As a student teacher, I’ve heard a lot about ambition, and changing the world. I’ve heard a lot of my fellow student teachers talk about wanting to make a difference. I’ve heard a lot of full-time teachers relate glowingly their stories of having made a difference, and being engaged.

As I finished up my grading after school, my master teacher and another teacher talked shop talk. I paid attention only intermittently, more intent on the 10s, the 7s and the many, many 0s throughout the PowerSchool grading program.

The other teacher is just as committed as my master teacher, and she would do anything for her students within reason — any action or strategy that teaches them to fish rather than just giving them a fish right off the bat, that is. Upbeat, positive, model teacher.

Eventually, she said something about wanting to shut down and just give up, in a moment of end-of-the-year exasperation.

I joked: Whatever happened to changing the world? Giving up already?

I gave up changing the world a long time ago. That’s the first thing I learned as a teacher, that changing the world can’t be my goal.

Laughing, my master teacher asked:

Why do we think that? Why do you think we try to change the world? What’s up with that?

In mock frustration, she offered her hypothesis.

It’s those movies, those stupid movies, where the teacher changes the world and is awesome.

But if you actually watch the movies, the Jamie Escalantes don’t change the world. They don’t even change the school. They just change their class of 20 students.

Twenty students per class? Now that’s something out of Hollywood.


  1. “I payed (sic) attention.”

    No wonder our public schools are failing.

    If this had been a typo you could have been excused.

    “Twenty students per class? Now that’s something out of Hollywood.”

    Oh ye of little knowledge. Private school classes where I live are often 12-16 students per room and never larger than 18.

  2. dkzody

    Ah, but private schools are also out of Hollywood in my neck of the woods, the same neck as Mr. Baxter. We live in a different society, one of public schools in the poorest of the poor neighborhoods, and we do make a difference in those neighborhoods, one child at a time. Can we change the whole ghastly system? Nope, but we keep trying to change our little corner.

    Those kids in private schools…they don’t need us, they’ll succeed no matter who they have for a teacher; the kids in the public schools, now those are the kids who need us.

  3. It would be foolish to assert that it’s only rich kids that attend private schools. Catholic archdioceses all over the US operate K-12 school systems that attract students of every socio-econ status. These are considered private schools as they are tuition based. Students who meet certain requirements often have their tuition costs waved.

    Most every, if not all, private schools in America does the same thing in certain cases, so I don’t know where you are getting this perception that privates schools are not places for poor kids.

  4. Q

    Thank goodness you showed up, BD! No doubt you yourself enjoyed such a privileged educational upbringing, which does seem to have taught you a refined sort of internet trolling. It is quite refreshing in the face of the more ordinary self-absorbed, over-indulged turpitude I see on a day to day basis. Kudos.

    As for Mr. Baxter’s post, I couldn’t agree more at the inanity “changing the world” as a primary educational goal. I think the observation about only changing the individual class is right on and I hope that the sentiment was not delivered with any true frustration or irony. All I have ever want to do is change my own classroom, which of course means that I will never be frustrated by my inability to do more. And, as I’ve said before, if you managed to put together a large group of teachers like me, an entire school would necessarily be changed for the better. Craft a whole district of such schools and you’d really be on to something. There’s nothing wrong with a small scale focus, especially if it keeps the best teachers from burning out. That “difference” can just as easily (if not more easily) be made in aggregate.

  5. I teach in a rural school district my biggest class is 18. It is also my favorite group. When groups are in teh lower teens or below it is hard to get discussions going. However, it is a sweet setup, our school has about 85 kids per grade and our building is 7-12 with 6 teachers per department. Its right on the optimal line. We all teach either 5 or 6 sections, with class sizes staying super small.

    As for changing the world, its real romantic to say “I want to change the world.” And each day in some kind of way I suppose you can. But the more i’ve been in teaching the more our lives are like Sisyphus. you make progress one day with a student, and the next week b/c his home life is terrible he slips and it kind of breaks your heart. But we keep trying.

  6. Sorry to disappoint you, Q, put I went to NYC public schools in the 1950s and 1960s, that is of course, before the quasi-Marxist stranglehold of the AFT and the NEA ruined the public school system forever starting in the 1970s. They never did learn that throwing money down the ‘chute is not the way to improve schools and get kids to learn.

    I excelled at school because I was motivated and driven by parents who were equally motivated and driven. The road to success starts at home. The homes of minority families were ruined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it encouraged irresponsibility and dependency.

