I was twenty-seven when I started teaching. George W. Bush was the President, I had hair, and the Mariners playoff drought was only five years-long. I've been doing this long enough that when I started I had an overhead projector with a jar full of Vis-a-Vis markers in my classroom.
Teaching is my profession and I love its moments: first days, conferences, graduation, the staff meet-up after Homecoming. When I got into teaching, my goal was to have a positive impact on my community. To help create better, smarter students as well as neighbors. This is the origin the “Nerd Farmer” moniker.
I'm a grump, but I'm an idealist. When I co-founded Teachers United in 2011, one of the criticisms of the organization was that we were a gaggle of newbie, idealistic, pie-in-the sky teachers. I remember one commenter on an early Seattle Times op-ed I penned saying, “let’s see what you think when you’ve been in a classroom for a while.” The implication was that we would lose our idealism and passion for equity and justice. Well, here we are, bub.
This is my thirteenth year in the classroom. I’m proud of my work as a teacher. I think I've made an impact on my students and the city. For the last several years people have constantly (and annoyingly) asked me “what’s next for you?” The implication was that I should run for office (hard nah), become a principal (nope, nein, never), or do policy advocacy full-time (not for me). I pride myself on not having to please voters, foundations, or funders. If I don't need your vote or grant money, I don't have to soft-pedal my truth to you. I’ve always loved teaching. I’ve never wanted to lead a school or push paperwork. I just want to teach and feel like I'm being successful and fully supported in doing it.
By my reckoning, I have taught well over fifteen-hundred students in Tacoma. I’ve started my teacher tree: Alex, Ty-isha, Janelle, and Corey with AJ and several others on the way. That's the work. The next generation is better than us. I see it everyday. I look forward to living in the world they and my students want to build. I think about this world often.
But it’s time for a change for me, a new chapter. I've shared my deep frustrations about the state of the teaching profession in the US elsewhere. I've worked at Lincoln for a decade. I love the school, the staff, and especially my students. But I realized at some point this year, that in order to stay in the classroom, I needed to do something different. One of the most consequential books I've ever read is called “Quitting America” by Randall Robinson. It's his story of leaving the US and relocating to Saint Kitts and Nevis. Frankly, given the state-of-affairs in the US, I'm not sure I want to break-up, but I do think I want to see other people for a while.
This summer Hope and I will move abroad. In August, we’ll be joining the staff of the American Community School, an international school in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. I'll continue teaching AP American Government and ninth grade social studies. For years, we've taught students to be global citizens, now I'm going to be one. That's kinda dope. We’ve already researched and adopted a new soccer team, Al Wahda FC.
Don't worry though, you’ll still hear from me. My Twitter Fingers ain't going nowhere, Nerd Farmer will continue (once we get settled), and I'll likely be writing more. You may see me again when President-Elect Inslee is putting together his Cabinet in 2021 (mostly kidding) or if the Seattle Sounders open a residency academy (deadly serious).
But for now, for me, it's time for a new challenge.