Diane\'s Blog

Jim Gregory

Diane:

After 11 years in Catholic education and 15 years in public education, the feds will slash my Social Security (I’m a double-dipper; 27 years of paying into Social Security, and that penalty means I won’t be able to have the barnacles scraped off the hull of my racing sloop in the Monaco Yacht Basin), and Californians want to slash my teacher’s pension.

And this on top of a year of Wisconsin, of teacher-bashing (“It’s not even a fulltime job!”), of Waiting for Superman, of continuing to finish a disappointing second to Mexico in our national childhood poverty rate (“USA!” “USA!”), of having our district jump with both feet into the TAP program, the brainchild of the unindicted Milken brother, and, at my school, another round of pink slips — the counselors have been laid off at my high school four years in a row, while being told how valued they are, and we have all been advised “not to take it (getting a layoff notice) personally.”

And we’ve had more than a year of history department inservices spent, in agony, debating the minutiae of badly-written multiple choice questions we will coach, er, teach to, to prepare our kids for state testing in April. We have a big pre-test, a big post-test, five “cluster” (we’re not officially calling them “units” anymore: “clusters” refer to the strings of multiple choice questions aligned to the state standards) pre-tests, five cluster post-tests, then the actual live-ammo STAR test. We’re also supposed to have a big Jeopardy game based on the post-test questions, and they’ll play it right after the post-test, just before the STAR test, but somehow my heart’s not in it. And, simultaneously, we’re also supposed to do a much better job at formulating Authentic Assessments. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

We even have our own Bean Counter to assess our progress. He was promoted out of the classroom, which meant that already-overburdened colleagues had to take his classes. He has a nice chair.

(Meanwhile, when do they learn that Khrushchev’s train passed within a mile of our school in 1960? How do they meet the local Marine who died on Iwo Jima three days before he turned twenty-one? Do they know that Dr. King’s career really began when his daughters couldn’t understand why they couldn’t go to a whites-only amusement park? Why didn’t we have time for baking hardtack this year? James Dean died in our county. I won’t show Rebel or East of Eden during the Fifties unit this year; we don’t have time. That goes for guest speakers, too. Since we will have taught all the state mandates by mid-April, having thrown out gobs of material along the way — like Napoleon’s army in its retreat from Moscow — what do I do with the last six weeks of school, when I’m dead tired and the creative juices have pretty much dried up?)

This year has aged me so far beyond my biological years that I must confront my retirement seriously for the first time. I am, I think, on the right track here.

Sincerely,
Jim Gregory

P.S. I still love the kids.