Advice From an Older Teacher to the Next Generation
This past June I completed my 35th year of teaching, having first entered the classroom in 1987. Sometimes it seems like I just started doing this, but other times I stop and realize the students in my first graduating class are now 52 years old. My first students are now grandparents. There is something sobering about that, and yet something heartwarming. Some days I wish I had done something else with my life, something more financially rewarding and something with less public criticism. On other days I feel satisfied with my choice.
The ones I am still in contact with (yes, I am still in contact with some) still call me “Mr. E,” which is what they called me back then.
When I first started teaching, Ronald Reagan was president. There was cable TV, but it hadn’t reached everywhere yet, including where I began my career. I had 3 television stations I could watch, but only if the weather was good. Otherwise, I couldn’t get reception, which meant that watching TV was never guaranteed on any given night. Microwaves were still a fairly new thing, and I rented movies and watched them on my VCR (video cassette recorder).
In my first classroom, I had a chalkboard, a cabinet with an assortment of old filmstrips, and an overhead projector. I had textbooks for most of my classes, but not all. For my Social Problems class, there was no textbook or any other materials at all. I had to wing it until I could somehow find resources that would work. There was, of course, no money in the school budget to buy anything either.
What was missing? We had a computer lab with Apple IIe computers, but there was no such thing as the internet yet. If you wanted to look something up, you had to go to the library. There was no Google or YouTube. There was no email. There was no streaming anything. There were no cell phones. No digital photography. It was a different world. It was a quieter world, and not as busy.
Over the years, I saw chalkboards change into whiteboards and then into Smartboards. VCRs were replaced by…