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“We Were Supposed To Teach At Fremont”

December 25, 2010

The above quote and title of this post is from Chuck because I struggled in too many words to say that it was our destiny to teach at Fremont and teach those kids. I guess that is why it hurts so much as some of the emails from other teachers attest.

Let’s face it, many of us could have left for cushy suburban jobs back when urban teaching experience was seen as an asset, but we always found excuses to stay. That’s not an accident. The day after I was offered a job at a Magnet school back in 2007 I was anxiety ridden and couldn’t sleep that night. I called the next day and backed out of the job.  Do I regret it? No. Because I had the greatest group of AP kids ever that year, and because I never would have had that fabulous crop of seniors my last year. I never would have written that recommendation for my student who got the Questbridge scholarship and is now at Pomona College tuition -free. I knew I was supposed to be at Fremont.  Once in a while my mind would wander back to that great interview  at the magnet school and I know I could have had more stability, appreciation and better behaved kids.  But I also knew that wasn’t where I was supposed to be.  So what happens when fate is interrupted?  I don’t know, I don’t know what happens when you replace dedicated, long term staff with the principal’s lackey’s, TFA, subs and as one veteran teacher who quit within the first few months put it, “a bunch of attractive, young, female  teachers,”   who if reports from students are any indication, apparently can’t teach.  Hmm, I wonder who hired them? Someone who said only the “best and the brightest were hired.”

I think about my other students I had last year, not my dreamy seniors, but my depressed, angry, and hard to reach juniors.  It was a struggle to teach them as an experienced teacher, how would a newbie fare?  But I know that they are also in some good hands such as Mr. Pierre and others but from what these former students are telling me, that’s not enough.  I hate that their last year will not be filled with the memories that should be there. I told them I would be at their graduation but now don’t know if I really want to go.   Wouldn’t I just be stepping in to a changed destiny?  Their destinies have now changed so why should I try to insert myself back into it?

Watch these two videos with the realization that no one can take what we did accomplish away from us.  It’s what gives us real power over those who care nothing for our students. Keep up the fight! Select either the picture or the link to be taken to the video.

VIDEO:  THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Professor Fowler is forced into retirement after the administration decides that a "younger man" would better serve the students. "The Changing of the Guard" he was told. There are some eerie similarities to Fremont and to our own personal experiences.

From Chuck:

Donald Pleasance, in his first performance on American television, plays Professor Ellis Fowler, an elderly teacher forced into retirement by his school after 51 years of teaching; his yearly contract will not be renewed.

Clearly, he has affection for his students: “It is rare, young men, that in 51 years of teaching I have ever encountered such a class of dunderheads. (removes his glasses, then continues more gently) But nice dunderheads… and intensely fine young men… who will make their marks, and leave their marks…” But, as much as “Weird Beard” is, in turn, beloved by his students, we are reminded about how replaceable some administrators view teachers.

Convinced that all of his lessons have been in vain and that he has accomplished nothing with his life, he contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve. Before he can do so, however, he hears the bell of his school oddly sounding at night, returns to his empty classroom and is visited by the ghosts of former students, each one telling him how he inspired them, shaped them to be who they ultimately became. “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity” is what he was reading on a statue of Horace Mann as he stood, gun in hand, before he heard the bell. After the visit of his students, he comes to accept that while he had not the victories achieved by his students, what he gave them enabled them to do so. Each tells him that their victories (dying while saving others on the U.S.S. Arizona, contracting leukemia while conducting research on radiation for medical uses) were, in part, his. He had indeed won some victory for humanity.

Just like Professor Fowler, who, we are told in the closing narration, “… discovered rather belatedly something of his own value….” We need those reminders. We need to be told that we never know the impact that we’re truly having, that even if it doesn’t show at the time, even if administrators with a corporate jaundiced eye and an accountant’s ledger for a soul feel we should be replaced even while we are still able to do our jobs, what we have done matters.

__________________________________________________________

The following video is more complex and nuanced, yet somehow more satisfying. It’s really about destiny and how we all have one and that we are in certain people’s lives for a reason.  Our students may forget exactly where they learned everything, their memories may get fuzzy with time, but we will have had an effect.  We need to fight for our destinies.

VIDEO: THE MESSIAH ON MOTT STREET

Sick grandfather and the grandson who is keeping him alive- with some otherworldly help

The Messiah of Mott Street

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