I loved being a teacher. The joy of interacting with children every day was stimulating. I could hardly wait to wake up each morning.
I didn’t always know I would choose a teaching career. After attending three colleges, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I left school, worked at various jobs and set out on a journey that would change my life.
Leaving Fresno on a bicycle trip riding over the Tioga Pass, I ended up washing dishes at the Sun Valley Idaho Lodge. I then began hitch-hiking south and found myself in Costa Rica. A man who gave me a ride from Guatemala suggested I might enjoy being a teacher. That way I could live and travel all over the world. A teacher. I could be a teacher!
I taught for 31 years. I worked on three continents and did workshops on a fourth. I taught grades four through eight, including inner city kids, gifted and talented students and children with special needs. Every year was a challenge and a joy to have the opportunity to plant seeds for making this world a little better.
After teaching in Australia, Fowler, Madera, and Italy, I finally began my 11th year teaching with Fresno Unified. Looking at my resume, Larry Matthews, the human resources administrator, asked me to give him some examples showing that I was a risk taker. He looked up at me, and we both burst out laughing!
I taught with Fresno Unified for 21 years. It was a fabulous experience. I was given time off to conduct workshops across the country for Cable in the Classroom. I had a guitar club for 20 years. I took groups of students surfing for 16 years.
I tried to introduce children to the activities that made my life more meaningful, and the district supported me. I coached cross country and track and taught children the basics of tile work by creating mosaic murals. We built a Peace and Tolerance Plaza at Baird Middle School. We were awarded the California Distinguished School title twice while I was there.
I can’t imagine having a more challenging or fulfilling job. I was in heaven!
But things were changing. No Child Left Behind took away some of the creativity in teaching. More and more time was spent preparing children for the tests. We were labeled a “failing school” twice because one student in one of the numerous sub categories didn’t score high enough! It was humiliating and degrading for all of us.
We persisted, adapted and carried on, preparing our students as best we could for the future. Some of the joy was gone, but interacting with our staff and students still made it rewarding.
Then came the day when visitors arrived in my classroom, carrying a large cardboard object. I had my lesson plans up on the whiteboard, along with the standards and my expectations for that day. The workers proceeded to take a white screen out of the cardboard and attach it to the existing white board, covering up my lesson. This new technology, I was told, would somehow make me a better teacher, whether I wanted it or not.
It didn’t. Instead it became a daily reminder that somehow I wasn’t good enough anymore. I took two workshops without pay to learn how to use the whiteboard. I couldn’t find any advantage in using this new, unwanted technology.
The next year, I dropped the Surf Club. The following year, I quit coaching. My commitment and enthusiasm toward my students was still there, but the joy was fading.
My last year, I transferred to a failing school. I actually believed my years of experience would help me make a difference for those children. I lasted one year, unsure as to whether or not I succeeded.
Looking back, would I change anything? No way! I was so lucky to have the opportunity to teach, to travel, and to share my love of life with my students. But for me, my time had come. The music had died, and I was ready for the next phase of my life.