Classick Frustration: Interview with an Ex-Teacher

John Potter (pseudonym) taught at Milford Elementary School from 1979 – 2000. In June of that year he resigned to start a small pottery shop on the outskirts of town. Now he lives in poverty, making odd ceramics and doing gardening here and there. Despite this, he says he's happier than he's ever been. This interview was conducted in May 2006 while he was firing some funky earthenware and sipping some home-grown organic chamomile tea.
Tim: What did you enjoy most about teaching?
John: It's wonderful to interact with others. Young kids are seldom shy about asking questions or probing issues. It's inspiring to see them blossom. Children help me feel more hope for humanity.
Tim: Why did you quit teaching?
John: The teaching profession has changed a lot in recent decades. Now it's much more test-oriented and teachers themselves have been systematically disempowered. Bureaucrats who know little about deep learning are trying to control the process to manufacture more data. It's a massive deception and takes energy away from many critical teaching tasks.
Tim: Why's this happening?
John: I suspect there's a capitalist mandate behind it. That mandate is rooted in a culture of greed and hungry competition. Of course, the rhetoric claims it's a search for better quality and consistency, but few people I know take those assertions seriously. The real agenda comes down to control and conformity. It's rooted in a conservative tendency to increase conformity.
Tim: (in a satiric tone) . . . and none of this has anything to do with money, right?
John: Naturally, big money is involved. More and more power is getting consolidated in the hands of a few testing agencies and publishers. However, I believe the public is also responsible. Too many people are allowing the establishment to dupe us with misinformation. This is happening on many levels. Money talks. The kids, however, are suffering.
Tim: What suggestions would you offer for persons interested in quality schooling?
John: I honestly don't know. As for making large-scale changes in the system, I've already given up. Unless there is a significant change in the consciousness of this planet, I don't believe wide-level change can take place. Too many people today have a a sort of Disneyfied consciousness: they have no idea what's going on.
Tim: And how do you think people should wake up?
John: I fear it may take a major catastrophe. Looking at the way we are misusing the earth's resources, that seems increasingly immanent.
Tim: So why are you creating pottery?
John: It's beautifully absurd. When I'm at the wheel, I feel I'm making something useful. And none of my stuff is mass-produced. Some people might recognize the value of diversity through these pots. There is too much conformity in the world today. Our real hope is in the imagination of non-conformists.