I really thought that I would teach school forever.
I never planned for retirement because I never could imagine a time when I would want to leave the schools. I often joked that I would die in my smock, and administration would have to carry me from my classroom. Mother taught until she was 72 years old. Aunt Mildred taught for fifty (50!) years, then later informed me that opting for retirement was the worst decision she had ever made. I assured myself that I would never make that mistake.
Yes, I figured that I would take my last breath right at the blackboard; maybe during a lesson on the importance of retaining the accurate pronunciation of the /wh/sound instead of using substandard English. "W’en will you retire? W’y do you stay? W’at is your plan? W’ere are you going?" (Answers: 1) Never. 2) Students need me. 3) Be here tomorrow. 4) Home to prepare lessons.)
I therefore surprised my family and friends, almost as much as I surprised myself, when I recently, just 24 hours after my 60th birthday, "hung up my smock" and walked away from public education. I am officially retired as of today, January 1, 2008, and…I’m glad.
I am a skilled and traditional teacher who refuses to use the tricks and gimmicks that are part and parcel of progressive (a misnomer if ever there was one) education. Actually, modern public instruction has few new tricks and rarely an original, scholarly, effective idea. Actually, most school districts would rather not have teachers like me. Actually, should someone/anyone come forth with a good idea — one that challenges the status quo and stands to change schooling for the better — the suggestion will certainly and immediately be discarded and the person disciplined.
I …do have the occasional idea; learn more effective instructional methods by attending conferences and training workshops; talk to others who also hoped to save the schools; and seek information by extensive research. My life goal has always been to effectively educate children, but my standards have proven to be too threatening for the frightened, the weak, the lazy, the stupid, the corrupted, and the corrupting. Far too many administrators (I certainly do not include those honest and intelligent individuals who also battle Fad Foolery and FedEd) would rather hire an agreeable Know-Nothing who will faithfully follow the Pipers of Poison Policies, than allow the students to be taught by anyone who challenges the unethical, misdirection that the schools have taken.
As you can well imagine, my role in the public school system has usually been…Official Outcast. However, when the Fearful, Ignorant and Inept pushed me out of their schools, they only succeeded in providing me with more time to research and refine my ideas; to write for the ever-growing number of citizens who have lost faith in the schools; for the ever-growing number of parents who wisely remove their children from the student failing, academically meaningless, and ethically void, government schools.
Still, public education chooses to destroy potential by demanding that teachers use the renamed, redecorated, repeatedly-proven-to-fail FADS (Fraudulent Acts Devoid of Scholarship) — whole language, see & say reading, incidental phonics, invented spelling, balanced literacy; constructivist math, new math, new-new math, transitions, rainforest math; group work, peer projects, peer reviews; fuzzy this, fuzzy that, fuzzy everything — instead of using proven and effective methods of instruction. I have even attempted to discuss such problems with university professors, but what I have to say is far too threatening to their Pet Research Theories. They choose to ignore the truth so as not to contaminate their thesis and put their grant money at risk.
For 35 years, I worked hard to effectively teach children enrolled in the public education system. From the schools I received: no academic rewards for effective instruction; little-to-no acknowledgment from the school community for the successful methods that my research brought and taught me; no respect from those administrators and teachers who live in fear of the claims and threats made by naked emperors. Such weak, often corrupt, individuals walk with eyes forward, ears covered, mouths shut, as they carry the invisible train, of the invisible garment, sewn from the invisible cloth, that has been tightly woven with dark and shadowy strands of disillusionment, failure, illiteracy, criticism, doubt, damaged lives, broken hearts, overflowing prisons, unachieved goals, lost hopes, and dreams denied.
On the whole, I have been rejected by an educational system that desperately needs smart, skilled, scholarly, well-read, strong teachers just like me. Administrators refuse to acknowledge our value. They reject our suggestions and diminish our concerns, simply because we advocate for our students; because we make the achievement, knowledge, and mental development of our students our main priority. Unskilled, power-hungry, and downright stupid administrators, especially, cannot forgive any teachers or parents who notice the foolish actions and the counterproductive decisions made by such leaders as they work to drag our once-owned-and-run-by-the-people public schools so far from the path of true education, destroying a culture, and a country, in the process.
