Matters of Priority

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak before my college’s Admissions and Standards board, to defend my blog against allegations of unprofessionalism. I decided that I had better things to do, and I submitted a lengthy statement instead.

My sister graduated high school yesterday. If I was going to get back to the house in time to leave for the ceremony, I’d have to leave Fresno at the same time the board convened. Showing up, I decided, was not worth the effort.

What bothers me most about the whole ordeal — I’ll detail it briefly, if at all, tomorrow — is that I’m not bothered. When I first came to grips about the possibility of not being a teacher, I didn’t panic, and I didn’t get stressed. I was relieved.

Even before the first meeting, I had already developed quite a bit of trepidation about entering the profession. The decision to become a high school teacher came when I was in high school, back when I liked high school. Without any other motivation or guide, inertia continued to propel me forward along that track.

Three years after I entered college, I entered the credential program, with no real job to my resume — pocket change came from being a columnist for the school newspaper, working as a camp counselor. I had no real-life experience, and that worried me.

After having experienced the highs and lows of the teaching job, and weighing my options, I realized that leaving teaching forever appealed to me. That was back in my first, unblogged semester of student teaching, so instead of heeding that instinct, I kept working at becoming a teacher.

It makes no sense to give up now, especially because everyone has a messy, uneven and, until the end, unsatisfying student teaching experience.

I took that advice to heart.

I convinced myself that my dislike of teaching ended once I saw my students, ignoring that it ignites up again at the end of the day, when I would be ridiculously tired, even more tired than I had been after the many 15-hour days during summer camp.

Dunk It

When finally it seemed that my aeroplane of student teaching wasn’t soaring, but sputtering after that first “blogging is unprofessional” meeting, I considered saving grace and goodwill. I would have done it, if I were heartbroken, and I would have ended my blog if I thought it would save my career.

Teaching, I decided, isn’t my career.

Rather than land gracefully, I took the controls of my aeroplane of student teaching, making a sharp nosedive, come what may. I decided to continue my blog, this blog.

Continuing this blog wasn’t a nosedive because I thought blogging, the way I did it, was perfectly acceptable, though I did and do believe that. Continuing this blog was a nosedive because my program disagreed, and minced no words about it.

Dr. Bruin disagrees, I reasoned, but the worst he can do is to kick me out of the program. When I don’t want to be a teacher, that doesn’t faze me, does it?

My biggest worry yesterday wasn’t staying in the credential program and eventually redoing TaskStream, or even the chance of being booted out of the program and never having to redo TaskStream. Why would it worry me? My credentialing sheepskin won’t do me a whit of good outside a profession I decided I didn’t want join, a profession I didn’t very much like.

Yesterday, I didn’t really want to speak in front of the Admissions and Standards board. I didn’t do what the Kremen School of Education wanted, to begin with, because I didn’t want to be a teacher, and a simple do-or-die-but-mostly-die meeting wasn’t going to change that. All I worried about yesterday was making it to San Jose, in time to see my sister graduate.

I made it in time. Yesterday was a good day.

  1. Wow. I’m not going to try to talk you into or out of anything, as obviously you’ve already thought this through, but you are basically the poster child for why the teaching profession struggles to get and maintain enough intelligent, talented people. You know you have other options, and an honest look at the teaching profession has made you decide to pursue those other options.

    But do we really want the teaching ranks to be filled with a small percentage of dedicated martyrs and a large collection of people who stay in teaching because they have no other good options? Obviously not. So we need to find ways to change the teaching profession to attract (and keep!) the caliber of teachers our students deserve.

  2. Q

    Good luck with whatever you ultimately decide. Maybe, like me, after a few years in the “real world” you’ll have a better idea about why you really want to teach and you’ll figure out the correct state of mind to keep yourself happy in the classroom. If not, let me say that you gave us all a satisfyingly vicarious experience here and I thank you for that. I hope you keep blogging as you take the next step.

  3. Tim

    Good luck. Your going places. Keep it real, my friend.

  4. Just a few things:

    1. Did I miss where it was said specifically that blogging was unprofessional?

    There must have been some specific grievances if there was to be a hearing. But really, things like gossiping in the teachers lounge are unprofessional as well but every student teacher and teacher still does it.

    2. Not showing up to your own hearing is unprofessional. It is a very cowardice move to be honest. And not showing up b/c of family stuff? Why not reschedule?We are all busy and priorities, but I would welcome the chance to speak on my own behalf about this kind of issue. How can you just avoid it?