    The only way to help people is by tough love, not by enabling and touchy feely encounter group methods. I know of too many schools today populated by the lowest SES kids with parents who are little more than human flotsam. The schools are too cowardly to compel these people to be accountable. They wring their hands and say “oh, those poor people!” and nothing ever changes The culture these kids come from HAS to change before any progress can be made in the schools. Rehab the culture and the perpetual victimhood mentality and things will improve. But as long as enabling bleeding hearts run the show, it will continue.

    it reinforces my notion that liberals do not want minorities to improve their lot in life, because without underclasses, liberals have no powerbase and hence, no reason to exist.

  7. Mr. Black: That was a typo, and yes, now it’s fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I should say that public schools in my area regularly exceed 30 — if not 40 — students per classroom. That’s the reality I was working with. While private Catholic schools often have as few as 20 students in a classroom, there’s exactly one Catholic school within spitting distance, and it serves only the smallest fraction of students in our area.

    I question your analysis of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Any non-anecdotal proof or reasoning for that? Shoot me a link.

    Yes, the road to success starts at home. How we fix endemic parental flotsam is another matter, for another profession. Teachers can’t change the home life, as much as they may try.

    Ms. Zody: What are schools, then, but a collection of little corners, each monitored by an individual Teacher Cornermaster?

    Mr. Quigley: If you really believed he was a troll, attacking him back is the wrong way to respond. Real trolls are frustrated by politeness more than anything.

    Small-scale focus is the job of a teacher, and there’s no shame in it. At the end of the day, if the teacher hasn’t found some way to motivate the overall class, that teacher has failed.

    Yes, it’s hard. Teachers knew that going into the profession.

    Mr. Cochran: If I were to choose a school at which to teach, it would be yours. Ideal, indeed.

  8. Mr. Baxter: Q can offer whatever snide asides he so wishes. I have a very thick skin. I grew up in a Jewish Italian neighborhood in NYC where contentiousness and confrontation was the order of the day.

    Any opinion I offer here or on my blog is based on my own direct experiences. What others may think or believe about a certain subject rarely impacts upon how I look at it, which is why you will rarely, if ever, find me posting links to someone else’s words or research. I really don’t need to go that route. The blogosphere isn’t a classroom, for pete’s sake, where I’m writing papers for a grade! I’ve lived a full 62 years, far longer than you, obviously, so I have a wealth of experience that a 22 year old does not possess. I don’t have to look at the Civil Right Act of 1964 through a veil of nostalgia. I saw first hand how it ruined families and neighborhoods as it was happening then.

    The bottom line is that hundreds of billions of dollars in US taxpayer money has been spent since 1964 and poverty and crime still exist. When do Americans get to see a more productive and viable return on that investment?

    If no one is working at changing the home lives of these at-risk kids then many teachers are just wasting the taxpayer’s money trying to educate people who are likely going to end up either in jail or dead.

    We could do it but again, too many bleeding heart liberals are in the way and enabling these people.

  9. The Civil Rights Bill was always a Democratic Party thing, as remains welfare and related programs. And since 1964, there have also been mostly Republican presidents and flaccid Democratic minorities or divided Democratic majorities, unable to add much more to the welfare programs. Republicans haven’t always been able to pass every bill they wanted, but Democrats haven’t, either. Think Hillary Clinton’s first health care plan.

    And I don’t look at the mid-’60s through a veil of nostalgia. I wasn’t alive at the time, so I can’t possibly see that period that way. I only know it through the history books, and what I’ve taken the time to read or hear.

    That said, I’ve heard the speeches of Goldwater and Reagan, and I read the transcript of Reagan’s debate against Bobby Kennedy. I know far more about the era than you give me credit for, and I’m not predisposed to ignoring your opinion.

    If you really care to motivate me over to join your side, I would need some evidence. The burden of proof is on you, my friend.

    My 21 years of experience earned me the ability to analyze such data and parse information. Find is some third-party analysis of the situation, and not any based on purely anecdotal evidence. Then we’ll talk.

    If no one is working at changing the home lives of these at-risk kids then many teachers are just wasting the taxpayer’s money trying to educate people who are likely going to end up either in jail or dead.

    Yet this proposal would expand government tenfold, and it’s far more liberal than giving away money.

  10. Let the police do their jobs and stop interfering with their ability to fight crime. Impose harsher sentences on drug users and traffickers, for example. Build more prisons and put prisoners to work building roads, working on farms, cleaning up these rat infested urban neighborhoods, etc. Make prison somewhere to be feared, and not a place to do more drugs, watch TV, lift weights, and bugger one another. Be more aggressive at arresting and prosecuting deadbeat dads.

