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My name is Ron Clone. I have taught every grade, plus preschool and adult ed since 1971. Twenty-seven of those years were in Michigan, from a small town in Northern Lower Michigan to Detroit. I retired from Racine Unified after fifteen years, from 2001 to 2016. In this blog space, I am going to write a continuing story, a memoir if you will, of the journey in my chosen career, teaching. Each week, I will add a chapter. My goal is to support my former colleagues and forever friends in The Greatest Profession. I also hope to give people who read this some insight into the mind of a teacher and the lifestyle of being a teacher in the public schools of The United States.
I didn’t always want to be a teacher. In junior high, I spent countless hours drawing houses, complete with floor plans and landscaping. That was my goal for several years. Then somebody told me that I would need lots of advanced math. I wasn’t sure about that. I had always been okay at math… but “advanced” scared me away. So I switched. I decided I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. The “war du jour,” Viet Nam, scared me away from that, plus an uncle told me you needed perfect 20-20 vision. My astigmatism prevented that, or so I was told.
As I approached my junior year of high school, my personal strengths became more evident to me. I had always been pretty good in English and creative writing. (I barely survived Algebra 2 and dropped math before trig!) My most inspirational teacher at that age was my English and social studies teacher in seventh and eighth grade, Mrs. Horn. I memorized the prepositions, the opening to “Evangeline” and “The Song of Hiawatha” (By the shores of Gitchee-Gumee, by the shining big sea water…) and used the word “bane” in an essay about my little sister. So, my future became clear. I was going to be an English teacher!
One thing Mrs. Horn did, other than great English and social studies teaching, was show us slides of her travels. Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Yellowstone,Yosemite… all over the world. It seemed like a great life. I wanted the stability and freedom to travel that teaching afforded. I didn’t realize that on the salary of a teacher, you couldn’t really afford much travel. Later in life, I came to the realization that most of my teachers had been women and many of them were married to a man who made a much better salary than that of a teacher. Of course they could travel! Some of them, including Mrs. Horn, were married to teachers. That meant a summer of travel and study that they were able to bring back into their classrooms through the magic of film and a second income.
Consequently, these “facts” (and a little ignorance of the true facts of life) kept me going into the field of teaching. I spent two years as a Chippewa at Central Michigan University as an English major. Because of my grades in high school, I was advanced into sophomore and junior English classes. Loved it! Writing, reading, diagramming complex sentences, Shakespeare, counter-culture authors like J.D. Salinger and Joseph Heller. I grew some hair, smoked some weed, listened to Jimi Hendrix and marched against the war, but never against our soldiers. I was in heaven.
After two years of that, I decided to transfer to Michigan State University. I had grown up practically in the shadow of Beaumont Tower and Spartan Stadium. My first traffic stop as a 16 year old driver was on the campus; I marched down the field of Spartan Stadium in my high school band; after a date at the movie theater on Grand River Avenue, I would drive around campus just to enjoy its beauty. It felt right and I was ready for bigger challenges. To save some money, I lived with my oldest brother and his wife, middle and elementary level teachers respectively. Then, things again changed ever so slightly again.
This was 1972. There was a glut of English teachers, but a male in elementary was almost guaranteed a job. My sister-in-law extolled the virtues of teaching the little ones and I spent a few days a week for one term in my brother’s middle school, a very progressive one near East Lansing. So I switched to elementary. A wonderful journey had begun.
Next, the process of becoming a real teacher…