Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Thursday, June 16, 2011

For those who didn't get this note at Christmas here was the preview:

Well, it looks like it’s time to hang up the old piece of chalk...
Teaching at El Rancho circa 1981

I mean the “low-odor, chisel-tipped, dry-erase marker!”

Yep, after 40 years of teaching, “Mr. McMullen” is calling it quits. 

I spent most of those forty years thinking that I might never retire, yet there clearly comes a point when the scales tip and the unimaginable becomes the inevitable and then, in short order, the imminently desirable.
For those of you who don’t know, I already retired once after only three years of teaching. That time it was to play music, and who knows, it might be part of the reason this time, too. That last time, though, I came back fairly quickly for several reasons, but the main one was that I really enjoyed teaching. I am very proud to say that, after forty years, I still truly enjoy it. 
My first year of teaching at Sierra HS, my second year at Santa Fe,  and my third year at La Serna

I have had an incredible career. I have taught over twenty-five courses, and I have had the unique opportunity to conceive and create at least fifteen different courses including Advertising, Mass Media, Speech, Romantic American Lit, Fantasy and Sci-fi, Intro to Poetry, VISTA, and most recently, Creative Writing and Video Production. I have been privileged to work with creative administrators and directors like Roger Weeks at Sierra and Anne Eichman, David Verdugo, and my good friends, Julie Ellis, Ben Rich, Felicity Swerdlow, and Grace Nakamura at El Rancho, who repeatedly gave me these creative opportunities. 

Even more remarkably, I have spent over thirty years of my career team-teaching; that is, I have been allowed to work directly in the classroom with fellow teachers, fantastic teachers like John Crone, Diane Kuramoto, and my American Studies team-mates: my dear friend and master teacher, Carolyn Clemons, for twenty years; and my inseparable partner and incomparable teacher for all of those thirty-plus years, Doug Anderson. As an Honors Team teacher, I have been honored to work with several generations of the most gifted and motivated students. 

As a speech teacher, newsstaff advisor, creative writing teacher, and video production instructor, I have had the privilege to work intimately with hundreds of terrifically talented and creative young people. When the Academic Decathlon was first introduced to our school, under the direction of my friend Doug Anderson, I was offered the opportunity to coach the decathlon team in Language and Literature. I have been alllowed to work with some amazing students for the last twenty-five years, and though I take no credit at all for their achievements, I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.
Teaching Murder, Mystery and Science Fiction at El Rancho

I was a Mentor Teacher for sixteen years, the entire duration of the program, so I had the chance to work with many young and gifted teachers. Many of my students have returned to El Rancho to become my colleagues and truly outstanding teachers, a fact that makes me very proud. 

When I started kindergarten at four years old, people began asking, “What do you want to be?” Even by that young age, my father was encouraging me to consider being a lawyer (an aspiration of his, thwarted by the realities of a stint in the military and the raising of a family). So, whenever I was asked the question, I said, “A lawyer or a teacher.” You can see whose dream won that one, but my parents have always supported my choices, and at 86, when they pause for a moment from their globe-trotting (seriously...they are awesome), they still support those choices, including this one. [It’s one thing to grow old, but what must it feel like to have your kid retire? Since we don’t have kids, I won’t have to feel that one!] 

As for the lawyering? Well, over twenty-five years ago, my good friend, Ben Rich, invited me to become a Union Rep, then a year or so later, he asked me to be on the bargaining team. I have been proud to represent the El Rancho Federation of Teachers ever since then. It may not be lawyering, but it is certainly interesting and challenging. I have had the pleasure of serving under four ERFT presidents: Nancy Miller, Sid Apley, Marcia Hall, and Rico Tamayo (five counting Laura Rico’s brief tenure), and I am grateful for the trust that they have put in me for these remarkably tumultuous years. My first day of subbing for El Rancho in 1975 was the first day of the El Rancho strike (and it was my last until the strike was over—they didn’t tell the subs that the teachers were on strike). Now, as I prepare to leave, I hear that the La Habra teachers are out on strike...Gee, maybe I should try to sub there—when the strike is over; there might be a career in there somewhere. I also especially thank my fellow reps, Lilia Carreon and Jim Halley, for all that they do for the union and the teachers; and I thank the teachers of El Rancho High School and El Rancho Unified School District for their commitment and for their support through all these years.

I want to thank Natalie Zucker and her late husband for creating the Zucker Teacher of the Year Award and for selecting me, along with Rosie Aragon, as the first co-recipient. Her decision to give back to the teachers who taught her children continues to be a significant inspiration.

I am also the last remaining active “Charter” member of the ABA, the teachers and coaches who have played basketball at lunch for the last few decades. I can’t thank enough all of those players, past and present, who have given me some of the most joyous thirty minutes of the last thirty years. I couldn’t have made it without that little bit of daily respite; and especially in these last few years, thanks for putting up with the knees and my top of the key to the top of the key, walking game. I really appreciate the camaraderie and the play. It is a tradition worth keeping.

A recent "teacher" photo from El Rancho

I want to thank those dear friends and colleagues who retired and those who moved on: Ralph “Jim” Kane, Maureen Hourigan, and Barbara Miller; Grace Nakamura and Dan Vandevier Yoshimoto; Carolyn Clemons, Diane Kuramoto, Ben Rich, and Marcia Hall; Nancy Lawrence, Steve Kennedy; Dick Reinbolt, Gary Barton, Connie Diaz, Jim Dyson; Sandra Espinoza and Cheryl Milas; Carolyn Martens, George Sturr, and Diana Malazian; Paul McKillop and Mako Tashima. I want to thank all those classified staff, past and present, who make the school and district run. Unfortunately, I will leave out scores more than I can include, but I want to particularly thank those special folks who are still at The Ranch, those people who have made the drudgery disappear and have made my time at El Rancho such a pleasure, including Doug Anderson, Lil Carreon, Jim Halley, Stan Wlasick, Charissa and Paul Zeko, John Crone, Jim Sorenson, Dawn Lam, Claire Katsumura, Val Kiralla, Christina Padilla, and Belinda Larrache, I say to you all, as Emerson said, “...Nor knowest thou what argument/Thy life to thy neighbor’s creed has lent.” Now you know!

And, there you have it—the big (or should I say, “long-winded”) retirement announcement (and life story). I hope this season finds you well and enjoying the things that you have chosen for vocation and recreation. All the best, Tim 

1 comment:

  1. I was in your class in the 1981 Class Photo at El Rancho. After being in your class and trying to read all my other teachers black boards, I adopted your stile of writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS so people could read my writing too (HOPEFULLY). You were and will always be one of my favorite High School teachers...in-spite of your Hippie look. You were always true to who you were. JOHN SCOTT