WHY I REALLY LEFT TEACHING – JANUARY 2009

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com) 

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So why did I actually leave teaching? I believe that I was a pretty darn good teacher and provided good educational opportunities for the students that I was entrusted to educate. I believe I was well respected by my fellow educators, administration and I would like to believe by the students, that I attempted to teach. But at 50 I started to look at things differently and I had to make some very difficult decisions on where and what I wanted to do with my life over the next 10-15 years (that long/short term planning thing – we all tend to look at about this age).

Fifty is when that not so secret thing called subtle age discrimination starts to rear its ugly head. As we get further into our 50’s prospective employers think about increased health costs that an older worker brings, how long will they actually be productive employees, how much “should” they invest in someone that may not be there for as long and all the other age related negatives.

Based on that I felt that if I was going to move into something new I had to do it within the next year or two. Which turns out that I did, I sent a couple of resumes out and took the only job that I interviewed for. I went back to being a paper pusher, otherwise known as a bureaucrat.

Getting back to why I left actively teaching is this. Government, (federal, state and local) have set laws, regulations, standards that tell educators what they need to teach. I cannot say this loudly or vehemently enough:

NCLB DOES NOT TEACH KIDS, it is a set of punitive measures structured around teaching to a test (memorize it, forget it) and does not reward authentic learning, higher level thinking skills and research skills. NCLB in my personal opinion actually punishes schools that previously taught these skills by forcing them to dummying down their curriculum to teach to a standardized rote memorization test, which is a very low level educational skill.

No Child Left Behind does leave many students behind…it also gives the impression that all students can meet the same minimum standard, anyone with common sense knows that not all students can or want to meet the same artificial minimum standards, some students could care less about how they do scholastically, so schools, teachers and worst of all students are penalized when schools don’t meet these artificial standards or test scores.

Some schools have flourished in spite of this law, not because of it. If anything we created an undereducated generation of former students, who can take a standardized test, but have difficulty adjusting to the academic rigor required at college or to the problem solving, technical writing and ability to work as a team member – skills needed to be successful in the workplace.

Standards or Learning Results – are a great idea to give complete listings of everything that is supposed to be taught in a school. Well guess what – it is bullshit. There are simply too damn many of them, how do teachers, administrators, parents and finally the student actually know what they are supposed to know when there are hundreds of standards. If you look at the laundry list of standards that States require each student to know by graduation, it is a daunting task and not one for someone with a weak educational background. Yet the Federal and State governments believe that parents and students all should know and understand what they are talking about. This thinking is not part of the reality that I live in, but when the people that write these standards associate only with like educated individuals, their logic and reasoning can get skewed.

Grading standards based education – it is not the same grading system that most envision (take a test, score, take a test score and then average the results over the grading period) in standards based grading it isn’t an average, grading is based upon mastery, but how many teachers, administrators, parents and students really understand this vast difference of how standards based learning is actually actually graded? In my experience – not many. With such an emphasis on grades to get into a great college – mastery doesn’t mean crap, but that A or B (or 4.0, 3.0) sure does.

Students need to be given opportunities to learn and then be held accountable and responsible if they do not. That is the key word “opportunities”, the students must determine if they want to take those opportunities or not. No law, standard, or learning result will force a student to learn anything they do not choose to learn. If a student chooses not to learn (different than cannot) in a variety of different opportunities, including that dirty word in some education circles – vocational education ( let the student suffer the consequences of that action or inaction). Are there bad schools and teachers – of course, but that is a completely different rant. 🙂

But in today’s societal avoidance of personal responsibility and holding the individual accountable for their actions and inactions that is not the case (isn’t it always “someone” else’s fault for…whatever it is). If we do not hold CEO’s of Corporations or Politicians accountable for what they do or do not do, why should I expect that students should be held accountable. Who knows maybe if we taught accountability and ethics at an earlier age, we wouldn’t have as many issues with it later in life.

