Monthly Archives: August 2012

Looking for a change, one (way) over 50 soon to be former educator.

I had intended my first post in a while to be about my experiences at the recent Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum but today I hit the wall.  Imagine hitting a wall the week before the start of classes.  I didn’t hit the wall because of my students; no they have been awesome and have worked tirelessly all summer on new and difficult projects. I didn’t hit the wall because I was tired and still suffering jet lag and I didn’t hit the wall because I don’t know what to do next with my students.  That isn’t a problem as I have a OneNote notebook filled with ideas (that I may soon be giving away).

No, I was ready to retire on the spot today because of the bane of effective teaching everywhere… the administration.  Let me explain. Yesterday when I returned after my week in Redmond I was blindsided by one of my colleagues who told me that he had taken a job at a different school. Well, this person was the district assigned technician who is supposed to oversee the regular break/fix of the traditional high school’s technology.  My students work with him and assist him in his position and also help by creating OS images to deploy, taking care of networking issues, and creating applications that can better the life of everybody on campus.  I thought, “great now my students and I are going to have 10 times the amount of work in a week.”  and sat down to start plotting a strategy to make a hectic opening of school work. Then this morning, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was the cause of this person leaving.  The bearer of these glad tidings was the principal’s messenger.  Now I am sure that every educator who has ever worked in a school knows who I am talking about. The individual that the principal has brought onboard to deliver the talking points about a particular meme. Yep, that person.  I was shocked.  I asked what I had done to be the cause of such an abrupt departure.  The answer, I expected too much.  I wouldn’t cut him some slack, that I wouldn’t trust him with more difficult assignments and that he wasn’t learning enough from me.

Okay, now I have been called an overachiever (in fact that is probably the nicest thing that have been said about me) and tough to work with. In my defense, I expect no less from somebody I work with than I do from myself and no less then I expect from my students. If someone can’t do their job then I can’t trust them with critical systems. But I guess that’s not how it works in our school any longer.

I was also accused of doing everything in my power to further my career at the expense and neglect of my job.  With that I hit the roof and demanded to know what specifically I had done to warrant that accusation.  I thundered down to the front office and demanded an explanation. Well not really, in my mind I thundered down to the front office and demanded an explanation. In my mind I threw my keys on the principal’s desk and used a famous line from Johnny Paycheck.

I sat at my desk doing a slow burn, working with my students who sensed that there was something REALLY bothering me, and trying to just let go.  But I couldn’t. I was getting angrier, more frustrated and telling myself to just get it over and retire already. I couldn’t let go until I got an email from an old student of mind from my Journalism teacher days close to 20 years ago. In his email he wrote:

“ … (but) I did learn a lot of other lessons from you that continue to influence me today. In fact, I think you are the most influential mentor I’ve ever had and I just wanted to say thank you again.

I started thinking of you because when I went to the reunion, I saw this corner of the main hallway that we used to go to make phone calls. I remember one morning when you asked me to meet you at the corner to give me an ass-chewing for screwing around and not taking things seriously. I remembered you told me I was good enough to get asked to come back for a second summer. If that happened, I could get a scholarship and then an internship at the [St. Petersburg]Times. And if I got that internship, I could impress the editors and could potentially land a job as a reporter for one of the best newspapers in the country.

It was the first time anyone ever mapped out a future for me like that. And I realized this weekend that’s exactly how it panned out. I actually did everything you said was possible.

So, thank you again.. Especially for giving me the ass-chewing I needed to stop screwing around and make something of his life.”

As I read those words every bit of anger, resentment and fantasy key flinging left me. I was grounded again.  Grounded in the fact that the reason I became a teacher was not to promote mediocrity and just slide by unnoticed. No, I became a teacher to help everybody I could reach beyond themselves and see what could happen. I became a teacher to help my students reach farther, dream bigger and make themselves better.

So I hit a wall and bounced back only a little bruised.  Still, if the right offer came around right now some fantasy key flinging might just become reality.