David Fitzsimmons: This is why teachers don't speak at graduations

2012-05-19T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T10:50:18Z David Fitzsimmons: This is why teachers don't speak at graduationsDavid Fitzsimmons Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I just came from a "faculty round table," which is what we teachers here at Arizona High call Happy Hour at Hooligan's, and I'd like to thank Principal Gomez for this opportunity to speak freely. Teachers are never asked to give the commencement address at their own schools. But, since the gasbag Gomez invited to deliver the speech "fell ill," I am more than happy to take his place.

Lets thank our custodian, Mr. Jones, for tying Principal Gomez to his seat, and let's give Mrs. Shmeeter, our fine librarian, a hand for providing the outstanding rope.

I want to mention here that the bartender at Hooligan's, Pinky Slotkin, was a student of mine who failed my sophomore English class too many years ago. And now I find out Mr. Pencil Brain earns more than I do after 20 years of teaching. Go, Pinky!

You in the third row! Aim that Silly String at me one more time and I'll turn Shmeeter loose on you.

Maybe it's the Happy Hour talking, but I'll miss some of you: Jimmy, who is temporarily in juvie, and Ezekiel, who was home- schooled and tested feral, and one of my favorite students, Susie Valenzuela! She wants to be a teacher! Imagine that.

Let me give you some advice, Miss Valenzuela: Don't teach in Arizona. You'll be testing students on material you didn't have time to teach because you were too busy giving them state tests, national tests, district tests and more tests! When you're not testing you'll be grading tests. I spent so much time grading tests I started drawing smiley faces on restaurant tabs and writing "good job" on receipts when cashiers handed them to me.

In April a cop handed me a ticket. I wrote on it, "This is unacceptable. Try again." Asking him to loosen the cuffs, I told him I was fried from the most exhausting week of parent-teacher conferences ever - with parents defending their "angels" like black widow spiders guarding their eggs. Then I recognized from his sneer and his badge that Officer Goldberg was one of those spiders and my summer vacation will now kick off with a visit to the courthouse.

In spite of all of this, I'm happy to hear I inspired you, Miss Valenzuela. I was inspired to teach by my history teacher, "Sleepy" Jim Johansson, God bless him, who said, "Those who can teach, teach. Those who can't teach, show videos. Turn off the lights."

Imagine! The chance to work 80 hours a week for an institution lawmakers harangue and demonize - not to mention the benefit of going years without a raise. Arizona gave prisons $70 million. What did teachers get? Tickets to "Reality Bites." Go, Arizona!

And a shoutout and props to our lawmakers for working to put guns and Bibles in the classroom! Arizona corporations warned us about the lack of gun-toting Old Testament scholars qualified to join the 21st-century workforce. Next session give us semi-automatic Gideons instead of decent classroom sizes. At your pace the only thing your graduates will be locking and loading is the nuclear dump site you lawmakers hope to build to fund more gun lockers down at the middle school.

It wasn't all bad news. Some was worse than bad. A bill restricting bullying was cornered and beaten to death by a morality gang because the bill included restrictions against bullying gays.

Do you want a career where every jackrabbit outside of your profession has an "expert" opinion about how you should do your job? Do you want to be vilified by politicians with boots for brains who couldn't pass an AIMS test if the answers were written on their forepaws?

Oh dear. Will custodian Jones come up here and help Shmeeter carry Mr. Gomez back up on the stage, please?

In closing - which I know can't come soon enough for you because if I learned anything it's that you all have the attention span of hummingbirds - as I read your names come up and I'll hand you your diploma. And return the shivs and iPods and iPhones we confiscated from you.

On the first day you arrived here looking like Tucson's cast call for "Dangerous Minds" - each with your own special gifts and arrest records. And because I love teaching I gave you my all.

Some of you will be going on to college followed by debtor's prison. Some of you will be moving back in with your parents and some I'll see on the local news wearing the blue smock the Sheriff's Department includes with every family-size portrait.

I see Principal Gomez has wriggled free and I'm just about out of time, so goodbye and good luck, Class of 2012! Come back and see me. I'll be in my classroom grading papers unless it's Friday around sundown. I'll be at our "faculty round table."

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