Past my prime


So I’m thinking a lot about Michael Jordan.

He was the best at his job once upon a time. No one could touch him. He was grace, strength, agility, brains and beauty, all in one big, smiling, championship-winning man.  He was the epitome of basketball perfection.

But then he got kind of tired.  His knees lost some of their spring, his hands lost some of their quickness. His aggressive desire to win dropped back just a bit.   He was done. He retired.

I can so understand that.

We get to a point in our professional lives where we know we are not doing our best. We know that our skills and our finesse and our effortlessly winning ways are beginning to fade into that good night.  We begin to recognize that younger, quicker, sharper shooters are right on our heels, waiting to break our records.  We get a little intimidated, and we back away.

I’m kind of at that point.

I am the once popular, once admired, once successful fifth grade teacher.  I was amazing….once.

But my style of teaching goes back to a time that was way before the attack of the standardized tests.  Try as I might, I can’t quite grasp the concept of frequent, repetitive testing.  I don’t quite have the mental agility to test, teach, retest, teach again, retest and give a score.   I’m sort of stuck in the ancient and outdated world of “Learning how to think.”  I can’t keep up.

I know that there are fresh young faces out there who are gently awaiting my retirement.

Just like Michael Jordan, I am aware of the fact that I am no longer the one who will sell the most shoes.  I realize that I am the object of fond bemusement, as my young colleagues listen to me recalling older days.

But, see……..

These people don’t remember the time when our school was known all around the state for its innovative and creative curriculum.  I do!!  They don’t remember what it was like in the days when our entire staff stood up and protested against the introduction of state wide testing: I was one of those teachers!  They teach in a school building that they take for granted: I remember when we were housed in a building with no hot water, crumbling ceiling tiles and hugely overcrowded classrooms.  I remember holding meetings with town government leaders to show them how desperately we needed a new home. I was there!!!

But what I remember doesn’t matter.  What I did back then has no weight now. None of that has any relevance today.

Michael Jordan remembered Wilt Chamberlain; his successors didn’t. He remembered his rookie year.  Who cared?

Michael held on for too long. He tried to come back after his day was done.  We all watched with a mixture of admiration and pity.

The question for me now is this: how do I find that delicate point? How do I let go and move away when I am still at least somewhat successful, and before I become an object of disdain?

Michael?  Got any advice?

14 thoughts on “Past my prime

  1. As a younger teacher, I absolutely hate what testing has done to education in this country. It has sucked the life right out of the classroom.

    I think it’s very telling that I have yet to meet a single teacher who thinks our current system of testing is good for kids. The only people who seem to think that are politicians and testing company lobbyists.

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    • Thanks for commenting, and for making this old lady feel supported! I just can’t understand why we keep moving further and further away from creative, innovative teaching when we ALL know that it is wrong!

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  2. I find it very telling that NOBODY who works with children for a living thinks that our current system of tests, tests, and more tests is a good idea. The only people who seem to like testing are politicians and testing companies. We are selling out a generation of children because politicians with no experience working with kids are allowing themselves to be sold a bill of goods by testing companies that pay big money to lobby.

    I’m one of the “younger” teachers with 9 years in. I teach music. If I were in a general Ed classroom, I don’t know that I would still be in this field. Keep fighting. The kids need educators to stand up to politicians and scream “Enough already!!”.

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    • It is very heartening to see that other educators feel the same way, especially younger ones. I am beginning to feel as if I am a relic of bygone days, bemoaning the past when others have moved on. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

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  3. I wish we had more teachers like you in our schools. The testing culture infuriates me. Yes, my children should be able to pass a test. They should also learn critical thinking and problem solving and other lessons that they can build on for their entire lives. I don’t think you’re past your prime. I think you’re a symbol of better days that are sadly departing. My kids will be taking their annual tests in the next few weeks, then they will spend the last month of school doing ab-so-lutely nothing. What a waste.

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    • Oh, I hope they won’t be doing “absolutely nothing”! Some of us look at that last month as the chance to do the really good stuff! My class will be writing, directing and performing the play based on a book that I am reading aloud to them. I think the “after the test” time is the BEST time!
      Thanks for your vote of confidence and your kind words!

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      • That sounds awesome! Again, I wish we had teachers like you! Mine will be spending most of their time watching DVDs in class after tests. 😦

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