On Rethinking Retirement……

Today was the first day of two for professional development on Understanding by Design, or UbD. The staff at the school all has to have this training as part of our three-year plan, and I was resisting this because I’ve read through elements of this on my own, as well as tried to apply some of the “big ideas” to a museum project several years ago. I am here to say today is causing me to seriously rethink retirement – the day was amazing, and I do not say that lightly about professional development.

Understanding by Design is a three-stage program to develop more meaningful curriculum that is effective, engages students, and promotes enduring understanding, as Howard Gardner would say. We spent the day on Stage 1, unwrapping the curriculum in order to plan for the end result. Duh. In 20 years of doing student theater, I always did what I call “backplanning,” but NOT ONCE did I think to apply that skill to my classroom teaching.

As we continued through the day, I kept seeing lights at the end of the tunnel, answering for me ways to fix what I am unhappy with in my algebra classes. I do too much direct instruction, I don’t have the kids do enough inquiry, and they aren’t engaged enough or see algebra as a meaningful course of study. I actually wanted to read through standards and try to cluster some of the performance objectives so the planning¬† makes more sense. The warm-up we did would make more sense than the (to be honest) drill and kill I usually do for practice (and, really honest, management…). In fact, I have some ideas for small group bell work for next week to extend some of the understanding.

All through the day I was (and still am) very conflicted. I am planning to retire in two and a half more years. I have been dealing with some health issues that may make me retire early. Plus, I realized if I go the full years more I will actually end up hurting my retirement benefits, as there hasn’t been a raise, and nothing is in sight. Two and a half years would cut off one of my higher salary years. So I am looking at numbers.

But then I sit in a workshop and get truly excited about trying some new strategies and ideas for teaching algebra, and I don’t want to leave. Retirement is an ending, as well as a beginning. I started teaching 40 years ago this September, and while it is probably time – age-wise – to go, it feels like “the end.” I don’t think I’m ready for closure, even though I want to seriously expand my art work and licensing. I’m not sure I can “let go” of 33 years of teaching, when I still feel like I have a lot more to offer. I still love this stuff – workshops, class management, curriculum, and all. I miss the teaching teachers that I used to do. I have all these skills and experiences (and endorsements) from all these years, and I’m not sure I can give it up…..

So just when I think I am coming to decisions, something happens to change it all. Darn you, Dr. Larry….now what do I do?

4 Responses to “On Rethinking Retirement……”

  • Sette:

    You can always retire, and come back (part or full time) like several others in the math department!

  • I’ve started thinking in that direction….plus I used to do a lot of teacher training in another reincarnation, so I think I may start looking at that again….’course, everything could change, based on the rest of this year…….

  • Judy:

    I’m SO glad you are enjoying your UbD workshop! One of Wiggins’ team trained the science department at St. Gregory years ago, and the result was my favorite science project ever, the GeoMorph Project (study of sedimentation in the Rillito River in partnership with USGS) — all because of UbD! I can’t wait to talk with you more about it! I also have a PDF of Wiggins’ presentation at the recent ASCD Conference. Would you like? Enjoy every minute of this exciting training — and keep the door open for more teaching and consulting!

  • I am pooped after today’s training – want to just go crazy with planning – makes me realize just how “on track” Connected Math was/is. And yes, I would like to look into consulting, but just don’t know where to begin. I wanna talk with you lots when you’re here!!

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