Twilight Years or Twilight Zone Seasoned Teachers Leave Public Education in Droves

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Teaching
used to be such a respected and rewarding career. It was a profession
that retained employees for decades. My Great-Aunt Mildred taught
school for fifty years and touched the lives of hundreds, thousands,
of children. Aunt Mildred began her career in rather primitive one-roomed
schoolhouses where, in addition to teaching, she did the janitorial
work, and fixed hot noon meals for the students. A couple years
after she retired, I asked her how she felt about retirement. With
her stern, schoolmarm manner, she bluntly stated, “Worst decision
I ever made in my life!” She would have preferred to teach until
they had to carry her out of the school. As a child, my mother would
occasionally ‘go to school’ with Aunt Mildred to watch her teach,
and to dream of someday becoming a teacher.

My
mother did, indeed, become a teacher and touched the lives of hundreds
of students. Mother taught the deaf in and around Ypsilanti, then
supervised a school for children with multiple handicaps in Jackson.
She taught ‘deaf & blind’ children in Colorado, then returned
to Michigan and taught special education students in the job that
I now hold. Mother tried to retire once – we even held a big retirement
party – but she was called back, yet that summer, and continued teaching
until she was 72 years old. As a child, I would occasionally ‘go
to school’ with Mother to watch her teach, and to dream of some
day becoming a teacher.

I
did become a teacher, and believe that I, as well, have touched
the lives of hundreds of children. I began my career in 1972, teaching
the deaf in Sioux City, Iowa, and have also taught in Colorado,
Eastern Iowa, and Michigan. I share, with my Mother and my Aunt
Mildred, a deep love for teaching, and an appreciation for the awe
that comes from contributing to a child’s development – into a reader;
a learner; a thinker; a truly educated individual. What I do not
share with these two fine ladies is any desire to teach in public
schools into my sixties, let alone into my seventies. I plan to
retire as soon as I am old enough to file the paperwork. My son
never chooses to ‘go to school’ with me to watch me teach, and never
dreams of becoming a schoolteacher.

The
modern culture of schooling has taken a great toll on my generation
of teachers and on our families. Some teachers have been able do
their best while trying not to worry about the system as it crashes
around them. I have never been able to do that, and my family has
paid a dear price, living with my stress and my tears of frustration.
I have always believed that it was my job to educate children to
the best of my, and their, abilities. That quality is no longer
appreciated, or even encouraged, in too many schools. I first understood
this when one supervisor wrote a negative evaluation: “Linda is
even willing to fight to improve services for deaf children.”

Many of us face reprimands, even retaliation, for daring to improve
services for children. Those of us too young to retire, often find
our health and relationships harmed. Many of us believe that our
frustrations stem from the fact that we began teaching when learning
was valued, students were motivated, and administration was supportive
of excellence in education. We then spent these thirty years observing,
with no power to stop, the trashing of traditional teaching methods;
the entrenching of inferior fads and materials; the lowering of
expectations – at first for the lazy children, and then for the remainder
of the student population; and the ‘other-world’ craziness of administrative
leadership.

We
have watched our schools be vandalized; traditional curriculum be
compromised; students speak, dress, and act like the lowest of classes.
We work for young bosses who are proud of never earning anything
higher than a ‘C’ in school, but who expect us to applaud their
‘achievements.’ We shake our heads in disbelief, but this is too
often the world we face when we arrive at our buildings.

Those
who know teachers who began teaching in the late 1960′s or the early
1970′s, must be noticing the fact that they are leaving the teaching
profession in droves. They quietly file their retirement papers
at the soonest possible moment, and turn away from public education.

I
find that I cannot leave without asking, “Why?” Why has the educational
culture destroyed the schools that used to educate all Americans?
Why have educational policies and politics shattered the hopes of
all races of people in this land, and the hopes of all their offspring?
Why have poorly educated, but well ‘trained’ administrators been
so unwilling to acknowledge, let alone wisely use, the potential
that experienced and caring teachers possess – we who might have
planned to teach into their sixties, if not our seventies – but instead
file retirement papers in mass numbers?

Has
the destruction of the American education system been done purposefully,
or just out of widespread stupidity? There are theories, documented
and well-supported, that lead one to believe that the results we
work so hard to hold at bay, are exactly those which arrogant socialist
planners want and strive to achieve. Our educational culture seeks
the kind of teachers who believe that such ‘social leveling’ is
best for us; for our America.

Is
government education in the process of facing its ‘twilight years’
or is public education entering a ‘twilight zone?’

Seasoned,
skilled, and caring teachers face a conundrum; a quandary: we were
not trained, nor are we willing, to accept the miseducation and
dumbing-down that come from either scenario – the twilight of American
schooling, or a ‘twilight zone’ of crazed educational pathologies.
We have no choice but to pack up, turn in our keys, and leave. We
are seen as dinosaurs, and the new educators do not want us in the
schools. Our rational knowledge and skills-based instruction distracts
the ‘levelers’ from their spacey concepts of learning and conditioning.

Can
the schools survive without our skills, experience, wisdom, insight,
behavioral management, and academic goals? I believe that the nation
will discover that answer within the next ten years. Some young,
shallow-thinking, ill-trained principals – not only believe public
schooling can survive without us; not only expect that the schools
will be better off without us; – but actively seek to drive us
out of the field of education. Sadly, but still forward-looking,
we early retirees will spend our twilight years being productive – not
in the public schools – but elsewhere.

January
24, 2003

Linda
Schrock Taylor [send
her mail
] lives in northern-lower
Michigan, where she is a special education teacher (in Room 18),
a free-lance writer, and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where
real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.


     

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