36th Year – To Teach or Not to Teach

Next week, I will begin my thirty-sixth year as a classroom teacher. It will certainly be the most bizarre of school years and likely the most challenging. For the majority of teachers who began their career the same year I did, this marks their first year of retirement. And I must admit that, over these summer months, there have been moments when the thought of retiring myself flickered across my mind.

1985 my first year as a teacher at SMCC.

I wondered, “Would it be worth the risk of returning? Am I capable of mastering all of the technology required to teach simultaneously in the classroom and remotely? Can I teach a 90-minute block without having to use the restroom?” These were a few of the questions I pondered, but the most important one was “With what is now a forty year age separation between my students and myself, can I still be relevant and able to empathize with teenagers whose world hardly resembles mine at the same age?” I will have been teaching for twice as many years as they’ve been alive!

Truth be told, my moments of doubt were short-lived, and I determined to, in the words of Jim Harbaugh, “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” It’s a bit hyperbolic, but you get the point. These past six months have left me discombobulated. Without a classroom and a roster full of students, I’m not totally sure who I am. I certainly need them as much, if not more, than they need me. Therefore, Monday, August 31, will find me introducing myself to a classroom full of teenagers not exactly breathlessly waiting to dive into English Literature or to learn the finer points of academic writing.

My first year teaching at PCMS in 1995.

At the end of the day, it’s not the content I teach that I hope my students take with them. Rather, it’s the life lessons, which I try so desperately to connect with the content, such as:

  1. Life is not fair. Only children and fools expect it to be.
  2. There are few mindsets more debilitating, worthless, or unattractive than self-pity. Get over it.
  3. Fear is the biggest obstacle to achievement and growth you will have to overcome. Take solace in knowing that everyone is just as afraid as you are. Tuck your chin, broaden your shoulders, gird your loins (That is so weird.) and be bold – even if you have to fake it – for the world loves a confident woman/man.
  4. Question everything that you’ve been told is right, true, or good. If after careful discernment you still feel that way, great! If not, it’s time to figure out what is.
  5. You can dislike another’s ideas without disliking them.
  6. Feelings are more delicate than thoughts. Never tell someone how they should feel, especially because it makes you uncomfortable.
  7. At some point, you have to stop blaming others for whatever shortcomings you possess or predicaments you face. However, you also need to realize that some people are born on third base and act like they hit a triple, while others have to scratch and claw just to get an opportunity to have an at-bat. Be sympathetic and lend a hand to the latter.
  8. The harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.
  9. The things most worth having rarely come easily.
  10. Always, always, always forgive and always choose love.

So with hands sanitized, masked, and from behind a Plexiglass screen, I’ll be returning for year thirty-six.

I can’t wait!

Teaching from my virtual classroom Spring of 2020.

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Thanks, Ty

Published by tyfroth

My primary passion and vocation is teaching literature and composition on both the high school and university level. My avocation is writing novels that explore contemporary themes/issues relevant to both young adult and adult readers.

4 thoughts on “36th Year – To Teach or Not to Teach

  1. Good evening Ty. A great list of quote’s. As I prepare for an arbitration hearing, on arbitration morning, I am usually quite nervous as someone’s career depends on my arguments. Your#3 hits home on arbitration day because my opposition wants to win just as much as I desire to prevail. It’s kind of like pre-game jitters in football.

    Would you mind if I steal some of your quote’s to share with our union membership? Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Dear Ty,
    I am enjoying your blog. I certainly can relate to your reservations about returning to the classroom, particularly in this unsettling time. I retired about five years ago with similar feelings. I wanted to go out on top. I have substituted since that time and felt good about being back with students as well as giving back to a system that treated me well. It was not until I took on a long-term substitute assignment that my questions of relevancy were tested. It was September 11th, and the English class was studying essays. I decided to write an essay about that indelible day in history to give them an example. As I wrote, I could remember it as if were just happening. Oddly enough, I was in the same class, sharing a room with the same teacher whose class I had taken over that day. It was eerie and emotional. As I read the class my essay, I had to work hard to hold back tears. When I was finished, a hand shot up. I was ready for a reaction, a positive comment and instead got, “We weren’t born yet!” So much for relevancy!

    Good luck this year. I am quite sure you have made the right decision. You made an impact on me and my students when you traveled all the way to Cleveland to share your novel with my creative writing class years ago. Stay safe, Lauren Persons

    1. That’s a great anecdote, Lauren! They’re so young it’s difficult finding allusions they can relate to. But I love my time with them. You and your kids made me feel special, and I will always be grateful. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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