Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Party's Over...

…a CD skipping/
it’s the same hook repeating
grows more grating with each passing second/
and the walls contain a resonation
laughter and conversation/
it was fun while it lasted
but now I should be going/
-Against Me!, T.S.R.

My resignation has been accepted. I am, currently, not a teacher.

This is weird. I have a new four-word job title that replaces my single-word job title from years past, a new job title that is no where near as fun to tell people in bars. I have no doubt that the reality behind the title is massively cool in any number of ways – just not the I-teach-poor-kids-let-me-buy-you-a-drink way. I have to reshuffle the things I carry around in my invisible knapsack.

I once told a USA Today reporter this blog was about two counter-narratives. He didn’t print a word of what I said, so maybe this isn’t so terribly compelling, but the CD skips in the background and I think its worth repeating here, now.

The first counter-narrative at work was an attempt to balance the massively negative voice that serves to denigrate and cast an inaccurate impression of communities like the ones found in the east 408. Yeah, my students are poor. Yeah, they’re brown and don’t speak English so good. Yeah, you’d probably get off the highway by mistake and feel like you’re in the ghetto. But all the negativity associated with those factors just doesn’t match up to the experience of working not far from the intersection of Story and King. My experiences don’t match the gallons of bile poured forth from blogs, most written, sadly, by teachers or parents or both. My experiences are the opposite. We made hay while the sun shined, and I’m proud to death of what was accomplished. Even as certain folks attempt to throw mud on those accomplishments, I leave with the same sense of hope, same belief in the power of adults to enact change, and the same unironic confusion directed at those who throw up their hands at the perceived futility of this work.

Counter-narrative #2 was my desire to offset, in whatever minor way, all that gross TFA inertia, that supreme failing to prioritize and value teaching, even dressed up as it is in the myth of dual movements. TFA created a cultural undertow, subtle and powerful, that pulls at the knees of even the most successful and committed teacher/ alum. Why aren’t you doing something else? Why aren’t you doing something else? The organization spills oceans of ink celebrating the social entrepreneur/ alum, the newly elected school board member/ alum, the charter founding/ alum, and mere puddles acknowledging the achievement and commitment of those who are doing the work that, uh, ya kinda brought us here to do. Jake and those like him are at Institute right now, participating in a training process that fetishizes the persona of the teacher; those that buy in the most, those that build themselves into what they were told was the highest and the best, they will be the ones most betrayed when the tide goes out, 18 months from now.

The writings here became more than those two counter-narratives, of course. There was middle school basketball! And essay-grading procrastinations about procrastinating! And unpopular defenses of merit pay! And the union of punk rock and ed policy! And ruminations on trying to act as a shaper of young minds while sporting black eyes earned from fighting on the street!

The writings here afforded me a wide array of opportunities. I was invited to travel to Arizona and to Washington, D.C. to speak. I was offered opportunities to write for different publications. I was asked out on a date (there ended up being three in total), the idea of which – contact someone who writes things you think are stellar and later make-out with them – I fully support. I found a way to redeem the January 02 flawed notion that I’ll teach during the day and write at night. I got myself interviewed for a graduate thesis, an ASCD newsletter, and New York Times Magazine. I flirted with the creation and maintenance of anonymity, managed to make some District people pretty furious, and more or less paved the way for the next step in my career.

The writings here were always grounded in the experience of teaching the kids. I’m not so naïve or self-congratulatory as to think they would have garnered anywhere near the amount of attention had this not been the case. A lot of this was less about the nature of the ideas, and more about the uncommon union of those ideas with my various professional titles and identities. Lot’s of folks support test-based accountability, but not a lot of teachers. Lot’s of folks like merit pay, just not a lot of union leaders. Lot’s of folks critique TFA, but not a lot of alums whose approach to teaching is the fully realized vision of the Teaching As Leadership (TAL) handbook (and then some). I guess the perception of ideological schizophrenia makes for a big draw and a good read.

The writings here emerged and were informed by teaching, and living as a teacher – having that conception of self pretty high on the auto-identification checklist. That’s why this blog will not continue in any meaningful way. I’m not going to call this space “Not Teaching in the 408.” I’m not going to start writing about my roadtrip to Portland or my observations on the state of the seemingly unemployed (yet fantastically accessorized!) San Francisco hipster. I’m not going to pen witty remarks about the office culture I will shortly embrace.

What will I do?

I will close shop and direct ya’ll to kindly go back to the original resignation post and read what Rory from parentalcation wrote. Somehow, from his perch all the way up-north, sitting on Canada’s back, he more or less nailed it. I’d say more, but I’m not sure how much mud the mud-slinging folks feel like slinging. Still, education is my field, and will probably be my life’s work. Even if I leave the classroom component of it, opening myself to charges of sell-out-dum, of being hypocritical, of invalidating some of the fire I’ve thrown in this space, my belief in and commitment to the manifesto perched at the top of this blog remains strong.

The days ahead ripple and swell.


Blogger Parentalcation said...

Grrrrr, did you have to link to that post. I was perhaps a bit harsher than I should of been.

Check your email.

9:36 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

No worries, man. Throw what you feel... I don't have an email from you, though.

teachingmyassoff [at] hotmail [dot] com

10:55 PM  
Blogger eduwonkette said...

TMAO - Your blog will be sorely missed. But whatever you're doing next, I don't doubt that you'll be making important contributions to education.

9:37 AM  
Blogger leyla said...

congrats on new career move..

3:51 PM  
Blogger leyla said...

by the way, i was very, very happy at my middle school position in SF, but i just started teaching at the san francisco juvenile hall for summer school. this week was the first week, so just four days into it, but it's been one of the most amazing teaching experiences i've had so far.

6:34 PM  
Blogger KauaiMark said...

" four-word job title"

So...What's the title?

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry TMAO....but I have to correct you when you say that you are currently NOT a teacher. You will always be a teacher in the hearts of all those lives you touched. As a matter of fact, I ran into one of them tonight, working at an establishment near me. He recognized me from M. He mentioned your name and told me how much you influenced him. He is currently at SJ State in chemical engineering. I wanted to tell you, and he wanted me to tell you what a difference you have matter what your new title is, you will always be a TEACHER! You earned it!

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was really interested in your response to
perimeter primate blogger.( i don't know how to link..)
i'll look for you @ a point reyes books; for your
book tour gig.. when the next one comes out.
oh yeah. thanks. it's been real in a way.

10:46 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Thanks for that, really. It gave me that warm feeling down in the cockles. Get in touch with another form of media if you want, and let me know who we're talking about...

I think I got your answer covered in the new post.

Thanks. It's gonna be swell. Weird, and new, and strange, but swell nonetheless. Is your new gig temporary?

That other blogger is trying to be supportive of teachers, in a way. It's weird, that well-meaning castration. Teachers don't have it easy, but the answer is not to make excuses on our/ their behalf.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Praxis II test taker said...

All the negativity associated with those factors just doesn’t match up to the experience of working not far from the intersection of Story and King.

11:07 PM  

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