Sunday, March 9, 2014

In which I start this blog

I turned 34 last Monday. This in itself is not significant, but I want to view it as a turning point. Thirty-three was not kind to me: I discovered a slipped disc in my back, we had multiple expensive car and home repairs, and other minor injustices. Even the biggest blessing of the past year, the birth of my second son, happened in February last year, when I was still 32. Thirty-three was the year of sleepless nights, of countless medical bills, and of stress, stress and more stress.

But most of all, I will remember the age of 33 as the year I walked away from teaching. I type "walked away" but really, that door has been closed for me. I went into teaching seven years ago because I enjoyed seeing that "spark" of learning. I loved the idea of introducing concepts and topics to students that would expand their worldview, that would cause them to question and examine the world around them. I wanted to be a curator to the literate world.

For a few short years, I was able to be that curator. In multiple situations at multiple schools, I was asked to enter, create my own curriculum, and teach. It was hard, and I was only working with one or two others, but I was doing what I wanted to do. And I was rewarded for it. Students learned from me, I created some great relationships that I still treasure, I was asked to write recommendations, I spoke at graduation and was voted "Best Activities" by students.

My Speech at Graduation

But, as much as students loved me, administrators took a different view. Classroom management was a weak point in my repertoire, as it is for many beginning teachers, and it was the Achilles' heel I was hit with again and again. My students didn't spend enough time on task. I would tolerate any questions from my students, even ones not relevant to the lesson I planned that day. I wouldn't stop side conversations. I needed to get a handle on this classroom management thing, I was told, or I should find another line of work.

In my time as a teacher, I worked very hard at improving my classroom management. I took multiple Professional Development courses. I talked with my colleagues. I worked at establishing classroom rules and procedures. I took on AVID, an voluntary Advanced placement class, and implemented their learning strategies in my classes. But it was not enough. The year I was voted "Best Activities" and spoke at graduation? I was not hired back at that school. I've worked in 4 different schools the past 5 years, and there comes a time when you have to realize that, as much as you enjoy your work, and as rewarding as it is, if you can't get anyone to hire you long term, maybe you should do something else.

So, this blog is the start of that something else. I am officially a stay-at-home dad. I have two kids under 5, and they are a delightful bunch, but they take up a lot of my time and energy. In the reserves I have left, I want to write, share and edit. I want to still be that curator to the literate world, although the audience may have changed a bit. I may write about education, or home improvements, or being a stay-at-home dad, or maybe just the latest video game that has taken up my or my son's time. Whatever it is, I hope you will join me.

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