    And above all, bring back the death penalty. The death penalty is not more expensive as liberals like to claim. A box of rat poison is 3 bucks. A grave digger can take an hour’s time at minimum wage.

    That would fix quite a few problems in the minority community.

    46% of the US prison population is comprised of black males.

    That’s part of the problem why that culture is doomed if harsher measures aren’t imposed to eradicate the problems.

    Draconian tough love is the only solution. Not more money for social programs and hopes for rehabilitation.

  11. More prisons cost money. They cost a lot of money. How will you pay for it?

    The essence of your approach, as far as it is relevant to education: Prosecute deadbeat dads. How do you litigate that, and, more importantly, how would you legislate that? Given the intrinsic violation of personal liberties that entails, why would you want to, and how would such a law survive after the first appeal?

    Make prison somewhere to be feared, and not a place to do more drugs, watch TV, lift weights, and bugger one another.

    This much I agree with. Have you ever heard the story about the bologna sheriff? I think you might like it.

  12. Lanes

    I teach in an urban high school, the type of place where, when I mention it by name, anyone familiar with the area usually makes a sympathetic comment about how stressful my job must be. (Yes, it can be very stressful. But, I love it.)

    Learning that I couldn’t help all of my students was one of the first/best realizations I had about what I can reasonably expect from myself in this job. Those movies where teachers spend every waking moment trying to get all of their students to pass a standardized test? They’re just as realistic as the Hollywood fare where they male and female best friends suddenly realize that yes, now that they think about it, they *are* in love. I firmly believe that me having a life outside of school makes me a happier, more well-rounded person and a better teacher.

    Good luck with your teaching!

  13. How do you pay for it? Cut welfare and other entitlements for the chronically unemployed and welfare moms who keep pumping out kids the can’t afford to feed.

    How do you litigate that? A mother sues for support. The father’s assets are seized in the amount of what he owes based on a predetermined scale. If he has no assets, his ass goes to jail.

    Really, one solution would be forced sterilization for repeat offenders. I’m serious.

    Again, fear has to be instilled in these people. Right now, they know they can bang some broad, get her pregnant, and leave her high and dry without having to pay consequences.

    It’s the culture that demands no accountability, no self-discipline, and no personal pride in themselves or what they do in life, unless it has something to do with lawbreaking.

    I’ve heard of zero tolerance police forces around this country but there needs to be lots and lots more of them. These thugs need to have more FEAR instilled in them. As it is now, they know some bleeding heart defender’s going to get them a ticket to an easy stretch in the can.

  14. “Given the intrinsic violation of personal liberties that entails,”

    As far as I’m concerned, convicts should forfeit their rights to personal liberties and then have to work to have them returned.

  15. Ms. Joyce: I wish I could cleanse myself of all that Hollywood bunk I collected since I first watched The Little Mermaid. I’m tired of actually believing all of those tropes.

    I want to invent a spray, something like bug spray, that would prevent me from all those cheap messages from sticking. I’d call it Cliche-B-Gone.

    Mr. Black: I reject your police state, and on principle. What if a man is wrongly convicted? The Supreme Court — which neither you nor I can ever influence — would strike down these laws and policies you mention, unanimously and in a heartbeat.

    Even disregarding that relatively likely consequence, I not that we can’t, as a nation, afford welfare, either socially or financially. Yet if we replace it with your programs, how could we afford your huge and increased amounts of people in jail, even if we were able to get rid of that cash hog?

    Welfare queens, while not a myth, are rare. Not that you believe these newspapers, but The New York Times and The Washington Post have written to that effect.

    You propose ultimatums that would irreparably damage the lives of many good Americans while you damage the lives of the not-nearly-as-many bad fathers.

    In effect: You would damn a nation to smash a few scattered ants.

  16. Hi

    I like your post. Why change the world? Why not change ourselves? Having short, good and achievable objectives is better.You are a good teacher, I appreciate your approach.

    Kindly visit my blogsite for any peaceful comments and or peaceful discussion on interesting posts/pages there. You are welcome for your differing opinion/thoughts if you so like.


    I am an Ahmadi peaceful Muslim

  17. Mr. Surrey: While I appreciate your politeness, I do not take well to spam. Comment frequently if you want, but until you seem to add something to the discussion, I won’t reciprocate.

  18. Well, Baxter, all I can say is, get some experience outside of the cozy confines of a classroom, risk your life for a few years in the real world as I have, witness some real pain and horror, then get married, have some kids, pay a mortgage, generally assume major responsibility for others, then see how long you cling to your idealistic notions.