I have been a misfit for most of my years in public education because I have refused to kiss the glorified fannies of those within the fortress; and I have refused to deceive those outside its walls — the students, parents, taxpayers. When my job is to teach a group of students to read, I do my very best to — teach them all to read. If my successful instructional methods, using inexpensive Materials-That-Work, offend and embarrass those in power who have spent obscene amounts of money to buy untested and ineffective Curriculum-by-Kickback, that was just tough luck and egg on their collective faces, as far as I am concerned.
I admit — I am vocal, inflexible, and downright stubborn when it comes to educational choices and evil scams that negatively affect students. As I have noted before, like Bernie Goldberg, I play for the other team. I proudly play for Students and Parents, and my loyalty will forever be with them.
Just count me out of the dark farce (and darker force) called public schooling. Count me out of the unwinnable battle. Count me out of the corrupt system. I simply lack the moral-relativity, the values-flexibility, and the ethics-buyability, necessary to participate in and support the ploys, tricks, and treachery that have taken the place of backbones in the leadership of government education.
Count me out, but do not feel sorry for me. My career as a teacher, and my rewards from teaching, have been the Grand Prize! The best part, of course, has been the children. I have thrived on such wonderful opportunities to teach and inspire young minds; to introduce students to the exciting world of learning and the possibilities it offers for Life. I have taught children from all kinds of backgrounds; in four different states. I have taught at every level, from Preschool through 12th grade, university and adult education. I have taught the deaf; the blind; the normal, and the alphabet groups where hated labels serve to disguise the strengths and positive characteristics of each child.
I have had very unique teaching assignments, from the eastern, semi-desolate ranch areas of Colorado, to a historical, segregated K-12 school in Alabama. I was recently back in Alabama visiting friends, students, coworkers, and the schools where I taught. I was welcomed with love and more hugs than I could count; from staff and students, alike. It was the best Christmas gift of all. My teaching career has been WONDERFUL!! It has been my Passion and it has been my Life. My albums are full of photos; my files filled with interesting information and materials; my mind full of memories. I recently found a photo taken my first year of teaching and it seemed so fitting to stumble upon that during the last days of my teaching career. The timing seemed so… Right.
My return to Alabama served to remind me that I still love to teach, and that I really should teach until the day I die. There are still other places to teach, others to teach, additional skills to develop. Count me in for those additional teaching experiences!
I see my writing as yet another teaching method, and I have much to write about…experiences, people, rewards, and frustrations that I have faced during my 35 years in the system. I have lessons to teach, and fodder to use. I will still be able to teach vocabulary and concepts, such as…throwing in the towel; the final straw; the straw that broke the camel’s back; reading the writing on the wall; more [to government education] than meets the eye; pulling the wool over the public’s eyes; right under the people’s noses; teachers’ hands are tied; wash my hands of it all; being set up to fail; and much, much more.
Yes, I have decisions to challenge; abuses to reveal; stories to tell. It will be most satisfying to pursue such interesting and rewarding instructional tasks.
So, count me in, and especially into the homeschooling movement. David has grown and gone, so I can make myself available to homeschooling families, whether to share with them the assorted instructional methods that I have used for decades; to lead them in teaching the non-homeschooled children in their neighborhoods, churches, and lives, to read well and learn quickly; to help in any number of ways.
On second thought…I will teach forever! By working together, and learning from each other, we stand a better chance of rebuilding a moral and highly literate nation.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a reading specialist (continually seeking ways to improve her methods for Rapid Reading Remediation); a former public school teacher (The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered…); and a former homeschooling parent (whose son, now 20, insisted upon growing up, putting an end to all the fun). Linda now teaches English composition at a state university and is writing her first book.