Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On My Journey of Years Have I Arrived at Irrelevance?

I retired from public school teaching in mid-January 1997. And I just recently realized that this event occurred eighteen years ago--the same span of years between my birth and the fall of my freshman year in college (when I turned eighteen).

Jeepers Creepers.

The last eighth graders I worked with (only part of the year--and I had a student teacher for much of the time) at Harmon Middle School in Aurora, Ohio, are now in their early thirties. This, in ways, is as alarming as this (which I mentioned in a previous post): The seventh grade students whom I taught my very first year (1966-1967) are turning sixty this year.

Jeepers Creepers 2. (A 2003 movie, by the way, that featured actor Ray Wise, my wife Joyce's high-school classmate and friend and fellow thespian at Akron's Garfield High School--link to trailer for the film.)

I was talking about this eighteen-year-amazement the other day with good friend and former Harmon School colleague Jerry Brodsky, and we were both a little stunned--not into silence, of course: Both Jerry and I are quick with a quip, though I can't really remember what either of us came up with at that moment. (Obviously, not something memorable.)

I've thought about those eighteen years a lot in the ensuing days--and not only for that most annoying of reasons--that It Make Me Feel Old. I already feel old, thank you, and if I ever forget, my body and my mirrors are quick to remind me (though I endeavor heartily to avoid the latter whenever possible; my body's failures are not so easy to ignore).

When I began this DawnReader blog a few years ago, for example, I fully intended to write about education issues--a lot. But I really haven't. And part of the reason, I now realize, is that I no longer really know what I'm talking about. I've not been in charge of a public school classroom since early 1997. Bill Clinton was finishing his first term as President--Monica was still in his future. My dad was alive--and had nearly three more years to live. Our son was single (he would not marry until August 1999). Our grandchildren were unimaginable. Joyce was still teaching full-time at Hiram College. Scholastic Press had recently published my Jack London: A Biography. I didn't know that in just a few years I would be battling prostate cancer.

In 2001, I did return to the classroom--teaching high school juniors at Western Reserve Academy until June 2011. But teaching there--a college prep boarding school--was not the same at all as teaching in a public middle school. They were different kinds of wonderful--as different (and wonderful) as chocolate and pizza. (And the current seniors at WRA were not yet alive when I retired from Aurora.)

A quick example of my irrelevance. By the time I left the public school classroom, the Ohio Proficiency Tests had been around for a few years--but today's current test-mania was just in its infancy. Not yet even a toddler. Now, of course, it exerts full sway over most of the curriculum, and I cannot imagine what it's like to teach in a test-driven classroom. For most of my career I had considerable academic freedom (remember that?), and a major factor in my decision to retire asap was the increasing role tests were playing in the curriculum--and in assessments of teachers. Measuring a teacher's ability with kids' standardized test scores makes about as much sense as, oh, judging a baseball manager by his team's batting average.

Anyway, I did write some posts now and then about education--about tests, about teachers, and so on. But as the weeks and months have gone by, I've found myself less and less willing (and able) to do so--credibly, anyhow. My comments seem to be on the same page with those not-so-enjoyable ones we hear from older folks in our youth, the ones that begin with the adverb clause When I was your age ....

So now I find myself sticking to things I know more about--books I'm reading, places I'm traveling, aging, films I'm seeing--or not seeing. Or have not yet seen.

Like Jeepers Creepers 3, which apparently has been in production since 2007. Not sure why the delay. Maybe the filmmakers are feeling ... irrelevant?

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