Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tom Porton's Parting Shot: Why One of the Bronx's Most Brilliant Teachers Decided to Retire

To all my friends and supporters:... It is with mixed emotions that I announce that I will be retiring from the New York City Department of Education on February 1, 2016.

Looking back on 47 years in education (46 in the James Monroe building), I see a mosaic of thousands of faces…students, parents, colleagues. I have so many great memories of those years, from the excitement of the classroom, to the applause for shows I directed, to the impact of my many school and community projects. My heart is filled with so many great relationships that came from those years…so many of which I maintain even to the present day.

It is because of the joy I feel when I think of my teaching career that I have such mixed emotions about retiring. And yet, as this new year began and I took inventory of my daily routine, I realized there was a need to make a change in my professional life.

First and foremost, I do not feel that I have the same impact on young people that I have had in the past. The reason I continued teaching at Monroe for so many years was the fact that I really thought I was making a difference in the lives of my students, not only in the classroom, but especially through my work in school and community activities. It was that energy and excitement of creating and working with motivated, committed young people that kept me young and vital.

However, beginning this school year, my opportunities for continuing that impact have been lessened to the point where each day has become a struggle. For over 35 years, I began each day with my Leadership class, where I was able to create a core of 40-50 students who would facilitate a wide variety of school and community events in the Monroe Campus. Now, with that class programmed away by the current administration, making those events continue becomes harder and harder. I realized this during the past several months where I struggled to continue such projects as the Blood Drive, the Thanksgiving Community Dinner, the World AIDS Day commemoration, and the Holiday Caroling Celebration. Although I made them happen, each event was met with no support from the current administration.

Also, in the past, I was given time during the day to coordinate school and community projects, which were considered valued parts of our school community. Now, based on new programming by the current administration, it has been made virtually impossible for me to find the time to keep my projects going. As an English teacher, having to teach more classes, especially those based on EngageNY, the Common Core English curriculum that allows students to go through high school without reading a single complete novel, play, or biography, is torture for me. I’m sure my former students will attest to the fact that my classes were always filled with my own enjoyment of the subject matter and my ability to bring unique and creative materials (films, music, art) into the classroom. Now, having all materials dictated by an outside source, the joy of teaching English has all but vanished.

Finally, going to school each day and facing an atmosphere wherein my very presence is greeted with animosity by my supervisor is not a pleasant experience; and one that I have decided not to continue.
For those of you who know me well, you know that my workaholic personality will not allow me to stop working. I am currently searching for venues in which I can continue to impact the lives of young people and, at least in some manner, continue the humanistic education upon which I have built my teaching career. I certainly welcome suggestions from those of you with ideas about places and/or positions where I could continue this next segment of my career.

Thanks to each and every one of you who has been part of the mosaic which has been my career at Monroe. I hope to continue those thousands of relationships which are so meaningful to me and which have kept me committed to the Monroe tradition for so many years.