Thursday, June 1, 2017


As has become my tradition, I wrote a letter to the Juniors this week thanking them for the school-year that is now swiftly coming to a close. In my letter, I wrote that "a milestone year for a teacher means a more difficult year for his students"--I mentioned the year I met my wife, and the year that I got married as other examples of such "milestone years"; years where changes in my life affected my ability to teach--and thanked the Juniors for their incredible patience as I struggled to balance teaching and fatherhood this Spring.

Change is inevitable. I'm in a different chapter of my life now than I was when I started teaching, and I've changed, too. I see the world differently as a husband and father in his 30s than I did as a single guy in his 20s. I see my job differently with my Master's completed than I did before I started my Master's.

My circumstances have changed, and as a result, I'm nearing the end of an era, professionally.

I have taught every 11th grader since the class of 2011, and as a result have taught every student to have graduated from CAJ in the last seven years (with the exception of the few who came to CAJ as Seniors).

Moreover, from the class of 2012 on, I taught every student for either Humanities or English 11 (in the latter option, the students take English and U.S. History separately, with another teacher for history). For those years, I have been the only 11th grade teacher to see every student every day.

Two years ago, I became a department chair, a role I have been striving to grow into ever since. As the role of department chairs and the Research & Development team at CAJ have expanded, the expectations have expanded along with them. Next year, one period of my school-day will be set aside for departmental responsibilities, which I'm incredibly excited about!

However, this time will not magically materialize out of thin air--the trade-off is that I'm giving up my 1st period English class so that I have that extra period in my schedule free. I'll still teach two sections of Humanities (my two-period English and U.S. History blend), but giving up the "orphan" English class is a big change: I'll no longer teach all of the 11th graders. There will be a handful of students who graduate from CAJ each year who I will never have taught. Letting that go is an emotional thing for me.

However, this is the right time for that change.

Now that I've started looking at the bigger picture as the social studies department chair, I cannot help but think about our program as a whole. The ways in which our curricula fit together like puzzle pieces; the way everything builds (or at least, should build) toward our Senior Comprehensives--this kind of thinking fascinates me, and it makes me so much more conscious of my own teaching, and how my class needs to build on 9th grade World History and 10th grade English, and build to Japanese Culture-Global Issues (our 12th grade social studies) and English 12.

Having an hour each day to think, to meet with colleagues, to collaborate and plan--what a treasure that will be!

At the same time, I need to have one foot in the classroom. I would become bored and restless if I wasn't able to put my curriculum into action, and go through that exhilarating, never-ending process of refinement and adjustment, trial and error that comes with actually teaching the units and lessons I have planned. I would feel isolated and disconnected if I didn't get to work with the students themselves, sharing with them a love for words and cultivating a sense of justice.

Giving up 1st period English will be difficult, but the door it opens will make me a better teacher, and a better program leader. I don't know what the future holds, whether I'll ever go back to full-time as a classroom teacher, or ever pursue a full-time administrative role, but for now, having a schedule that allows me to work with students, colleagues, and curriculum is just right. This is where I need to be.

Although I'm sad to see this chapter come to an end, I'm excited for the coming chapter, and grateful to be working at a school where I can continue to learn and grow in new ways each year!

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