  19. I plan to do all of the things you mentioned, but thanks for the advice.

    The bulk of my earlier comment has to do with the Supreme Court, and how it has interpreted or will interpret equal protection under the law, cruel and unusual punishment and the laws you, as a state or federal legislator, submit and bludgeon through the State Assembly or Congress.

    That isn’t idealism. That’s pragmatism. The Court will overturn your law as unconstitutional. I’m surprised that you, with such little faith in the system, would ignore this.

  20. Baxter: I note that many people are not uncomfortable with the fact that “Martin Luther Kennedy” (my own sarcastic sobriquet, like “Slick Barry” ) has practically NO experience to take on the job as one of the leaders of the free world. One term in the Senate? What are his qualifications? What is his plan for leadership, besides this nebulous desire for “change”? I know, he wants to sit down and talk talk talk to smelly little dictators of Islamo-fascist friendly countries while they scurry around like rats behind the walls and plan to destroy Israel.

    Is that what you want, Baxter?

    Where’s the substance in Barry O’s game? He’s all style as far as I can see. But perhaps in this artificial and celeb driven Pop Culture of ours, his gleaming smile and rock star mien makes him more attractive to you when compared to an abundantly experienced elder statesman like John McCain.

    A court packed with more libs will be soft on crime and criminals. Put more Scalias and Thomases in there and it’s less likely to happen. Put more ACLU leaning fruitcakes like Ginsberg in there and criminals will be coddled and excused because they had bad toilet training or their crackhead daddys left home long ago.

  21. TeacherMom

    Black David,

    I wish you would troll somewhere else. Before you leave, did you see the recent study published by Pew indicating that the US has the highest incarceration rates in the world? 1 out of 100 are in prison. Now, I know that you want to stop there and argue some inane eugenics argument (is James Watson your daddy?!) about the inferiority of certain segments of the population, but perhaps just this once you would ask WHAT is behind these statistics with a more humanistic voice? Could it be that a population becomes culturally demoralized and therefore has little hope or incentive for success? Of course, this is a topic scores of books are written about, so it is impossible to delve into such complicated topics superficially.

    Even if we agreed to disagree on that, there are certain moral and social contracts that we make as citizens of a country. People like you think that a rich country like the US should not provide basic things like food, housing (as awful as public housing is… ) or quality education to the poor. I disagree. So, let’s undress your arguments and present them to be what they really are: you do not believe in social programs. Now, the question is whether you would apply this to the middle and upper classes also or whether you apply it across the board. Care to eliminate social security also?

  22. By the way, in my last post, wordpress found it necessary to insert one of those stupid and ridiculous “emoticons.”

    I despise them because I do not approve of so-called “netspeak” or any of its attendant symbols or abbreviations.

    If one speaks clearly and concisely then one shouldn’t need them.

  23. TeacherMom:

    Let me tell you something about being “culturally demoralized” and my own people. Afterwards, you’ll know why I don’t have the time or patience for those races or ethnicities who can’t get their act together.

    For hundreds, even thousands of years, my people have been persecuted, enslaved, terrorized, and slaughtered, much of the time without the benefit of a homeland.

    Throughout that time, my people could have easily folded up and quit. But that alternative would have been unacceptable to us, so we dug within ourselves and found the strength to persevere and prevail. My people became merchants, doctors, scientists, artists, etc, on a world class scale. My people comprise less than one per cent of the world’s population but we lead in most every field of endeavor imaginable that requires great intelligence and skill.

    Tell me what other race can claim that per capita level of accomplishment.

    Therefore, I can’t show any sympathy for minorities in America who can’t figure out how to exist decently and honestly on their own and stay out of jail.

    If my people could do it, they can, too. My people did it on their own, so don’t expect me to lift a finger for them.

  24. Social Security was one of the worst pieces of legislation ever devised, but typical of the travesty that was FDR’s New Deal.

  25. I invite anyone to visit my blog and read the 5/16 entry titled
    “More of Einstein’s Views on Religion.” Within that entry is an excerpt of dialogue from the 1964 film “The Pawnbroker.” That bit of dialogue perfectly encapsulates what makes us (Jews) tick.

  26. Ms. Marian: Don’t let him get under your skin. If he is a troll, he isn’t worth that iota of human compassion.

    Mr. Black: I actually agree with you on emoticons. I took the liberty of fixing that comment.

    The Jewish people have done a marvelous job at excelling in such fields, but they are the single ethnic group I know of that’s also singly religious. If they are more successful per capita than other races, and if this is not an aberration, this success has come from having the advantage of having a unified moral guidance.

