied hard, went to a good school and have a real ambition to distinguish myself. But I don’t see any upward mobility in teaching. I don’t want to finish my career where I started. And I don’t want to be part of a culture that doesn’t differentiate between doing an awesome job and an okay job (and frankly even a really poor job).
Partially it’s about the money, but partially it’s also just about the honor of the thing, the recognition by the community that you are contributing something more than average. Even in the early stages of my career I’ve been able to perceive a big difference in my own performance when it’s clear that someone cares about the quality of what I produce. Doing an outstanding job is hard! It requires you to invest more of yourself, and to do things like read things no one told you to read, ask questions no one else is asking, look for better examples and imitate them, use your free time to develop new ideas and approaches. And frankly it’s hard for other people to appreciate those things if they don’t pay close attention or have some result to point to as evidence of the difference. This is especially the case when distinguishing between excellent teachers and nice teachers.
All this said, I get this feeling from reading your post, that there are many people of our generation who feel this way. What would it take for us to get together, to form a movement to change the culture of schooling in America so that it really recognized and demanded excellence?
Chris LehmannDecember 5, 2007 - 4:45 pm -
I say this having had a teaching career that has been more high-profile than 99% of the teachers out there… and I say this having taught in a school that was nurturing and caring and sustaining. (And hopefully, I’ve started one of those too…)
But I think the problem that so many of us have… that you are tapping into here… is multi-fold. One, as a career choice, we are made to feel that we are “just a teacher,” and even though our experience tells us that we’re more than that, there’s a sense that the businessmen, doctors, brokers, etc… are somehow winning in this equation. Certainly they are financially.
But I also think that we have to recognize that public education is an economic externality in a capitalist system. It is something that has been determined to be a public good, and therefore the pay scale and structure is different. In addition, the kind of upward mobility that is the hallmark of the way we define our career paths in America these days is missing.
However, perhaps we should take a longer view. I am not a particularly religious person, but I’ve long thought that my classroom was my personal cathedral. It was my sacred space. And I think about how the word “rabbi” translated means “teacher / scholar,” and I think that the old rabbis didn’t think about their careers in terms of advancement, they were teachers.
I’d love to make more money. I’d love to work in a system that better understood how to motivate people. I’d love to not deal with the the world of public education the way it exists today. But I also don’t feel the need to place or define my job in the market forces of today. Our job is older than that. And it exists outside of that.
None of this is to say that what you are feeling right now isn’t valid or real or justified. It all is. I can’t argue against a single point you would make, I’m sure. (Though I’m happy to try.)
What I would say is that you have to change the lens by which you look at your job. You are not just a teacher in 2007, but you get to be a part of the thousands year old process of passing down the body of knowledge, the education of a world, the preparation of citizens. That’s good stuff, and it is worth doing well, because in the end, you aren’t judged by administrators or the state or anything else. You are judged by the delta you cause in the lives of your kids. You know that. And you know that matters.
Now… all that being said, Christian makes some amazing points, and finding ways to deal with burnout are important (notice I haven’t been blogging lately? Been battling it a bit myself…) so that we can do the job at the level it demands… and if we can’t, we do have to ask ourselves if we should keep doing it. But don’t look for the current construct of our society for your rewards, because it ain’t there.
And hey, you can call me to commiserate on the wall too.
danDecember 5, 2007 - 6:49 pm -
Thanks for your commentary, Chris. For whatever it’s worth, I’m not agitating for higher pay or even more respect from society.
As a kid who wants to wake up and do the best work of his life every day, I need to find a job that tangibly differentiates between its good and lousy workers.
But the gravitational pull of this job right now is toward the middle. Mediocrity is the easiest, safest place to be in teaching and nothing about it has been disincentivized. That means my innovation and hard work is done in spite of how teachers before me have decided this system oughtta run.
I want to innovate because of the system.
For all the appeal teaching has for me, I’d like to work within a system that encourages its workers to do their best work every day. I’m not deluding myself that I’d find that just anywhere in the private sector but I don’t see it in our corner of the public sector at all.
And maybe, as Christian suggested above and Lori suggested elsewhere, I oughtta try something new, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity. And maybe, as others have suggested, teaching is better off without us young malcontents bringing down the morale of troops who long ago decided they were in this for good.
But I know that if I cared at all about the future of teaching, not just the present, seeing a hard-working kid like me who isn’t burning out, who doesn’t care about the money, but who can’t find a fit in teaching, well, I’d be concerned.
AllisonDecember 5, 2007 - 8:12 pm -
Everyone else in the bay area with your skillset works at Google. okay, not everyone. But you couldn’t throw a brick without hitting someone with your skillset who DOES work there.
