Planned Obsolescence · 15 June 2007

As the class of 2007 graduates from Cedarcrest High School (where I work), Monroe High School (in the community where I live), and high schools throughout the country, I find myself musing about the job of a teacher. It is amazing to think that my main task is not to teach my students a particular subject matter but to make myself an obsolete part of their lives.

I love teaching. It is what I was meant to do. But when the seniors leave, I feel a bit empty. It is like part of my being is going away never to return. I suppose that it is what it will be like when my own kids graduate and move away. The difference is that I know my own kids will be back someday. After all, they will want to see their mother. But when my students leave, they may or may not return. They may not email. I might only hear about them through those who do come back. From those who do email now and then. I love to teach the kids but I do not like to see them leave.

To alleviate that pain a bit, I usually tease a couple students about coming back after their senior years. I tell them that they could teach my classes and just hang out since they do not need any more credits. One year, I even had a student who said that he wished he had one more year to be in my class. He wanted to work on the computers more. Maybe even spend the whole day at one. Of course, he graduated and went to school and now he does sit behind a computer all day and do the job he loves to do. He did not really need another year with me, he was ready to graduate to bigger and better things. That is the way it is supposed to be. Students are supposed to leave the relative safety of high school. They are not supposed to take me up on my offer to stay another year.

In reality, I only ask my students to stay if I know that they are ready to leave. I only kid them about another year when I know that I can not teach them any more. Any more about the subject matter. And more importantly, any more about how to learn, how to manage their time, and maybe a few other lessons about life. That is what I mean by planned obsolescence. I know that I have done my job when my students do not need me any more.

As I reflect on my students graduating, I think that I am usually the one who is not ready for them to leave. For when my students can set goals. When they can manage their time. When they can take responsibility for their choices. When they can learn on their own. Then, I know that they are ready for life outside the walls of high school. As they leave, I hope that I had a little bit to do with their successes. But more importantly, I hope that I have done my job of making myself obsolete in their lives.

Congratulations class of 2007. I hope your teachers made themselves important but obsolete parts of your lives.

© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 19 June 2007 in The Monroe Monitor & Valley News



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