Newspaper columns can be confessionals at times. So, today I confess: I’m an addict.
It took me years to admit this — to myself and others — that I’m hooked. It has been embarrassing at times, depending on whom I’m around. But it’s also something I’ve grown to accept.
I crossed a point of “no return” a long time ago. And strangely, I’ve had the time of my life, leaving many staring in disbelief and asking me, “Why?”
No. I don’t spend my days or nights getting “liquored up.” It is, quite simply, kids. I’m addicted to teaching kids. Middle schoolers!
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Next month ends 31 years of teaching and administrating in education. “When should I quit?” is the question that keeps coming up. I’m just not sure. I love my district. And I love my middle school. It is a wonderful place to work and has become a part of my DNA.
Graduating and now working in the same district I grew up in has been so meaningful to me. Middle school kids are the best to teach. Often, they are so willing to learn. So unpredictable. Intriguing. Zany and caring. Each day is different.
Kids haven’t changed much in the 30 years since I first walked into the classroom. Their distractions have changed. But kids will always be kids. They need lots of guidance and love to succeed and feel valued.
I believe in public education. I’ve dedicated my life to it. I feel I must not rest.
“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” — T. Jefferson.
I couldn’t agree more. A national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program has come to the forefront of education and is catching on like a Midwest prairie fire. It’s called PLTW, or Project Lead The Way.
Missouri is ranked third in the nation for Project Lead The Way enrollment. These are high school classes geared for engineering and the sciences, such as civil, aerospace, and biological engineering and innovations to list a few.
The middle school version of Project Lead The Way is GTT, or Gateway to Technology. Where I teach, we offer Automated Robotics and Design Modeling using AutoCAD Inventor.
I’m pushing for more certification as funds become available. It resonates with the kids and is relevant to them.
Gateway to Technology and Project Lead The Way classes are hands-on and applicable to today’s kids like nothing I’ve ever seen. Our building recognized February Engineering Week by promoting an Engineering Girls Day. This was a concept I learned about at a recent statewide conference, where more than 1,000 educators gathered to learn more about this ever-popular program.
On one of those February days during Home Room, two female teachers and I, set up an informational meeting for what I thought might be up to a dozen young ladies interested in Gateway to Technology. I lost count at 115! The room was packed. Don’t tell me kids, especially girls, aren’t interested in learning about science, technology, engineering and math.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in STEM will grow by 17 percent by 2018. Double the growth in non-STEM fields. One prediction is 1.2 million STEM jobs will go unfilled unless we fill them with qualified individuals.
Preparing kids for that future is a daunting task for teachers. But the how is being answered in part quite successfully, at least in my district. So, should I quit at the end of this year? I really don’t think I can. I am a teacher.
I teach middle school. I teach STEM. I teach Gateway to Technology. And I touch the world.
Rodger Bowman lives in Kansas City, North, and is a middle-school administrator and teacher. Reach him at email@example.com.