In what is a confluence of events, Teacher Appreciation Week falls at the same time many veteran teachers are retiring. Some are celebrated with parties and dinners.
Last night I drove up to the northern suburbs to attend a dinner being held to honor three retiring teachers I worked with for a long time.
Together they represent over eighty years of teaching experience.
All three were extremely skillful at teaching. Each was unique. Each was driven by their personal stories and experiences. All were knowledgable in the theories and best practices of the field.
Sue wove her family “Douglass Stories” into her teaching. They were a part of her approach to small group reading instruction. She connected what was in the book to her own life and shared her life stories with her students. One colleague recounted how students in Sue’s room who were not sitting around the table with Sue would stop what they were doing to try and listen in.
I remembered how Lisa, a first grade teacher, would marvel me with her talent at translating student writing using invented spelling. It was all gobbledygook to me, but she understood every word. It was most important to her that students felt that they could express themselves with words, even with words they themselves made up.
Suz would hold an annual picnic on the field or in the gym where each student would bring a blanket and two lunches. One for themselves and one for an invited guest. Like the art teacher, for example. The lesson was how to be a host. You can be assured that hosting skills would never appear on the test, but Suz thought it was important and so she taught it.
Over eighty years of teaching knowledge, best practices and experinece will walk out the door in a few weeks.
When I retired in 2012 I thought there was something crazy about an education system that could not find a way to capture the knowledge accumulated in a career of teaching practice when the teacher retired.
In a small district like the one where I, Sue, Lisa and Suz taught, many retirees come back as subs.
Being a substitute teacher is a definite skill which I appreciate.
And many of us retirees are just fine moving on to other things.
Like blogging, podcasting and travel.
I asked an old retired friend this morning how his wife was doing and he said she was still suffering from FOMA.
“Fear of missing out,” he said. “I’m fine just sitting doing not that much. But she needs to be out and in touch with everybody.”
This morning I am thinking about this:
While a good skill set is required to be a substitute teacher, and there is nothing at all wrong with moving on, is there a way to make use of decades of teaching practice, knowledge and experience that gets lost each time a veteran teacher retires?