Can you honestly tell me that you wouldn’t help more kids, and yourself, by making some money at google while volunteering on the side or tutoring on the side, and some day, having enough money to start your own charter school? That you wouldn’t help more people by someday starting your own company and hiring promising young people with diligence? That you wouldn’t help more people if you used your math skills and your teaching skills to mentor people in the work world, especially if you convinced your employer (or your own startup) to hire disadvantaged kids that had the brains but needed mentoring?
You could innovate a lot better in a system that SUPPORTED YOUR INNOVATIONS.
there are a lot of ways of helping. Making money, feeling accountable to other people, knowing your work makes a difference, knowing you have the opportunity to improve, and then having the mindset, time, and money to volunteer with your skills is a great way.
Chris LehmannDecember 6, 2007 - 10:40 am -
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.
We’re hiring. ;)
Better yet… come spend a few days. See if your principal will send you to EduCon 2.0. (Hey, I’ll even open up a presentation space for you!) You can crash on the couch at Chez Lehmann-Stein… spend a couple days on either end of the conference.
There are schools that are about what you are looking for.
Tim BestDecember 6, 2007 - 1:28 pm -
Yeah, what Chris said ;-)
I hope to have a couch by then, too.
danDecember 6, 2007 - 8:08 pm -
w/r/t Allison’s comment, why do I feel like I’ve stumbled into the gospel of Matthew?
To Team Philly, sounds like fun but this isn’t my year.
AllisonDecember 7, 2007 - 5:43 pm -
Are you joking? Seriously, what’s evil about being successful enough that you change people’s outcomes by hiring them?
You want a job that differentiates good and lousy workers. Then get a job in the private sector. Don’t like everything you see there? Then start your own job in the private sector.
If you want to innovate, go somewhere that people value innovation. This isn’t the devil talking. It’s sanity. You’ve been living in the unreality for too long to know the difference.
Help make a difference–stop supporting mediocre schools. Walk away. All you are doing by staying is sending the message that what they do IS good enough after all.
danDecember 7, 2007 - 9:48 pm -
Yeah, joking. A little. It’s just that your two comments here are kinda pitch-perfect, note-for-note covers of the little song I have playing in my head, like, twenty-four hours a day, right down to the hopelessly naive chorus that “by gum, I’ll teach the whole system a lesson and leave.”
It’s like you’re inside my head.
Christian LongDecember 8, 2007 - 7:45 am -
Can’t help but feel that the “Who is John Galt?” question is re-surfacing here, Dan.
Long before it became a state-of-public-education conflict for young educators burning out in this day and age, Ayn Rand long ago toyed with the should-I-stay-or-should-I go question via her own Objectivist lens by ficticiously leading the innovators out of the ‘system’, person by person. The underlying question came long before either one of us began teaching (or even needing our diapers changed).
Without being cheeky, figure out who (and what) “John Galt” is for you, Dan. Forget trying to save or preserve or argue the merits of any system that doesn’t work for you. And forget about bitching about the “when will they figure out they could lose yet another young gun teacher?” conflict. Instead, define tangible terms — not just uttering the “innovative environment” routine over and over — that would allow you to continue teaching in a way that matches your career objectives. Or, shy of that, get out of the game and go work at Google (or whatever design firm rocks your world). I hear the benefits, dry cleaning services, and free salad bars are kinda groovy.
As Chris says above, there are many schools out there that do and would match what you are screaming for…just not in the typical public school system you’re most familiar with today. Seek them — tangible attribute by tangible attribute — out if you truly want to keep working with ‘kids’ in the classroom. Or admit that it’s really not about the teaching after all, and simply ditch the teacher/student relationship altogether in pursuit of something in more dynamic professional waters. The world and the ‘system’ will continue spinning either way. And you’ll be a far happier MoFo in the process.
You’re just saddled — said with a respectful tone — with a bit of myopia right now (not your fault, BTW) that shadows the range of legit solutions coming to mind. Until you consider the full range of ‘schools’ that can allow you to evolve and work at the level you believe possible, there seems to be little reason to ‘stay’ in teaching or working with kids in a traditional school setting. Get out.
If I were your principal, I’d fire you today: “Bingo-bango, You’re fired, kid!”
It’d be better for the kids, your colleagues, and you. A true trifecta. I’d fire you so that you could pursue the question rather than just tread water nearby it, simultaneously railing against the system while seeking blog-comment ego confirmation for doing so. I’d walk you to the door and wish you all the best.
Oh, and in a few years, if you ever came back and knocked on my Principal door, I’d offer to re-hire you in a second…hoping you’d say, “No, thanks, I figured it out and have a different plan…” instead. Better yet, then I’d invite you out for coffee so we could brainstorm with you as to how you could ‘make an impact’ on my students as a visitor/mentor, rather than as a day-to-day classroom teacher.
