Life After High School: Interview with Kevin Miller, Retired Educator

Today we begin a series of interviews from a completely different perspective—Teachers. I am grateful to be able to include this. If you missed the last post in the blog-to-book series, Life After High School—Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School, click here. Otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.


Kevin Miller, Retired Educator

With a career spanning nearly 45 years, Kevin Miller is a retired teacher and educator with keen insights on the state of education in American high schools. He also happens to be one of my teachers from my glory days at Anacortes High School. Listen to his unique perspective and comment below. You should be able to right-click here and then “save link as” to download to your device, or simply listen in the media player below:

 

Here is a brief summary of what Kevin Miller covered in the interview:

 

Can you briefly summarize your career and your life as a teacher?

All quotes paraphrased. Please listen to the audio to get Kevin Miller’s exact wording.

Graduated with English degree

First started teaching in the early 70’s. There was a new concept called open education (Juanita experimented with taking walls down even). Kevin taught in Kenmore 6 different classes in junior high

1979 job in Port Angeles. Worked there from 1979—1984. Taught English and was Drama director as well as assistant basketball coach

1984 summer sister sent a letter about a job in Anacortes. Mrs. McCrackin retired, and he took over

Directed musical theater in mid-80’s. Politics ended it because of community theater and differences of opinion in administration

Coached girls basketball. Hired to be the newspaper advisor and basketball coach until 1991 newspaper advisor until late 1990’s

Late 90’s promoted Integrated Education trying to get rid of departmental divisions

This evolved into REACH. Restructured English Arts Communication and History. Teaching philosophy of Ted Sizer* out of Harvard and Yale and had a book and we attempted to follow the philosophy (With Mark Knight and John Kaestner).

Got an opportunity to teach distance learning in high school in early 2000’s to try to keep kids from going to running start. Principle Keith Rittel didn’t like REACH but liked this distance ed learning program. Many teachers didn’t like the new program either.

Kevin was also tennis coach

Retired 2005 moved to Taiwan and taught at two Chinese elementary schools

2006 moved back (felt too young to retire) and found a job as a college planning advisor in Bellevue

Retired fully in 2015

 

What’s your favorite part about being a teacher?

Kevin loved being in the classroom with the students. The difficulty was always with the admin and teachers. He enjoyed being in school when he was a student.

What is your least favorite thing about being a teacher?

Faculty meetings were often just a gripe sessions and venting.

How effective do you think the current educational system is in preparing people for life after high school?

It varies district to district and school to school. Things are moving more in a positive direction now with project-based learning.

What do you wish you could teach high school students that you currently aren’t able to teach them under the current system?

If the high school had a more positive attitude. #1 Build confidence. The kids must be equipped to be confident in themselves.

What do you wish you could tell all graduating seniors about life after high school?

Trust yourself, don’t just go to college because they have a big football team, find your niche, please be open to change, maintain an open mind, develop self-confidence.

What are high school kids and their parents doing right when it comes to preparing themselves for life after high school?

Many are going in with the independence necessary and confidence in knowing how to learn what they need to learn.

What mistakes do you see students making in high school when it comes to thinking about their future and taking action? What are they doing wrong?

Not equipped to make the positive choices

40% of incoming college students don’t make it to sophomore year!

Students that come in aren’t equipped to be independent

Not every kid should go to college

What is the biggest problem you see for high school graduates?

The biggest problem is that many are not able to go out on their own and think independently.

Knowing what you now know, and if you could write your 18-year-old self a letter and send it back in time (encouraging, warning, or directing your life) what would you write?

Don’t put so much time and effort into sports. (Went to Pacific Lutheran because of a basketball scholarship). Put time into music and writing. Things that have longer term life value.

What kind of information, resources, interviews, or other ideas do you think need to be included in my book to make it a valuable resource for high school students and parents?

Stay on a positive tone throughout!

Include a good bibliography (like Theodore Sizer*, Essential Schools)

70’s open concept Jonathan Kozol focusing on individual vs group teaching dynamics

*Theodore Ryland Sizer was a leader of educational reform in the United States, the founder of the Essential school movement and was known for challenging longstanding practices and assumptions about the functioning of American secondary schools. Wikipedia

 

We’ll be back next time with another teacher interview—This time Scott Burnett!

 

Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

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