Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why I Still Keep Teaching

I got home from vacation and found a Christmas cards from former students. One who graduated in 1985 and one who graduated in 1978. These cards and these former students are the reasons I keep teaching. I just called my 1978 student. She is now 46 years old and lives in North Carolina with her army retired, now mail carrier husband and her two children, ages 16 and 10. She was just 15 when we met. M was a favorite student. Everyone loved her, mostly because she loved school and loved learning. I got to know her really well and never realized that she was just a few years younger than I was. She had a terrible home life. Her dad tried to rape her and she watched her mom try to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. She had to barricade her room at night to keep the rats out. Her brothers ended up in jail and her sisters all were pregnant. But, there was something about M that kept her going. She cried whenever there was a school vacation. She was always clean and bright, although her apartment was often without hot water. She ended up getting a part time job working for Jim Henson while she was in school. She flourished there. I remember her walking me around the town house he used as an office and picking up some of the Emmies the Muppets had one. She was a poor girl who was making it. Someone in the office befriended her and helped her get into a good college. Unfortunately, she only completed three years there, but that is okay. She ended up joining a church group and being who she was, she immediately became a congregation favorite. She met her husband through the group, and followed him on two tours of army service in Germany. She succeeded where others in similar predicaments failed. I remember going to guidance and trying to get her help. Thirty years ago help was not available to abused children. I remember the guidance counselor telling me "Don't say anything to anybody. You will make her life worse." As a 23 year old inexperienced teacher, I took this counselor's advise and did nothing but stay friends with M and help her as much as possible. Thank goodness things are different today.

I will be old enough to retire next week. I have enough years in to collect a nice pension, but I am not ready to go. I will not let the Principal Suits push me out. I know I can still make a difference in a child's life and I won't stop doing it until I feel ready to go.


happychyck said...

It's been a hard week with some of my students this week. I just keep talking to them, trying to get them to not give up on themselves. It's hard work, but years later when you see that they've made it through, you know that teaching is a job worth keeping.

Good for you for staying until you feel it's time to go. It's those same type of feelings that brought us all into teacher. It makes sense that it's the same kind of feeling that lets us know when to leave.

Pissed Off said...

I don't think most of the young people I work with feel this way, which is too bad. I think they are looking at it as a paycheck until the real career (whatever that might be) comes along.

Jonathan said...

I don't know which is your school or how many senior math teachers you have, but next year is the new algebra regents, not a big deal. The year after, however, comes the new geometry regents, and I understand that geometry is likely to have serious proofs back in it. They will need teachers who remember how to do the old, traditional stuff (though it will be mixed in with Course II and Math B stuff as well).

In fact, NYS Ed Department was trying to delay starting the new regents. I suspect they were ok with algebra, but terrified with the prospect of writing a geometry exam.


Pissed Off said...

I don't think the school's care about keeping the old teachers who actually know the math and know how to teach. My school only seems to value the young ones who are willing to do whatever principal suit wants them to do.

Jonathan said...

But the newer teachers, including some who may now be far too friendly with the suits, when they need to teach geometry, who will they go to? Or are they just planning to get it wrong?

Pissed Off said...

I don't think they care. I was helping a Math A kid doing a probability problem involving picking to marbles, one blue and one yellow. I explained that could get the blue first and then the yellow or the othe way around, so you had to add the two probablities. When I mentioned this to the "2o minute teacher" she promptly said "the book (Prentice Hall) does it the way I did it so that is the way I am going to teach it." She had no interest in doing it correctly. Yet, she is the one doing staff development.

The only thing the school's care about is looking good on paper. I guess since these teachers will be marking the regents, they will mark them according to what they have taught and hope the state does not audit.