If students are willing to work their butts off, do well academically, what is the payoff if they can’t afford to go to college? They see it as wasting their time and choose other paths. I believe that we need to emphasize opportunities and provide motivation those that can and will do well academically. Maybe free college in return for voluntary service…for those who cannot afford to have mommy and daddy send them to college…just a thought. After the recent financial recession, how many more fit into this category now? How many students can afford the huge bills they have coming out of college?

Not all students want to go to college right after high school (if ever), don’t penalize those students by making them take a curriculum that matches or mirrors a college bound student, it is ridiculous and causes many of the negative issues we have with students in school. How many of us do things that we hate to do day in day out without becoming miserable and causing stress for ourselves and everyone around us. Vocational education is not a dirty word and needs to be used more in the real world.

Wow! I got on a rant or was that a soapbox and could have written a lot more but enough is enough. I think you get my drift, I left education more because of Government (Federal or State) mandated programs (underfunded or unfunded), useless standards that most teachers give lip service to and to the ingrained lack of accountability that many student have in many of today’s classrooms.

Let teachers teach that is what we pay them to do, if you want someone to babysit kids, go hire professional day care staff, but let the teachers teach. Like the bumper sticker says “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Think about it.

The Last question. Do I miss teaching? Not really, but today while talking with a much younger co-worker, he stated “I bet you were a really good teacher.” I replied “You know something, I still am a good teacher.”

We both had a good laugh because we had just had a “This is the world according to Shaw” conversation and I had been rather blunt in some of my observations.

But you know that comment did made me stop and think for a moment, what would it be like to be back in the classroom? I don’t think so, I do really like what I do now, but Certified Special Education Teachers are still needed in a lot of places. But then I would have to face that subtle age discrimination thing, being over fifty and looking for a new position.

Update: I did return to teach in October 2009.

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2009 – WHAT DO I DO THIS YEAR?

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com)

What should I do versus what I will end up doing?  That is the question that everyone asks at the start of a new year and I am no different.

1.  Increase the amount that I run.  I am not going to say I am going to loose so many pounds or weigh a certain amount, instead I want to be able to run – not jog 20 miles a week by the end of August. If I do increase my running the weight will take care of itself.
2.  Take more time out for family.  This means turning off the computer at 8:00 MOST nights. I sit and participate in Twitter, write nothing blogs and just generally waste time on the computer way too much.  I also need to make a trip to Minnesota to see daughters and grandkids and make more time to go to Newport.
3.  Get more done around the house.  After last year’s health debacle, there are so many things that I have to get done that I didn’t last year.  Plus I have acclimated to fewer days off, so now I can budget my time better, just have to get off the computer.
4.  Health.  I guess that I will have to get the colonoscopy done and if my cholesterol levels are still high, go on a lowering plan that may include pharmaceuticals (as much as I hate to).  But this also means that I have to go to the Doctor and actually follow his advise not just nod my head while I am in there and ignore everything when I leave.
5.  Work.  Continue learning the new job, including the financial end of it and stop procrastinating taking over the finance portion. I can do it, yes I can.
6.  Blogging.  Stop wasting trons about myself as much, find something to write about that other people might actually have an interest in.  I have found a great Blogger template, now I just have to put interesting stuff in it.

Also don’t just read other’s blogs, in Google Reader – go to their site, read the blog there and comment more often.  Maybe use my LiveSpaces blog for personal and Blogger for rest?  We will see.

Those are the 6 things I want to work on this year.

I was also reading Chris Brogan’s Your 3 Goals for 2009 blog and here are my three words

Increase:Time:Debacle
Increase – Increase my running
Time – Spend more time with family, doing things around the house, and time for/to myself
Debacle – Improve my health from last years health debacle, be more proactive and be there for my wife when she needs me.
One more – clean up my photos into one place, so I can actually find what I am looking for.
These are my thoughts on what I want to do in 2009, what are yours?

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