Friday, November 4, 2011

When Is It Time to Retire From Teaching?

I started teaching 31 years ago.  I was the typical first year teacher.  I was enthusiastic and spent a lot of time preparing for each and every lesson.  It was important to me to engage my students in interesting lessons to keep them enthused for the topic I was teaching.  There were 2 teachers in every subject in the middle school I taught and Mr. Wilburn was the other social studies teacher.  He had 25 years experience and he was very different than I was in his approach to teaching.

Mr. Wilburn was a dry and uninteresting teacher.  Everything he did in class revolved around reading the book and answering the questions at the end of the chapter.  He had a set schedule. Monday was oral reading of the chapter.  Tuesday was vocabulary work.  Wednesday and Thursday was answering the questions in the chapter and Friday was the test.  This never changed unless the week was going to be a 4 day or a 3 day week due to holidays.  On those weeks, he just sped up the work the kids had to do.

I never said anything to him about his style of teaching.  After all, I was a new teacher and he was a very experienced one.  It was not my place to tell him how to teach and that is why I was insulted when he told me how he thought I should do my job.  To this day, I have never taught like he did.  I still involve the students in engaging lessons and I am proud to say that my students progress very nicely each year.

All teachers are different and they all teach in different ways.  What works for one may not work for the other, but I must admit that Mr. Wilburn did have a long lasting effect on me that is still with me today.  Mr. Wilburn was a grouchy teacher.  He did not like kids and he made no excuses for it.  He would go into the teacher's lounge and tell everyone who would listen just how much his disdain for kids was.  In fact, Mr. Wilburn is the main reason that I never again spent time in the teacher's lounge.  I found the lounge to be a great place of negativity and I did not want that negativity to rub off on me.

I once came home and told my wife that Mr. Wilburn really needed to retire.  I told her that he seemed to be putting in his time and  did not want to be in the classroom and he sure did not want to be near the kids.  I felt like he was doing more harm to the students than good.  I told my wife if I ever got to the point where I became a grouchy old teacher to please remind me of this conversation.

It is now 31 years later.  I am proud to say that I still really like kids.  I feel that my students learn a great deal from my class and that they even acquire an appreciation for social studies as a result of being in my class.  The problem with me is that I have become that grouchy old teacher that I resented with Mr. Wilburn. The difference is that my grouchiness has been directed toward something else.

I have a huge resentment toward the No Child Left Behind law and the way it has changed education.  The TAKS Test/STAAR Test in Texas is, in my opinion, the single reason that our youth are graduating with less abilities than ever before.  Our students know how to take a standardized test and employ strategies to pass these tests even if they do not possess the skills to actually generalize the skills that they are being tested on.

I want so badly to teach my students in a way that fosters creativity and deep critical thinking.  The process of preparing for these standardized tests has taken the time needed to foster creativity and critical thinking from our students.  I fear that our workforce of the future will be the least prepared group ever.

Whether you agree or disagree with me is not important to the topic of this post.  The important thing to take from it is that I have not bought into the educational system that has been created and it has affected me enough to make me feel like I cannot do an adequate job of teaching the way I feel should be done.  I complain a great deal about it. Yes, I have become Mr. Wilburn and I think it is time to leave the field.

I plan on leaving the teaching field at the end of this year.  I have great memories of my time as a teacher and I am proud of the job I did.  I will not leave bitter because I still love the kids I teach and I still care about the job I do, but when you become such a grouch that it changes your personality, it is time to say goodbye.

What do you think?  I would like to know what you have to say.  Leave a comment please.