    3. How can you throw away a matter of your own livelihood, with all of that time and money spent and all the hours you put in? And for what? Because an administrator thinks your blog is unprofessional?

    The thing with teaching I found is that over a few years it gets better. Its more satisfying now. Its more fun now, after 3 years and 1 year student teaching.

  5. Tim


    It was his little sister’s high school graduation that he went to instead. I would have done the same thing. The Kangaroo Court that his School of Ed set up was/is a sham. His being there would have done nothing except boost the self-esteem of the people on the board.
    As I mentioned in a previous post to awaitingtenure (has he ever said his name?), I went through something somewhat similar in my school of ed. Except it wasn’t a blog that I wrote (this was 1995), it was the fact I never wore a tie and was rumored to have worn jeans. So “lack of professionalism” was also the charge against me. I didn’t have to go through a committee, but was “recommended with reservation”.
    Why are so many educators obsessed with “professionalism”?. To me, being a professional means talking to students, colleagues, parents, etc the way you want to be treated. In the Education world, where Principals who yell and belittle staff are a dime a dozen, and decent human-being principals are few and far between professionalism means wearing a tie and not blogging. Sad. Pathetic actually.

  6. Mr. Pullen: Counterargument: Do we really want young, unprofessional educators who write, online, details about students that might be, could be, potentially revealing and damaging? For the students’ sake, that’s a risk we can’t afford to the profession, however many more teachers we get out of it.

    Counterargument 2: Look what happened in the ’90s when we lowered standards for who could and could not be a teacher. Enough said.

    I disagree with each of these counterarguments, but I’ll let you spar with them, anyway.

    Mr. Quigley: I hope a real-world perspective would improve my teaching skills, and, to be sure, I’ll keep writing about how it does or doesn’t.

    Mr. Cochran: I’ll be sure to cover specific charges. The document I gave the committee included specific responses to each of them, some admissions of guilt, and most of them not.

    But really, things like gossiping in the teachers lounge are unprofessional as well but every student teacher and teacher still does it.

    Confidentiality was a specific concern, actually, though your take on it is the same as mine. I talked about far more damaging “breach of confidentiality” issues with teachers throughout the department, and only they would be able to figure out which specific student I mention on the blog. Mostly because I’ve already told them, though.

    Why not reschedule?

    I can’t reschedule a graduation two-and-a-half hours away. If the conference were an hour or two earlier, I would have gone. Had I attended, and had I given adequate — read: lengthy — defense, I would be cutting it too close.

    How can you throw away a matter of your own livelihood, with all of that time and money spent and all the hours you put in?

    I learned plenty over the course of the semester, whether I get a piece of paper or not. I’m disenchanted with the profession, and, at my age, two years is still a long time. I don’t mind waiting for a time. I do mind wasting my time, when I could be off, trying to found a wedding photography firm.

    Mr. Tim: The principal during my student teaching — though only the second-semester one — is most assuredly a decent human being, and an excellent principal.

    Has he ever said his name?

    Funny you should mention that, but yes, I have. Exactly once, and to direct hypothetical employers Googling my name to characteristic posts within the blog.

    Yet my lack of anonymity is one of the many bullet points against the blog.

    To me, being a professional means talking to … colleagues … the way you want to be treated.

    Students and parents I got better with, but that I talked about colleagues was another point against my blog, and the direct reason my principal chose to release me from my student teaching.

    I don’t hold anything against him, of course. He’s a decent-human-being principal, and he acted to protect the psychological well-being of his on-staff-and-getting-paid faculty.

  7. I was meaning to re-schedule the hearing. To me, no question, a family member graduation takes priority.

    If it was me in that position I would have wanted defend myself. I haven’t seen anything remotely over the top on this site, and alluded to things I see/hear/say in teachers lounges go way past anything here.

    It is a concern to me, as someone just getting started in blogs but very much interested in getting further involved, if putting thoughts into cyber space can ruin a career.

  8. I replied to your comment. 🙂

  9. Mr. Cochran: I already rescheduled an earlier meeting, and many of the higher-ups in the department seem predisposed to believing that I’m a good-for-nothing maker of excuses.

    That wasn’t a fight I wanted.

    Besides, it’s well into the summer for my college, and though they gave me enough advance warning that I was going to have an Admissions and Standards meeting convened to resolve this case, the date wasn’t set before Wednesday. I figured that if I were to have them reschedule the meeting the day before the meeting, I would just get members of the committee irritated at me even more.