    To wit: Every other major world ethnicity is split amongst major world religions.

    To respond to your Supreme Court jibe, it’s worth noting that 7 of the 9 justices — including Scalia and Thomas — were appointed by good Republican presidents, all of whom wanted to tweak the court more conservative.

    Presidential selection of justices rarely predicts their voting records accurately. All in all, an ineffective tool. Much like our current president, actually.

    Social Security was a travesty, and I have a good reason to believe so. Tell me why it’s a travesty. What’s your reasoning?

  27. “Tell me why it’s a travesty. What’s your reasoning?”

    People should be held responsible for managing the money they’ve earned for their later years. If they can’t, that’s just too bad.

    “this success has come from having the advantage of having a unified moral guidance.”

    Wrong. It comes from having superior brains.

  28. I pretty much agree with you on Social Security. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on “superior brains.”

    Jewish people aren’t, by nature, any smarter. If indeed they are, as a whole, smarter, then they it is by nurture.

    Who says a unified moral guidance won’t develop critical thinking skills, in any case?

  29. “Jewish people aren’t, by nature, any smarter. If indeed they are, as a whole, smarter, then they it is by nurture.”

    You’re the historian, read about the Ashkenazim and then ask yourself the same question afterwards.

    You can develop proper moral guidance that has little to do with following examples spelled out in a book of old Hebrew folk tales.

  30. You can develop proper moral guidance that has little to do with following examples spelled out in a book of old Hebrew folk tales.

    Yes, you can. But it’s much more likely if given some structure, and if indoctrinated at an early age.

    Though it’s again from The New York Times, the Ashkenazim study was seriously disputed.

    The researchers have identified two reasonably well accepted issues, the puzzling pattern of diseases inherited by the Ashkenazi population and the population’s general intellectual achievement. But in trying to draw a link between them they have crossed some fiercely disputed academic territories, including whether I.Q. scores are a true measure of intelligence and the extent to which intelligence can be inherited.

    The authors “make pretty much all of the classic mistakes in interpreting heritability,” said Dr. Andrew Clark, a population geneticist at Cornell University, and the argument that the sphingolipid gene variants are associated with intelligence, he said, is “far-fetched.”

    However, I don’t dispute that if children have smart parents, they will be smarter. I dispute that it’s a matter of genetics. It’s just that smart parents will raise their kids to be a little bit smarter. Over 900 years, that will be a huge difference.

    My hypothesis: Switch bassinets at birth, and those parents will ensure their not-children achieve the same feat as children genetically linked to them would.

    Absolute genetic links to intelligence have long been disproven. There was a hack at the close of the 19th century with that hypothesis, and while believed at the time, he was discredited within a few decades.

  31. Q

    Wow, my newfound relaxed pace in following blog chatter has been enlightening…

    Mr. Baxter: Don’t worry, I am embarrassedly intimate with the ins and outs of internet trolling and I completely agree with your prescription. I just have an unfortunate fondness of unnecessary provocation when I encounter a troll. Combine that with a rather rakish mood on my part and I’m afraid I had trouble maintaining your admirable level of aplomb (incidentally, my response was informed in part from perusing BD’s blog). I do have to give Mr. Black some props for being willing to have an ongoing discussion, even if he has been rather visceral and evasive.

    Returning to the actual topic at hand…the thing about the small scale focus is that an unfortunate number of outstanding teachers fail to hold it. The most frustrating for me are those espousing the “professional” teaching model, because their ideas tend to be less emotionally driven and thus one would think they could more easily do good works within the faulty system given to them without being overly troubled by it. Of course, as I’ve said before, I am not one to rock the boat when I can be 90-95% as effective (and much happier) without bothering.

    By not burning out, I will ultimately be of more cumulative value to “the children” than the 110% guy who quits after 3 years. The concept is simple but in my (admittedly limited) experience, I’ve seen too many of the 110% teachers, although they are certainly preferable to the far more numerous 50% effort teachers.

    Mr. Black: A thousand times disagree on most of what you’ve said, but I am impressed with your restrained response to my needling.

  32. I’ve seen Mr. Black around before, myself, so I’m somewhat used to his attitudes and perspectives.

    Is the benefit to rocking the boat so little? Shaking up the system will earn you the frustration of your colleagues and yet only 5 percent more effectiveness?

  33. “I do have to give Mr. Black some props for being willing to have an ongoing discussion, even if he has been rather visceral and evasive.”

