Friday, June 19, 2015

Change, Not Chains

Today was my last day at the school I've been teaching at since 2001. A population decrease in the district necessitated lots of cuts and movement, and while no one lost their jobs (this time!) many people were displaced. Before I knew I was going to be one of them, I spent a lot of time talking to people about the benefits of change and I guess I must have convinced myself, as I wound up volunteering to leave (even though seniority would have allowed me to stay.) Below is the letter I sent out to the staff, explaining my decision, and even though it's personal to my situation, I've heard enough talk of change and transition out there (and not just about Caitlyn Jenner) to justify sharing it with you all as well. So, for what it's worth, here it is...

Hello, when I walked into school last Tuesday, the only thought on my mind was how relieved it felt to be "safe" from getting moved down. Sure, I felt a little guilty knowing others were getting displaced, but mostly I was just glad it wasn't me.

 6 hours later, I found myself VOLUNTEERING to be the one to go!

I was as surprised as anyone, and frankly, am still trying to wrap my head around it. But basically my thought process was: I LOVE teaching LA. I live in a world of words. I've read close to 40 books just since January. I've WRITTEN a couple books. I think and act and cope with life through the knowledge gleaned from books. I even have an English degree (which, apparently my professor was right, is not worth the paper it's printed on!) Plus, for the past 14 years, I've worked on the local, state, and national level to develop and improve the LA curriculum and assessments, as well as my own instruction and practice. So when I was informed that I'd be teaching Math next year, it just didn't work for me. I'm HORRIBLE at math. It's not a strength. It's not my passion. And while I'm sure I could have been good enough, I think the kids deserve better than that.

I only had a few short hours to process and decide all this, and in that time, I kept asking myself, "Why?" Why leave the comfort and security of a place I've known for the past 14 years? Why leave the friends and colleagues that have welcomed me into their classrooms, their homes, and their lives since 2001? Why have to pack up ALL my stuff and move? Why change my routines? 

The answer was NOT because I don't like math!

No, the answer was, as much as I fear it, I LIKE change. I truly believe that change keeps us young and sharp, and fresh. Change slows down time and keeps us from going through life on auto-pilot. Change is good.

Yes, I hear some of you wondering, "Well, isn't teaching math enough of a change?" And to that, all I can say is, I found myself more excited about the scary prospect of establishing myself in a new building than the safer choice of learning how to teach a new subject.

Granted, this all happened over the course of an evening, so I may soon be regretting this decision, but I know I made it with the best intentions, for me and the students. If all works out, our math teacher will stay where HE belongs, teaching 6th grade math, and I'll still be doing what I'm highly qualified to do...just away from the people I love. 

And that's the hardest part. We've been through so much together. Forget the school stuff. Over the past decade and a half, we've gone through everything from wakes to weddings, funerals to bat mitzvahs, concerts to happy hours, and from tailgating at retirement parties to illegally dumping a colleague's ashes! 

I do not expect to find another group of people who are more dedicated and generous in the act of teaching children as you all, but I promise to carry that spirit with me wherever I go. And for what it's worth, I don't plan to be gone long!

Thank you all for everything, especially your understanding. 

See you in town and around,


PS - don't worry, this year's staff party will still be at my house!


  1. Mike you are amazing, I don't know where you acquired your
    gift of writing and expressing your self, but you do a fantastic job, your caring and thoughtfulness of your students and co-workers is without equal. I Love you Dad

  2. Annemarie TompsenJune 21, 2015 at 9:59 PM

    You are an amazing teacher and an inspiration. Follow your heart and do what you love. I know a lot of people will miss you but, like you said, you'll still be around! Mr. Wood, one of the most important things I learned from you was to do what I loved. I am now following my dreams and I know so many other students are doing the same, thanks to you. No matter where you go, just make sure to still keep us posted!