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Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Luckeyfrog....

(I now refer you to the most recent comment on "Dear Wendy....")

Dear Luckeyfrog-

I congratulate you on becoming a teacher. From the sounds of it you are new to the field and therefore still maintain much of your enthusiasm. I applaud you for that and hope to God that you're able to hold onto it for quite some time. And yes, I read Wendy's comment quickly and do realize she asked me to read and comment on it. In fact I gave her comment as much attention as she obviously gave the content of my blog posts.

I had optimisim and idealism once when I was 18 and started teaching. Yes, I started teaching at the age of 18. And yes, there's a story behind that. Back in the day I attended public schools where early on they dicsovered that I was a little quicker on the uptake than most kids in my quiet little suburb. I was placed in a "gifted and talented" program until I hit high school where I began taking AP classes and getting ready for college. You know what happened my junior year of high school? I was so miserable- between being bullied and being generally bored- I told my parents to figure out how to fix my public school experience or else I was going to drop out.

Cue my high school graduation at the tender age of 17. That fall I started college. Where I was teased unmercifully for being the youngest person in the freshman class. However, that allowed me to start teaching under a waiver at the age of 18. I am now almost 30. You do the math.

Now, after you have taught special education for 12 years, then you and I can talk about optimism. We can also address your comment about "strong, motivated teachers" because I'm not sure I appreciate the subtext that perhaps my cynicism comes from a lack of motivation. Au contraire. My motivation has guided me through two BA's, an MED, and an MAT. It guided me through a year of guardianship of one of my students who didn't have parents and needed someone to help make decisions about her IEP and give her Christmas presents. It guided me through the suicide of one of my students. It also helped me return to work the day after one of my students jumped me and broke my nose with a sneaker.

Many of my old stories that are posted on this blog are humorous. However, there lurks beneath the humor the true struggle of helping a special education student learn to value themselves as well as their education. You're right Frog, you can't do it all. We as educators do indeed have to take the little victories as our own and hope that at the end of the day that can be enough to sustain us as professionals. (Sidenote... Nicholas started college at Porter and Chester Institute this fall and moved into his first apartment!)

In the end I will say to you one thing and one thing only. I have earned my cynicism and my option to rant. I will stand by what I said: If you stopped me on the street and asked me for one good reason to become a teacher, at this moment in time I wouldn't be able to give you one. Until I see teachers like you held up and encouraged to continue to be optimistic and idealistic, I will have a hard time believing in educationt the way it was meant to be when formal education was developed.

I hope that in ten years you are able to email me and tell me about your teaching experience and that you have nothing but positive to share with me, thus making my cynicism largely unwarranted. However, until that day comes, I reserve my right to tell you I personally wouldn't wish our education system on my worst enemy.

Love and kisses,


  1. I think I unintentionally offended you or hit a nerve to make you feel defensive. I'm sorry for that.

    I don't think you are an unmotivated person, but it's obvious that you are not motivated to teach. That's not a fault of your character, by any means- but it seems to be the truth (or you would still be teaching). No subtext intended. Also, when I said "strong," I wasn't meaning to imply that you were somehow weak. Maybe 'talented' would have been a better word, as I was meaning to reference teaching ability.

    I didn't mean to criticize your personal choice to leave teaching. My mom worked in special education while I was growing up, and I know that teaching in general and particularly in special education is draining and exhausting. I can absolutely understand that after the time you have spent teaching, you would become disillusioned (there ARE a lot of things wrong with the educational system).

    I don't imagine things will be perfect as I continue my teaching career. I'm optimistic, but I don't feel I am unrealistic. I may not make it ten years- who knows- but what bothered me is that you felt your experience spoke for anyone. I can completely understand choosing to leave teaching, and it could happen to me someday. Even if teaching is not for me, though, I would not presume that the profession can't possibly have value to anyone.

    At one point, you must have thought there were good reasons to become a teacher, even if they didn't end up being good enough to stay.