Quit teaching. Stop bitching about the ‘system’. OR both.
In the meantime, use the power of your blogging voice, Dennis-Miller-esque conversational connections, and often-unmatched design savvy to spark the imaginations of anyone who sees something kinda dynamic going on here.
P.S. BTW, who is John Galt?
danDecember 8, 2007 - 9:22 pm -
It’s disappointing that you consistently select the most morally repugnant answer of all possible answers to the question, “Why does Dan work hard at teaching/blogging/presenting?” If I cared more what you thought about me, I’d find your remarks insulting. Right now I’m just embarrassed for you. A handful of blog and email exchanges and you think you know what’s best for me, my colleagues, and my kids. A true trifecta of presumption.
At the moment I’m too happy teaching to go elsewhere but only in the binary world you constructed inside your last comment does that mean I can’t agitate for its improvement. Dennis Miller stuck with his dry, verbal style hosting Monday Night Football and lost his job after two seasons. If any readers can’t deal with an enthusiastic teacher-blogger who traffics in shades of gray on a sometimes basis, if they’re looking for a cheerleader who never equivocates, then, peace. It’s a big blogosphere. I’m sure they’ll find one.
Christian LongDecember 9, 2007 - 3:09 pm -
Dan: In hind sight (and upon re-reading) I can definitely see how my last comment was received. And received in a not-so-ideal way. Fair enough. It landed poorly. It was expressed poorly. Not intended as such originally, but no sense denying the reality after-the-fact. Appreciate the reaction, Dan. Good for me to read/receive your words. Learning curves are generally very steep for me. Case in point.
As I also said, “I’d offer to re-hire you in a second.”
Why? Because I see you as one of the strongest teaching voices available today. Period.
Two quick points of clarification (for what it’s worth):
1. The “fire you” concept was the same exact point a past mentor and administrator said to me in my first few years of teaching when I was wrestling with a similar proposition as you. She knew I had to search out the question via non-teaching experiences before I’d realize I was a ‘teacher’ through and through. I’ve never been able to thank her enough for expressing it as such. She pulled no punches. She knew where I’d ultimately end up (back in the classroom), but she knew I had to go elsewhere to see that for myself. And that it wasn’t going to be about the ‘school’ or the ‘system’ when all was sorted through. What is clearly the case, however, is I have no right to presume anything on the personal level of a mentor…and I stand wisely corrected. A handful of emails and comments notwithstanding.
2. The “stop bitching” comment speaks to the unmatched power of your voice when you are demonstrating real innovation in spite of the limits around you. The system will change in direct proportion to YOU being the INNOVATOR, not the critic of the system. You’ve built a fascinating blog audience who truly responds to all of the innovation you bring to the table, Dan. While critics are plentiful, guys like you that can create, can solve, can build, can see gestalt opportunities are few and far between. This is where you stand to have the most impact now and over time. Again, I’m not your mentor and once again stand wisely corrected.
I’d completely understand if you opt to ignore the ultimate meaning of what I intended to write last time. Most likely that will be the case…and I can’t say I blame you. The earned compliments and recognition are offered either way.
If leaving teaching at some point to pursue other passions — design, et al — is part of the larger professional arc for you, I can’t imagine it would do anything but continue to deepen your instincts and voice as an educator (if you ever chose to return). And your kids (and clients) would only be the better for it.
If you remain as a full-time teacher, however, I think you’d find a wide array of ‘learning environments’ (i.e. schools) inside and outside the setting that you currently call home that would more quickly embrace what you’re doing as a classroom teacher and as a larger voice for innovation. Or perhaps it happens ‘right there’ where you already are when all is said and done.
Both are fair options that a young educator of your instinct, talent, and passion should consider equally. And undoubtedly, you’ll excel without limit in either direction.
P.S. The beginning of your second paragraph is where it all shakes down, I think. I gladly accept the reaction (again, fairly expressed by you after I re-read my previous comment although it was actually intended with a much different tone, had it been spoken face to face), but my gut tells me that ultimately its worth it to read that “too happy teaching to go elsewhere” line end up unapologetically on the table.
I’m not really the point. Nor my previous comment. Your statement about not wanting to leave, however, is. And for all the right reasons, I suspect.
P.P.S. Feel free to delete this comment. It may ultimately be a better choice to let your response stand as the end of the conversation. If so, however, the compliments and recognition still stand. As does my head-nod on the “too happy teaching to go elsewhere” line.
danDecember 9, 2007 - 5:38 pm -
I’ve taken the rest of this behind closed doors, where I should’ve taken it to begin with. Learning curves and whatnot.