Memory Lane…(in which I stray from the humorous and wax philosophical on the current educational system…)

{Since a friend accused me of phonin’ it in recently… *ahem*}

So a few of my bebes that once sat quietly and worked diligently in my classroom are now grown-ass adults with opinions and shit.  (Not that they didn’t have opinions when they were teenagers–JEEZ did they have loud and openly shared opinions)  A few of them have friended me on facebook.  And sometimes it kinda makes me fucking feel OLD.

Let me first say I am proud of my bebes.  Some graduating with history degrees from UCLA (you go girl!) others still attending school, some watching over and teaching today’s youth and at least one gave his mama a kidney and is becoming an engineer. (Jerome, I will brag about you until I die or you kill a hobo.  And even then I’d prolly still brag…”He hid the body REALLY well!”)

I’ve got other bebes as well that went on to UC schools, or non-UC schools, or community colleges or the school of life, that I don’t talk to.  Not out of spite or anything–its just the role of “former teacher”–if they wanna talk to you, they will.  Otherwise, your time with them is over and they go on to live life.

[Same for me–I am “friends” with a few of my former teachers.  Not all of them.  Not because they all sucked (although some of them certainly did) but because I feel no compulsion to contact them.]

I should also mention that I have some bebes who are behind bars, living lives of questionable decisions or are six feet under.  Still my bebes.  Though a few of them need a good smack on the mouth.  With a chair.

Teaching came to me late, and was never my first love.  I was good at it, got a few stupid awards that don’t really mean shit other than some administrator wanted me to be happy so I’d support their bullshit ideas, but it burned me out in 7 years–as predicted by my mentor Anne Diver-Stamnes.  She told me.  I didn’t hear.  I couldn’t remove myself enough to take care of myself.  I let the idiocy of others chip away at my good intentions.  I exhausted myself.  Physically.  Mentally.  Spiritually.

I don’t talk about it much–the reasons I left.  Mostly because I felt really guilty about it when I did.  I mean, even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant with the most amazing child in the universe who coincidentally needs me a skosh more than a typical kid would at this age of intensive early intervention & therapy, I think I still would have had to leave.

Yeah, I see the shortage of teachers and I wonder if I was selfish or if I was smart. (Although, lemme say in all honesty that the shortage rarely seems to hit the history departments of high schools.  Most history teachers, once entrenched, rarely leave.  I mean–what ELSE do we do with this degree if we aren’t as cool as Sarah Vowell and write hip books about pilgrims and war memorials?)

I see the stories about crappy teachers and think, did I do the right thing or was I rat leaving a sinking ship?


The pat reason i give about why I left was the absolute idiocy of the schools I was working in and the fact that I was supposed to manage 5+ classes of 40+ kids who were barely at reading level, facing silly rules about stupid words that meant nothing to kids who may not have even gotten three square and had no idea how to back up their opinions, or how to even formulate a well-thought hypothesis.  IN THE TWELFTH GRADE.  They did a great job of repeating what adults told them, and what the internet told them, and what sports figures told them, but many seemed scared to actually voice their own genuine thoughts.  (Which, when they did usually showed remarkable insight and observations about life).  I was punished for not reinforcing  their practice of filling in bubbles about facts anyone else would look up with google, because instead I made them USE those facts to form those opinions I was talking about earlier. ANd this made me the bad guy.  The black sheep.  The one with no respect for authority.

HAH! (yes, that was supposed to sound like Mrs Kerbople–the most honest teacher out there…)

And while those reasons are just fine, and tend to satisfy anyone with the burning need to know why I left, in the deeper recesses of my thought, I must admit, they were not the primary reasons.

The way the system is set up, I believe, it destined for failure.  And beliving that, I felt like an absolute hypocrite for working within it.

And exhausted beating my head bloody against a system i KNEW would not change in my lifetime.

My world changed a few years into my teaching career when i read the book “A Different Kind of Teacher” by John Taylor Gatto, in which he points out the obvious flaws in the system, and lays out a plan on how to change it.  All i can say is if you teach or are interested in education, READ IT.  And while i’m at it, may i also suggest Literacy with an Attitude, by Patrick Finn–the second book that kinda put a nail in the coffin for me.

On a weird lil side note, my principal at the time borrowed the Gatto book and never returned it. Of course she didn’t.  It was sedition, pure and simple.

Now, a lot of this is moot since i am now focused on helping  Ben through early intervention.  Whatever my reasons, excuses, etc that i have about leaving education, none of it matters now.  Ben is my first priority, and if i were still teaching, i wouldn’t be able to give him even half of what i give him now.  Yeah–this may change in a few years as he improves (which he is doing at an alarming and awesome rate), but for now, mulling over why i left seems like a waste of time.  And the one thing i don’t have a lot of these days is wasted time… (unless i’m on Pinterest–SUCH a timesuck)

But in the end, I had to make a decision:  stay and change it to the detriment of my sanity, or leave and pursue other dreams that may never bloom?  I suppose to some  I was a quitter on a lot of levels–and that same some  never hesitated to tell me just that.  And possibly I deserve it.  It was pretty Sarah Palin of me to leave at the height of my game.

But I also made a vow to not apologize when I did it.   No matter the bebes I left behind.

Now some of those bebes are growing and maturing and working daily on becoming better people.  And as i look on their growth, i again focus on mine.  It’s not the actualities of the path you are on, but the authenticity.I would not be who i am today without my years teaching in the inner city.  I would be no where CLOSE to where i am today.  Staying or leaving has no weight–it was the experience that forced me to grow.  What i do with that growth, well, we’ll have to wait and see.

In any case, I will say it’s great to stay in touch with some of my students, because it can be a daily reminder to think about intention and authenticity, which can only be a good thing in my book.  And i get to cuss around them now.  and really speak my mind without worrying about some parent crawlin up my ass about something i said in class.  That part’s kinda nice too…

Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Memory Lane…(in which I stray from the humorous and wax philosophical on the current educational system…)

  1. Gawd, I love you. Making me think about leaving Brooklawn all over again. *sigh*

  2. You questioned authority??? You unplugged from the Matrix? You better stay underground, before you are reprogrammed.

    Would it be wrong if I bought that book and distributed it to the teachers at school? Yeah, probably wouldn’t make any friends that way, huh? But then, who needs more friends?

  3. Wait. Did I say the phoning it in thing? Because if I didn’t, I totally meant to the other day.

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