Education Matters: Nice to be clad with some free time

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

When I stopped teaching, I knew there would be some things that I would miss, but I also knew there were things that I would not miss at all. Let me share just a few on both sides.

Most of all, I'll miss the kids. They kept me on my toes by making me think, they provided a constant source of novelty, they challenged me daily, and they never failed to make me laugh. I'm physically feeling every bit of the 61 years of age that I am, but all of those beautiful children over the years have kept me young at heart.

I found out early that I made a very good decision in choosing teaching as a career. Every year for me was a new love affair with the 150 kids I'd get to know in the space of 10 months. That may sound a little over the top, but it happens to be true, and I am deeply grateful to a profession that has given me so much in return for my efforts on behalf of all the students I've taught.

I've thought often of a movie line that comes at the end of "Good-bye Mr. Chips," which never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The old schoolmaster at an all-boys private school is recalling his 50 years of teaching, and a colleague sadly comments that the old boy never had any children of his own.

"Oh, but you're wrong," replies Mr. Chips. "I've had thousands of children, and they're all boys."

I will miss being a part of the lives of kids still young and undecided about the ways of the world. I'll miss touching minds with the brightest and, in a different but equally satisfying challenge, trying to coax an original thought from the children whose time to shine is yet to come.

There are many colleagues I'll miss seeing each day, but I know also that I have made friendships of fellow teachers that will be with me for a lifetime. I have found that I am always at home in the company of other teachers wherever I go. Our politics may differ, our personalities may clash, our methodologies may vary, but there is an undeniable kinship we share that comes from a common collaboration of youth and age.

And now for a few things that I won't miss.

I left the profession a few years early because of something called CLAD (Cross Cultural Language and Academic Development) and I am more convinced than ever that it is an offense to my profession as well as a monumental waste of tax dollars.

I've written about it before and have tried, unsuccessfully, to interest our governor and local legislators in taking a hard look at it. Tens of millions (maybe it's hundreds of millions — no one seems to know) of dollars are annually allocated for a mindless, meaningless bureaucratic boondoggle drawing from a state treasury bordering on insolvency.

I have yet to meet a teacher who supports the program, but there are some who are less bothered by it since they are awarded hundreds of monthly stipend dollars for having suffered through the training and passed the test (thereby making them "qualified teachers"). A good number of those stipends go back 20 years, and so I invite any of you to do the math using literally hundreds of thousands of California teachers as a multiplier.

That my employers can dictate to me what and how I should teach after 35 years in the profession, telling me that I'll be fired if I do not comply, is a slap not just at veteran teachers but a sure deterrent to young people contemplating teaching as a career. What has become an accepted plank in the process of teacher preparation is in fact ill conceived, misdirected and very expensive.

CLAD wants to address our large and growing immigrant population, to guarantee an equal education for all children, to facilitate language acquisition and provide tools for teachers to accomplish that task.

All laudable goals indeed, but can anyone, especially the politicians who mandated this program, attest to its success?

If the powers that be wish to find a way to facilitate language acquisition, I have a simple suggestion, which unfortunately leads to a painful conclusion for those who see the continued lower achievement in our students as a "teacher problem."

Study hard and study well the educational achievements of the Asian students in our school system. Observe the link between a culture that honors teachers and exalts all learning and the resulting performance of students who are of that culture.

Understand the overwhelming influence that family and cultural tradition have on a child's education. Be aware that discipline and hard work and high expectations are the stock and trade of all teachers, but consider that we are best at putting finishing touches to a foundation that has already been laid.

Ask yourselves why some children spend a few years learning English and some still aren't proficient after six years in the same classes. Then look to see the obvious correlation between family values and student achievement.

Well, I see I'm only midway through this rant and I have miles to go. Best perhaps to leave it for the weeks ahead when I have been away from it all and have a slightly different look at things.

For now, this retiree has a garden that needs tending, an old house that needs mending, a piano that wants more playing, golf courses and tennis courts that beckon, grandchildren who pull at my sleeves and tug at my heart, places in this world I hope to explore and ideas I hope to develop — and the time, oh, the glorious free time, to sit back and reflect on a chapter that has closed in my life and a new one that has opened.

DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
54°