A Retiring Teacher

I have highest regards for teachers.  My mom was a science teacher.  My wife was a special education teacher.   If you have read this blog you know that I have used examples of what is happening to them to show how doctors are following in the same path.  Recently, a 62 year-old teacher called it quits after 27 years at Westhill High School in New York he posted  the text of his resignation letter on Facebook, along with a photo of Porky Pig saying “That’s All Folks!”     You can also read the full text here.   This was not the same as the flight attendant jumping out the escaped hatch with some champagne.  Gerald Conti’s points are very relevant to our profession as well.  I highlighted some for you below but please read the whole thing:

  • I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.
  •  Finally, it is with sad reluctance that I say our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students by establishing testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian. This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale. The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair.
  • My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.  We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven.
  • Process has become our most important product, to twist a phrase from corporate America, which seems doubly appropriate to this case.
  • After writing all of this I realize that I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists.
  • For the last decade or so, I have had two signs hanging above the blackboard at the front of my classroom, they read, “Words Matter” and “Ideas Matter”. While I still believe these simple statements to be true, I don’t feel that those currently driving public education have any inkling of what they mean.

 

32820cookie-checkA Retiring Teacher