I’m glad I retired when I did


Once upon a time, there were fairies, knights in shining armor, Amazonian warriors, and dragons - and places where being a school technology director was really fun and rewarding. I remember those mythical years quite well.

I have now been retired for nearly four years and when I see headlines like the one above, I feel lucky to have left the profession when I did. Remote learning over the past couple of years must have placed a huge amount of pressure on technology departments nation-wide. Security concerns were real and growing. Technology, what had once been a wonderful, exciting enhancement to F2F instruction in K-12 schools, suddenly became universal and mission-critical. 

1991,after teaching 14 years in the classroom and building level libraries, I became the “AV coordinator” for Mankato schools which at the time had an enrollment of about 7000 students and about a dozen school buildings. To the duties of the retiring AV guy (running a film library, supervising the AV equipment technician, and developing B&W film), I was given the task of being library supervisor. Oh, and the half-time math teacher, half-time computer tech was also thrown in my department, much to his dismay. 

This was all in the early 1990s and we all know what happened in the following years - computers, networking, information systems, and that new thingie call the Internet exploded. We put computers on all teachers’ desks and gave training on how to use AppleWorks. We helped teachers get email addresses and use gradebook software. Soon the student information system, now networked throughout our buildings and district, didn’t just allow, but required that all teachers use their computer to report attendance and submit grades. 

That was the start of when being a tech director started to become serious - when technology was not just a nice extra, but a vital component of a well-run school district. When the tech didn’t work, neither could the humans in the district. Tech directors now had to be able to communicate effectively with other administrators about why a good budget which afforded redundancy, adequacy, security, and replacement was essential.

For the most part, however, I loved my job. New and exciting tools were available almost every year and there were alway technophiles in the teaching ranks who were eager to try them out. My staffing levels, budgets, responsibilities (and salary) grew. And for the most part, I really liked my staff and co-administrators.

But over the final few years, the problems surrounding the financing of “redundancy, security, adequacy, and replacement” overshadowed the excitement of the new, even as we rolled out Chromebooks for every student. Expectations, accountability, and managerial tasks leeched the educational aspects out of the job.

The news story above made me shiver remembering an incident when our student information system went down for a few days. School went on, but I was quite certain that my boss was going to put a hit out on me. Having increasing expectations of an already overworked staff was not a pleasure. 

So in 2019, after 28 years in this exciting field and at 67 years of age, I willingly stepped away, happily knowing that younger, brighter, more enthusiastic leaders would easily fill my shoes. (And they have.) 

There seems to be a worker shortage in many, many fields today - especially in education. Are others leaving the field as the joy of education is replaced by exceptional expectations? 

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