Monday, June 19, 2006

The Teacher Has Now Become The Student

After 5 years of teaching, I'm leaving to become an art student. Part of me is disappointed that I'm abandoning a career that let's me give back to society and part of me is disappointed that it took me so long to leave a field that didn't recognize any of my contributions.

I'll miss my students most of all. Whether they were the very bright and focused who would ask me the tough questions that truly tested my knowledge of my subjects or they were the irresponsible and immature ones that needed me to support and discipline them so that they could reach the high standards of our Academy, they all made me feel that I was making a difference.

The frustrations that I'm happy to leave behind are all related to the adults I had to deal with as I tried to change the system for the better. The list of top offenders include:

1. Administrators who could not hold to procedures and always left problems unsolved until they had grown to catastrophic proportions.

2. Administrators who wouldn't share their knowledge or contacts with me when I was supposed to be learning how to take over their position when they leave.

3. Administrators who forgot that I had digitized their workflow the year before and require everyone to submit their work in writing again.

4. Administrators who put me in charge only to then veto my decisions and sow confusion and frustration amongst the teachers I was helping. Not to mention making me look like an ass in the process.

5. A union that stood in the way of several sensible reforms. My personal favorite of these was their refusal to require on-line grades without a renegotiation with the district.

6. Parents who we never saw no matter how many times we tried to call them in to talk about the problems their students were having in class.

7. State Administrators who refuse to let our Academy change its focus to biotech, a growing industry with entry level positions for students who complete an 18 week course after high school.

8. The teachers who were flat out terrible. They're a very small percentage, but the damage they do to their students and the reputation of our profession is irreparable. Most of them will never leave the profession either as they are tenured and their incompetence keeps them from even considering entering a profession where their performance actually matters.

9. Adults at all levels of the system who let personal conflict drive their decisions rather than the welfare of their students.

The list could go on and on.

Now that I have left teaching, I will be entering the Academy of Art's MA Photography program in the fall. It does feel good to be able to focus my energy into my creative outlets. I've nearly completed the dark room in my garage. I just need the plumber to finish and then to arrange for some ventilation ducts to a fan over the sink. Though I learned on film cameras, I never got into development. It was always easier to just send it out and get it developed, but now I'm more interested in greater creative control rather than convenience.

My classes start on September 7th, which gives me the opportunity to finally go to burning man. I'm going with a group of 25, made up of techers I know and some Googlers too. Our camp is Daliwood and will feature art inspired by Salvador Dali. Gen is putting together a version of the aphrodisiac dinner jacket (covered in blacklight reactive shotglasses) for me to wear. We're not going too crazy on our own art installations as we want to be able to spend a good deal of our time enjoying the playa. We're camping within the larger Asylum camp, so we'll be right in the thick of it in the downtown section. It will be loud at night, but that should be fine if my plan to switch over to sleeping days works out.

I hope to get some good photos on the playa, but I am also aware that photographers and videographers have become very intrusive at burning man. It's almost a sin against the purpose of burning man to come to observe rather than participate. So I'll take a page out of Jodi Cobb's book and build a sense of closeness before taking any photos. I'll also try to put the camera away now and then to just have fun on my own.

No comments: