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30 Years of Teaching in One Blog Post

September 16, 2021
Just so you know, that’s not a picture of me.

I retired from teaching over two years ago, and I’m just now mentioning it on this blog.

Before today, I’ve referred to my former job as “a profession that has nothing to do with writing.” Maybe “nothing” was too strong a word. I taught 7th and 8th grade English for 30 years, but I didn’t do much writing myself (lesson plans and suggestions for improvement on student essay margins don’t count as writing).

Here’s the short version. I went into teaching straight out of college, not because I had a passion for education, but because I needed a guaranteed job. I didn’t want to be an unemployed writer with college debt and other bills to pay. I wanted to be a writer of some kind, but I still didn’t know what kind of writer and I wasn’t confident enough in my abilities to make that commitment.

My first semester of teaching was a disaster. I almost quit a couple times and even tried to get myself fired without getting blamed. My devious plan almost worked, but an experienced teacher interfered with it. If you’re a first-year teacher and you come up with a devious plan to get fired in a way that won’t follow you to other jobs, don’t tell an experienced teacher about it. I learned that lesson my first semester.

I got my act together during the second semester (with some help from that experienced teacher, to be fair), so much so that students who had given me grief during the first semester shook my hand or hugged me at the end of the year. My first impulse was “Back off; kid, don’t touch me!” but I didn’t want to be rude on the last day of school.

I was never a high-profile teacher. I was never nominated for awards like Teacher of the Year (I probably was never even considered). I never had a Mr. Holland’s Opus. In fact, I dislike teacher movies, especially those centered around supposedly true stories. Most inspirational teacher movies are based on personal accounts of educators who left the profession after their books/movies made it big.

If a teacher movie is based on a former educator who immediately left the profession (or became a consultant), then that former educator is probably a fraud. I don’t blame the former educators for scamming the public, but I don’t have to fall for it.

Even though I taught writing (kind of), I never mentioned my blog to any students or other teachers. This blog is filled with profanity (in dialogue or in posts about the etymology of bad words), and I’ve even written a sex scene. When you’re a public school teacher, you can’t go around promoting your blog that has profanity and a sex scene.

I didn’t mention my teaching on this blog because I didn’t want Dysfunctional Literacy to become a teacher blog. I was writing stuff to get my mind off of teaching. I’ve been out of the classroom for over two years now, but I still haven’t told anybody outside of my family about Dysfunctional Literacy, so maybe it’s not really a teacher issue.

I pretty much retired as soon as I could, but at the time I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. I was in a great situation at my school, and my philosophy has been to not mess with great situations. Still, I was struggling with certain aspects of teaching, and I wanted to try something different, so one morning late in my final school year, I asked the heavens for a sign. What decision should I make; continue teaching or retire?

That morning in second period class, a kid threw up in my classroom. One part of me was disgusted (the vomit had almost started a domino effect, but I’d read the room properly and gotten three kids out before they yakked too.). The other part of me was relieved. The vomit was my sign. At least, I interpreted it as my sign. That afternoon, I talked to my principal after school and told him my plans to retire at the end of that semester.

Since I’ve retired, my bloods pressure has gone back to normal (without medication). My arrhythmia is gone (without medication). Some of that is related to diet changes, but those changes happened because my mind has been freed up enough to consider making those changes in the first place.

So… thank you kid who threw up. I still remember his name, but I won’t put it on my blog. In my brain, I refer to him by his name, not as “kid who threw up.” Without him, I might not have had the guts to retire when I did.


This morning I found some teacher memorabilia in my car, and I don’t know what to do with it. Even though I know I’m not going back into the classroom, I still feel wrong getting rid of it. Maybe every once in a while, I need to remember and acknowledge those days. I really don’t feel compelled to write much more about it, though. This might be it. Or this might be the first of many blog posts about my teaching years. I’m not sure yet.

  1. Wow. you keep a good secret. All this time I thought you worked with computers, in IT or something like it. Not sure where that came from, but that’s what I thought. Must be nice to retire on the young side of old.

    • I was going for something vaguely corporate, so IT is okay. I’m working at a grocery store now, and I don’t think anybody there cares about profanity or sex scenes on some random guy’s blog.

  2. I’m with Walt. I had you pegged as an office guy, not a fellow educator. So jealous, by the way. I’m dying to retire, but I probably have 10 years left… Oh, and be glad you got out before this pandemic shit show hit the classroom.

    • I retired a year before the pandemic hit. I’ve run into a couple former co-worker teachers, and they both say I got out at the perfect time, unless I would have been the type that enjoys doing online and classroom learning at the same time. I think both my hypertension and my arrhythmia would have skyrocketed.

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