    Ms. Jae: Good to hear. I’ll be right over.

  10. samjshah

    I’m sad that I won’t get to read your well-written posts about student teaching anymore. Thanks for that. Your blog is one of the few blogs that keep me trucking because it keeps me thinking. The whole situation is disturbing to me, but I’m glad that its over and you know what you (don’t) want. But keep on keeping on. You sound happy with your decision, and so at least this internet stranger is happy for you.


  11. I had planned to keep writing until I had depleted my stockpile of blog prompts before I dropped this bomb, so I still have plenty to write about.

    At the very least, I’ll keep up this blog as long as I can.

  12. Kathryn

    FWIW, I am sometimes one of THOSE PARENTS that teachers hate to see coming. I’ve read the riot act to one or two who made inappropriate public remarks about students–not even my student, just other kids. I haven’t read anything here that would rile me.

  13. dkzody

    Keep telling the stories, they are what makes life worthwhile. I’m a big believer in stories. My students will not remember facts and figures that I give them, but some obscure story I told on a cold winter morning? That they will quote back to me at a later time, almost word for word, and remember that it was a cold winter morning. I’m always amazed.

    As for the rest of this nonsense, I am totally blown out of the water. i am so sorry to hear that we no longer have freedom of speech in this country.

  14. Ms. Kathryn: I know I’ve done nothing wrong, so if I’m booted out, anyway, I’ll just take it as a sign that I should be in another profession, anyway.

    I’ll stop myself there. If I keep writing, I’ll get into personal theology, and that’s certainly outside the scope of this blog.

    Ms. Zody: Confidentiality is a legitimate concern, enough to prevent most government employees from exercising complete freedom of speech, from accountants to Marines. Some limited limitations on freedom of speech should be acceptable concerning information about students, but they’re usually limited to “don’t give names or detailed locations.”

    Therefore, I just don’t see the breach of confidentiality.

  15. Alex

    Whilst making the odd mistake along the way, it seems to me that you’ve acted honestly and applied yourself to the job. So, good luck, and I hope you find a profession which leaves you happy more of the time.

    Hopefully, the lessons you learnt at Kremen – like building relationships with *all* your superiors from the beginning – will mean that job lasts longer, too.

  16. I might even get a job that pays me money.

  17. During this whole affair, why didn’t you seek advice from counsel?

    Reading your entries on this affair indicate to me that you fouled up in a big way by doing what you wanted to do instead of what your school wanted you to do while under their supervision. You blundered ahead without first checking with authority. At your age, that’s never a good thing.

    Remember that you went to school to receive training so you could get a good job and live on your own with financial independence. You’ve only now prolonged your ability reach that desired goal. By financial independence, I don’t mean simply being able to pay for your rent, your cell phone bill, and boxes of mac and cheese.

    Learn from this and move on. Don’t wring your hands over your mistakes forever. It’s a waste of time.

  18. During this whole affair, why didn’t you seek advice from counsel?

    At first, they warned me that it was unprofessional to write about these meetings. At first, I believed them.

    Learn from this and move on. Don’t wring your hands over your mistakes forever. It’s a waste of time.


    I wrote about this more than once simply because one or two commenters expressed particular curiosity, indignation or worry. In fact, much of the content of these blogs turned out to be, “I’m not wringing my hands about all this, believe it or not.”

  19. Sister of Ben

    I’m really glad you made it, Debbie, even though it means you’re going to have to go job searching now.

  20. Wait, Baxter, you’re not male?

    That avatar pic makes you look like a man, sorry.

  21. No, just an inside joke between me and my sister from graduation.

    My stepmom kept the whole “I’m showing up to graduation” thing a secret, at my request. Thinking I wasn’t coming, my sister offered to give my ticket to someone else. Thinking quickly, my stepmom admonished her: Don’t you remember? Your friend Debbie is coming to graduation.

    Before my sister could confirm Debbie was or wasn’t coming, my stepmom convinced Debbie to play along. Debbie’s ticket was mine, in disguise.

  1. 1 Why My Blog (Probably) Will Get Me Booted Out « On the Tenure Track

    […] 14, 2008 in The Way It WereTags: kremen school of education There are quite a few arguments the committee probably considered, arguments that ostensibly linked my blog to unprofessional conduct. Due to a […]

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