I found myself thinking about this blog a few times in the last week and decided to see if I could remember the password to get back in to it. Obviously, I did. Can I remember why I wrote it? Obviously, I can. I was in the middle of my third decade of teaching and thoroughly fed up with the educational system that continued to become every year more a place of schooling and obedience than of learning and growth.
The last entry I wrote in 2011 was after an in-service day before school had started. I was excited to begin a new journey at a small school in the country where I hoped to have a good educational experience and to spend the last years of my teaching life doing some good in the sticks. It was not to be. In May 2012, I left that school–I would not have been rehired (the superintendent’s nephew had just gotten his teaching degree in English. He holds the position now)–and embarked on a new career. Since June 2012, I have been a truck dispatcher at a rock quarry. I have not regretted one day that I left teaching.
My last year of teaching was full of major ups and downs. This high school had only about 120 students, and I taught English for all 4 grades. Many of the students were difficult to deal with–they were not used to being held to any academic standards, not used to being listened to either, not used to having their writing put on display, their views and opinions challenged, their exposure to art, music, and writing expanded. My tires were slashed twice during the year. I had an enormous work load, spending a crazy amount of time as senior class sponsor ordering donuts for fundraisers, working the concession stand, preparing students for every assembly we had.
I also had great success with students entering the Poetry Out Loud competition, writing competitions, going to the state capital to receive writing awards, excelling on the fucking tests they had to take, making creative writing videos, journaling in the beautiful woods beside the school, taking hero’s journeys amidst the pine trees and composing stories old as Homer and as contemporary as 2012.
None of it mattered.
The superintendent took a disliking to me–his son was on the basketball team and because of my class, several of his teammates were ineligible. I wanted to think more highly of him, but when looked at from all angles, that is what it came down to. And the weird thing was that both the superintendent and the principal said they hired me because they wanted me to make the students accountable and to hold them to high standards, to, in short, expect more from them than past teachers had.
So . . . there is no satire here. Perhaps my only satire-less column! I felt like writing an update here. I didn’t remember that I had not written a thing during that last teaching year. It was all a hectic fog, and there was SO MUCH I could have used for material. And it must have felt overwhelming to me. There is a distance one has to have from a subject before the satire can come.
Truck dispatching? Here’s what I enjoy most about it: I have time to think. Ironically, as all of you teachers know, most public schools do not allow teachers time for reflection, for thinking, for being an unhurried human for a few minutes of a day. We all need that. Teachers especially need that. I do not particularly like the long hours, but there is a lot of down time, and I can read and write, make things, plan, stare into space . . . and I leave the job when I leave the job.
I write a lot of poetry now. There is always something interesting outside the quarry window: a visiting peacock, flocks of blackbirds, killdeer mating, trucker butt crack (okay, not so interesting), huge machines juxtaposed with tiny white wildflowers, boulders and truck-dodging squirrels, wind, rain, and snow.
If any of you are still reading this blog, please comment below. How is your teaching life? What are your thoughts in 2013 about . . . anything? Maybe I’ll write some more on this blog. Maybe it’s time I tackle that last year of disasters and successes with the keen edge of my satiric sword. Opinions?