    Nothing wrong with being visceral. I don’t get the “evasive” part.

  34. Even given the volume of replies back and forth, there are many specific points brought up to which you don’t respond unless goaded.

  35. Baxter, this is not a classroom and I am not one of your students, let’s make that clear.

    As always, I am purposely selective about what I respond to. I typically choose what most fits my own agenda, which is, to attack and impugn liberals, leftists, collectivists, socialists, egalitarians, their specially protected minority groups, and their preferred foreign interests.

  36. See what I mean about not being sensitive?

    I was just clarifying his point, just so you know.

  37. Q

    Sorry for my slow responses…

    Perhaps I overestimate my own efficacy (certainly, I do not yet have much ground to stand on when I make claims like I have), but I really do think in terms of immediate value to my immediate students, constantly trying to shake things up on a large scale would only increase my contributions somewhere in that 5-10% range. How many really great, boat-capsizing ideas do even the most driven teachers come up with in a single school year? And how many of those ideas are implemented perfectly the very first time? Enough for an extra 5-10% boost to their value in the educational community I say, a boost that only last so long as the teacher keeps on pushing. But maybe I’m just not creative enough to imagine achieving more than that.

    Now I get that my long term EV in the classroom would be greater if I followed their example, but many of those 110% guys seem to burn out well before their EV is ever realized, and I would rather not follow them down that road. Certainly, I will always try to innovate within the boundaries that I’m given. I’ll even stretch those boundaries with a certain ardor, but I will rarely, if ever, be a leader in the quest to break them, because from where I’m standing, the effort is not worth the cost. All of this is not to say that I don’t appreciate those who push the envelope–quite the contrary–but I don’t foresee myself joining them any time soon. It’s so much easier to sip mai thais here in the peanut gallery.

  38. If there’s one thing I disliked about this teaching thing, it’s the cattiness and stand-off-to-the-side qualities of the many, many peanut galleries.

    As time passes, I become more convinced: I don’t think I’m suited for this profession.

  39. Reality check, Baxter!

    No industry or profession is free of the cattiness and subterfuge you find repugnant. In every walk of life there are leaders, followers, clock watchers, company men, suck ups, back stabbers, you name it … they are EVERYWHERE.

    You say you are “eyeing tenure.” That in itself insulates you from a lot after you earn it. You still have to toe the administrative line, but you can ignore most of your colleagues if they indeed disgust you by their ways.

  40. Job security within the teaching profession also appealed to me, and while I am aware that no industry or profession is free of cattiness and subterfuge, there are several fields where the insulation is a lot better. I haven’t had as many years as you to develop a thick enough skin to not be disgusted by it all.

    If nothing else, there’s always freelance work, or being self-employed. I’m handy with a camera, and with a keyboard, so apprenticeship at a local photography firm isn’t out of the question, either.

    The smaller the company, the few people I have to deal with internally. That always appeals to me.

  41. Seems like you are giving up too easily.

    I’m getting the picture. You picked teaching for what I deem to be superficial reasons like “job security.” That to me is like saying you picked teaching for the long vacations.

    You pick a profession because YOU LOVE IT and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. That’s even more important that a pay scale, prestige, or fringe benefits.

    If you don’t love what you are doing, get out, before you waste more of everyone’s time and money.

  42. I picked teaching as a profession years ago, when I was in high school. It appealed to me — I liked high school, at least back then. Inertia kept me going, kept me wanting to be a teacher, and the superficial reasons greased me through the friction.

    I would have changed course had I discovered something that I love doing. I just haven’t, yet, and I had and continue to have few other leads.

    How long should I keep going, assuming I don’t immediately love what I’m doing? You say both that I’m giving up too easily and that if I don’t love it, I should get out.

    If I loved it, I would keep trying, and I certainly wouldn’t give up too easily. All I know now is that, whether or not I will give up, I haven’t yet. I don’t know if I love the profession, either — one year is a remarkable short period of time, full of many highs and many lows. There’s a lot I like, which I could find elsewhere. There’s a lot I dislike, which I could find elsewhere.

    Call it indecisiveness, if you want. My master teacher calls it youth.

  43. “Call it indecisiveness, if you want. My master teacher calls it youth.”

    Likely a fair mix of both.

  44. Q

    I hope you’re not calling me catty! And I certainly hope you understand my comment on the peanut gallery was meant to be ironic. Clearly, I am not standing off to the side. The problem I see time and time again is that teachers (along with almost everyone in the world) are always trying to make others conform to their view of things. You seem to be falling for that in some ways yourself. I would rather we just all learn how to maximize the latent potential of our collective differences and stop worrying about how conform everyone to some sort of new order (or worse, the old order).

