The Paragraph Stacker

Uncensored columns from an exiled newsmane

I shall teach.

I am 45 years old. I’m out of work. There’s a global pandemic. Nothing seems right with the world.

And the only trade that seems more troubled, more affected by society’s idolatry and hedonism than journalism is education.

Well, reporters, teachers and cops. They’re all tough jobs in any era.

I’m too old and too fat to go wheezing around town after the city’s scofflaws.

But I damn well know writing.

So, I shall teach.

I believe writing is a primary form of self-expression and the mastery of it can lead to a happier, healthier life.

If nothing else, you can impress people by hiding what you don’t know through artfully stating what you do know.

Being full of shit is an employable skill.

Yes, I shall teach.

But first I shall learn.

Monday begins the new semester at Drake University. I will be a graduate student in the School of Education.

I’m in a master’s degree program. My adviser and I have mapped out an aggressive course of study.

If all goes well, I’ll be student teaching in a year and hitting up Des Moines-area districts for a full-time gig at middle schools and high schools come January 2022.

I am not a tourist in education. This is not a placeholder. This is the second half of my working life.

I’m middle-aged. I gave 23 years to journalism. I’ve got another 22 years to work before I earn Social Security.

I was a journalist. I will be a teacher almost as long. That will be a good life, a life spent in public service — especially the second half.

I graduated high school thinking I would become a teacher. I remember asking my high school principal to save me a job when he gave me my diploma in spring 1993.

I planned to be a history teacher when I enrolled for classes at Drake that fall.

Then I got a job covering football for the campus newspaper. That began 27 years of getting paid to stack paragraphs.

That run ended in May. You know the story: Pandemic plus corporate cutbacks equal the end of careers.

I’ve dwelled on the end too long.

It’s time to get up, dust off and take a bold step in a new direction.

Yes, I shall teach.

Reset. Back to school at middle age.

There’s no institution that has served me better than Drake. It has always been there for me when I needed to grow and regenerate.

First, I was an undergraduate and learned my passion for my first trade.

Then, about 15 years back, I was out of work in journalism (this is a theme of the industry in the 21st century), and I worked at Drake in public relations.

And now, in the middle of my working life, I come home to Drake yet again. There must be a reason why I’ve lived in the neighborhood since I came back to Des Moines in 2004.

I’ve already contacted the campus newspaper editor about work. I need to embed myself amongst our youth and understand how they think, how they uptake and process information.

I expect to learn from my students far more than I’ll ever teach them. I might as well start by getting to know the loads of students around me at Drake.

I don’t want to be just a teacher. I want to be a great teacher.

I realize I’m an old man by the standards of youth. It feels strange as hell to be a rookie in my 40s.

But not entirely unfamiliar. The last few years of my journalism career consistently felt like I had gotten off the bus in the wrong neighborhood.

I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing or who I was doing it for. The trade was a mess and the people who struggled the most often were those who had practiced it the longest.

The advantage teaching has over journalism, one of many I hope, is that you always know who you serve: The students.

Right now, I am a student again. Well, that’s not quite right. I’ve always been a student. Good journalists study people and society.

I was a good journalist, even if the greedy corporate hustlers eventually decided they could do better without me.

I will strive to be a good teacher.

All it takes is everything I’ve got.

And when that’s gone, I’ll find some more and give it that, too.

Yes. I shall teach.

Daniel P. Finney, winner of invisible cat’s cradle competition

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

20 thoughts on “I shall teach

  1. congrats on your continued path. I was 42 when I went back to Drake for a Masters in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counselor. I’ve worked in these fields for as long as I ever worked at anything. There are do overs! Don’t let your depression hold you back. Many in your classroom have fought the same battle but few will speak of it initially. I have admired you for a long time. My thoughts are with you.

    Like

  2. Teacher librarian says:

    Excellent choice. You would also do well teaching history – its implications throughout life shine through in everything you write. And since writing is a skill used in all subjects, please emphasize the importance of proofreading. I’ve found the best way for mistakes to show up is when the piece is read aloud. (If you read it to yourself, you know what you want it to say. What it really says jumps out at you as you read aloud.) 😉
    Best of luck to you. You have laid out a great plan. (And I love the positive attitude I hear with it!)

    Like

  3. Congratulations, from one career dancer to another. I made the jump at 60, and it was so much fun that I kept working until 78. You will be a a great teacher.

    Like

    1. Tw Hess says:

      …drolllol…

      Well …albeit obviously …played.

      …tom…

      Like

      1. To quote … “Dirty Harry” … “A good man … has got to … know his … limitations.”

        Like

  4. KWFeldmann says:

    Daniel, teaching is a noble profession, and for me, a vocation. I’ve been doing it for forty years now, and I can’t quit, even during this crazy year of pandemic I take you for a passionate guy, and we need passionate individuals in our line of work. I wish for you all the rewards that can come to a dedicated teacher. A teacher’s sense of purpose is what keeps her going when things become challenging. You won’t be only teaching writing, you’ll be teaching kids. Know for yourself what you’re about, and that will keep you going when times get hard. Yeah, times will get hard. Take heart, Stacker.

    Like

  5. Sarah says:

    Brilliant idea! THAT Will have such an impact on the next generation! What a great calling –

    Like

  6. Gloria Parsons says:

    Great decision, Daniel! I went back to school for a degree in education as a single mom with three children under 6 years old. There is no doubt in my mind you can do this with much success and satisfaction. You will be a great teacher. You are the exact kind of human teaching needs among it’s ranks.

    Like

  7. Janice Anderson says:

    Good for you! I think you will be a wonderful teacher. You have so much to share with your students. I wish you well.

    Like

  8. Gary Eller says:

    Congratulations. Your many followers are relieved.

    Like

  9. droll53 says:

    Great news! And yes, you will ge a GREAT teacher.

    Like

  10. Rhonda Gammell says:

    Good decision, Daniel!

    Like

  11. Dora Brubaker says:

    Congratulations…Randy always thought he would like to teach also. Very proud of you!

    Like

  12. June Johnson says:

    Being a teacher sounds like your genuine calling, you’ve been teaching readers for years: To be compassionate; to care about people suffering & in pain; to be inspired by life. Your students will be the fortunate recipients of your talents & life experience.

    Like

  13. Carlos Jayne says:

    You will be a great teacher, Daniel. Just don’t get arrested for beating up on 8th graders. They can be trying.

    Like

  14. rflaspohler says:

    Great career change! Go for it!

    Like

  15. rflaspohler says:

    Great career change. So good to have a new adventure!

    Like

  16. Juli says:

    You will teach like you write. With heart ❤️

    Like

  17. Terry says:

    After retiring from the Waterloo Schools in 2007, I moved to Virginia. I teach for the Career Switcher program there now. It is a hybrid program under the Virginia Community College System umbrella. I had a sports writer several years ago whose job was eliminated. He was about your age. The last time I communicated with him he indicated that he enjoyed what he was doing.

    Like

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