I've submitted my letter to the school district; this will be my last year as a classroom teacher.
There is no raging letter railing against the advance of reform in my district. It's true that reform stuff has made its way into my building, that I work with a for some Kool-Aid drinkers, and that some days I step back and realize that the goldfish has barely enough water left. But I read too much from too many corners of the country to imagine that my school is as bad as things can get-- it's not even close. And if it were just that, I'd be inclined to stay and continue making a nuisance of myself (though I will admit that over the years I have underestimated how easily a district can say, "Just ignore him-- he's old and he'll be gone soon.")
Anyway, my work situation doesn't justify one of those blistering "why I'm quitting" letters. It has been a good place to work for most of my career.
Most of it comes down to this:
My reasons for stepping down are largely personal and financial. There are children and grandchildren and other family scattered about; I'd like to be able to visit and skype more often. There are things that I promised myself I would get around to doing "some day," and I've been reminded lately that at 60, my some days are not an infinite supply. I have writing to do and community work to do and there's a banjo upstairs I've been meaning to restring when I get the time.
I have all the feelings about this. I've always been first and foremost a teacher, one of those guys who everyone figured would teach until he was ancient and crusty, and really, for a large part of my life, I couldn't envision anything else. I didn't talk or think about retirement because I could not imagine what it would look like. Over the past few years that has changed; I was indulging in some romantic fantasizing to imagine I could do this work forever. Plus, I don't want to spend my family's future just because I'm afraid to change my present. But I still feel some guilt about retiring, about leaving the work while there is still work to be done. Intellectually, I know that this was always going to be true, that every teacher leaves the field while the work is still being done. But still, I think of the people who will still be carrying the load that I will no longer be helping to heft. And I'm sorry that there will be one less voice of an actual working teacher in the Conversation About Education, though I suspect some more will emerge soon enough.
I am by no means done with the education world. My wife's career is still mostly ahead of her, and the two guys in the picture have their whole education ahead of them (except for drooling, crawling and pooping-- on those, we have mastery)-- so I will remain fully invested. Running for school board? That sounds like fun. Do you need a speaker? I believe I'll be available. Need someone for a writing gig? I'm all up for that. And it's time to get serious about seeing if I really have a book or two in me. Then I can start fielding the offers from think tanks while I start my consulting firm. Or I can just get that banjo restrung. And this blog will keep right on churning away.
I am the most fortunate, blessed, privileged guy I know. I have had second and third chances I never deserved. I have worked at the best job in the world in a great community, managed to put two kids through college, have never been very wealthy but have never lived in want, and now that job, backed up by the state, gives me options that some people (including teachers in other locales) only dream of. As I have said many times, it does not suck to be me, and not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for my privileges and thoughtful about how to try to pay the universe back.
I'm sure I'll have other things to say as the reality of change sinks in, because as we know, every thought that passes through my brain falls onto this space. In the meantime, I just wanted to pass on the news.