    I’m just someone who chooses to keep his focus on his own students. I don’t care if my administration sucks, or if the school district sucks, or if the parents suck, or even if the students suck (as in, they are bratty little jerks). I just care that I am doing as good a job as possible with the means I have available. Obviously, I like reading about and discussing innovations in the classroom, and even abstractly debating policy or theory (i.e. I’ll happily discuss NCLB or the best ways to deal with sucky administrators/parents/students), but I will not sacrifice my happiness to move from being a very good teacher to being a great one, or to fight an uphill battle against a system that I can easily subvert.

    My students will like me, they’ll learn history well, their test scores will be strong, and I’ll enjoy my time working with them. I won’t quit on them just when I start to catch my stride because I’m burned out, and my entire school will benefit from it, even if I can easily imagine myself doing something else. If that’s not enough to overcome the perceived sin of being unwilling to join the the education revolutionaries, so be it. Besides, I’m a habitual hypocrite, so you never know…

  45. Q

    Apparently, I am rather witless, because brevity does not seem to be one of my virtues. Apologies for the self aggrandizing sermons…

  46. Kathryn

    “As time passes, I become more convinced: I don’t think I’m suited for this profession.” University librarian, historian for an institution or organization, author, professor (more schooling), corporate trainer all come to mind as possibilities.

    “You pick a profession because YOU LOVE IT and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. ” Ideally, but sometimes you just have to eat. Mr. Baxter is what, 21? 25? He could go through a few professions before discovering the ONE.

  47. Mr. Black: It probably is a fair mix of both.

    Mr. Quigley: Your observation of the peanut gallery simply reminded me of some of the many catty things I’ve heard over the course of being a student teacher.

    I’m not concerned with conforming everyone else to a new order — I’m interested in conforming myself to a best-fit order. I’m not a revolutionary leader. I only lead myself.

    Considering that books could be and have been written on this topic, I’d say that what you’ve written is the soul of brevity.

    Ms. Kathryn: Those are possibilities, but are all possibilities that might fail, again to the test of whether or not I like it enough to continue.

    I’m 21 years old, so I might have to wait to find the one career to rule them all. Even then, I expect my interest will wane after 5 years, and then I’ll move on to something else.

  48. Q

    Sticking with one career for your entire working life is a hopelessly antiquated concept, even for a career as “noble” as teaching. I imagine some educators might get mad at the idea of a young teacher assuming he’ll leave the profession after 5 years, but I say that’s vastly preferable to the passion inflamed firebrand who jumps in feet first and burns out in two.

    I would also argue that assuming your tenure will be brief can encourage productivity by freeing you from worrying about systemic issues. Instead you can focus on having the greatest possible impact on your students in the time you’re there.

  49. I’m a hopelessly antiquated person, who appreciates at least some rock of consistency upon which to build my foundation.

    Changing the world could never be my goal, or focus, and after enough time, and, knowing myself, even changing the lives of my students would bore me over the course of years.

    It reminds me of TMAO’s adieu to the profession: What happens to teachers who, while engaged and interested in the profession by concentration on their professional development, hit that brick wall, where further professional development is an exercise in diminishing returns?

  50. Kathryn

    Enh. You are young yet. I used to feel much the same. Eventually, I developed some equilibrium–not so self-absorbed, yet more aware of my preferences. Not to offend, but chances are your brain is not even fully developed yet. You don’t have to decide the course of your life, just the next year or so.

    A bit of advice: don’t broadcast your interest in other career options until you are ready to pursue one of them. Don’t confess that you are likely to get bored and move on. It doesn’t make you a good “marriage” prospect for an employer, and when you have a job, it can hold you back in terms of salary and opportunities.

  51. Nothing I wouldn’t say on an interview. Being still in that youthful naivety, I still aim for complete honesty with such matters.

  52. Kathryn

    Intent to deceive is one thing, baring your soul unasked is quite another.

  53. The nature of blogging is to bare one’s soul unasked. Either way, if prospective employers read this far down, they’re far more tenacious than I would normally give them credit for.

  54. Baxter, you are certainly a product of your generation. You willingly open yourself up before complete strangers. This penchant to”bare souls” in pubic forums is something that most people of my generation never embraced. Then of course, many of those from my generation were not raised on the child-rearing theories of Dr. Benjamin Spock.

    Many of my generation kept journals or diaries to record private thoughts and reflections. There was never any thought to publicly disclose this private information because doing so was considered ostentatious and narcissistic.

    I believe this is, again, residue of the self-esteem obsessed culture that you wrote in the post re: the Snow Whites in Japan.

    I’m amazed that you didn’t see yourself as endemic of the same malaise.

  55. Tim

    I know one of the biggest rules in the internet blog world is not to feed the trolls, but I can’t resist. Black David states, “…many of those from my generation were not raised on the child-rearing theories of Dr. Benjamin Spock”. Oh, OK. Dr. Spocks fist became a best seller during the FREAKIN’ TRUMAN ADMINISTRATION!!!
    You must be an old man, Mr. David. I salute you for your service to our country in the second world war as well as Korea. God bless.

  56. Uh, Tim, let me apprise you of some facts you obviously aren’t aware of.

    Dr. Spock’s damaging book “Baby and Child Care” was published in 1946, at the very start of the baby boom, the year I was born.

    The book influenced how children of the baby boom were raised for years to come, resulting in a generation comprised mainly of overindulged and narcissistic ingrates who went on to form the hippie counter culture.

    It’s sickening legacy still lingers today, where purple dinosaurs on TV constantly remind children how “special” they are.

    It’s resulted in an even more puerile Generation X and Y, who are even more overindulged and narcissistic, the FAST, EASY, and FUN culture.

  57. “Sticking with one career for your entire working life is a hopelessly antiquated concept,”

    Please try to explain that hopelessly inept bit of thinking.

  58. Q

    BD – Your response is demonstrative of the biases of many of your generation. The world is simply not as it once was. You may decry the sheer “turpitude” of modern society, but it is what it is and we’re all better off trying to find ways to make the best of it for ourselves and our families. Besides, not all change is bad.

    I don’t have the time just now to write yet another book-length comment here, but to be clear, I do think it’s great if one can find a career they love that they can stick with for 40 years. I don’t think that many individuals from my generation actually want to do that, nor do I think they should assume that something is wrong with them for feeling that way. Today, it is far easier, far more common, and potentially far more beneficial to move around than it used to be. The age of the gold watch is long gone, my friend.

  59. “The world is simply not as it once was.”

    The radicals of my generation along with their bastard progeny reshaped the traditional culture of the WW2 generation and hence ensured America’s doom.

    “I don’t think that many individuals from my generation actually want to do that,”

    That’s right, because collectively, your generation has the attention spans of gnats and no solid sense of commitment. The reason why is that too many of your parents couldn’t hack the responsibilities of maintaining a successful working marriage so they divorced the moment that maintaining a dual income household became too tough. They’ve taught you to bail when things get uncomfortable instead of showing some resolve and personal fortitude. The mantra of FAST, EASY, and FUN became your signature tune played by the crass marketeers of Madison Avenue who convinced you that you can’t live without that new cell phone, or iPod, or Blackberry, or GPS, or flat screen TV, or the 5.1 surround sound system so you can watch Hollyweird popcorn crap like Star Wars or Indiana Jones fifty billion times.

    I’m not saying this is exactly your situation, but it’s endemic of Gen X/Y.

  60. Mr. Black: I’ll take care of the it’s.

    Making this journal public is a way to get dissent, and conversation, and discussion of ideas. If this were an exercise in narcissism, I’d ignore you completely, or delete your comments, or mark you as spam, or do away with comments entirely. Reality checks — for which you’re famous — are welcome and encouraged.

    Narcissism and the gold-star treatment are endemic of generations X and Y. You’re right. There’s no legitimate disagreement on that broader point.

    It’s possible I was affected by the same malaise, but I doubt it, and not because I’m so self-obsessed I don’t seriously consider the possibility. I say it because as my dad raised me using many of your same attitudes, I wasn’t directly party to that gold-star-25-Snow-Whites mentality at home.

    My dad is a Berkley dropout who, after a few years as a janitor, got his life figured out and went back to school. He learned the hard way that self-esteem isn’t the end-all and be-all, and that ego wouldn’t get him a good job. School did some damage in that regard, and there’s some residue of the more damaging materialism, but I’m clearer of it than many of my friends, peers and colleagues.

    I know Fast, Easy and Fun aren’t the guide to fruitful life and achievement — that’s partly why I stuck with student teaching as long as I did, rather than drop out immediately.

    Take it for what you will. I’m interested to read your response.

    Mr. Tim: Don’t get him angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry, mostly because he won’t like you when he’s angry.

    Mr. Quigley: I think it would also be fair to say that your responses, and mine, are demonstrative of the biases of our generation.

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