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Michael McCaffrey has lost his teaching idealism, but not pragmatism towards his profession. “Teaching with One Eye Shut” escorts you into the classroom, faculty room sanctuary and campus grounds of St. Elizabeth-St. Ignacious (SESI), a northern California Catholic high School.
Your host, McCaffrey is an eight-year business instructor beyond the burnout stage and uncertain as to his future in the profession. His turmoil carries over into his personal life and relationships.
McCaffrey shares his clear-eyed observations about classroom instruction, discipline, peers and the bureaucracy accompanying teaching. He dismisses imposed school administration artificial team-building tactics. For him, teachers are individuals expressing their point of view on subject matters as they visualize it. Peer’s advice and Principals are of marginal value.
His evaluations are often cutting and dismissive. They are balanced by periodic inspiring and surprising heroics emerging from unlikely sources. McCaffrey seemingly has an unflinching opinion about everyone and especially himself.
His students can be a distracted and devouring audience, but he is genuinely appreciated. He introduces the reader into the authentic and sometimes erratic nature of classroom lecture and discussion. His teaching subjects include technology, marketing and law. His students’ responses address more poignant issues including racism, home life and their futures beyond schooling. The deeper exchanges are often conducted between classes or emerge amidst casual conversations and daily interactions.
McCaffrey addresses timely issues over the success and shortcomings of contemporary education. He concludes that society comfortably maintains misplaced priorities and ignorance towards education and its practitioners. He takes issue with uninvolved parents who drop their children off like dirty laundry and expect a private institution to cleanse them of their bad habits while educating them.
He maintains that Catholic education is distinct and different from public schools. His conclusion is based on expected behavioral accountability and reinforced discipline, rather than superior personal, facilities and educational techniques. A school’s objective remains to stimulate a graduating class of lifelong learners.
This lofty goal is tested daily by certain under-achieving, troubled and unmotivated students, neurotic faculty members and hamstrung by trifling misdirected rules. McCaffrey notes that victories surface when his contemporaries enable students to navigate the tenuous labyrinth of adolescence and learning
His varied observations encompass teacher liability, absence policies, and career burnout, objective grading, classroom discipline, school fundraising, compensation, athletic programs, peer gossip and pranks, equipment deficiencies, and dress codes.
McCaffrey is SESI’s acknowledged faculty satirist who zealously guards his private time absent of extra-curricular supervisions. He is never a perennial candidate for Teacher of the Year honors.
His cast of instructional intimates and foils include basketball coach and confident Rich Ringer, siren Suzzi Issacs, milquetoast Dennis Greeley, incompetent Alex Orrigo, misdirected Tim Lovelace, mumbling Principal Brother Moody and a colorful parade of diverse and eclectic personalities. A variety of candid and favorite students are introduced with the irrepressible Ralphie Houwser heading the list.
McCaffrey feels trapped by his inability to move forward with his life. A year ending interaction with one of his peers offers him hope. Will a Parisian rendezvous on Bastille Day become his ultimate liberation from professional and personal stagnation?
“Teaching with One Eye Shut” addresses the fragile and volatile role of mentors and educators. McCaffrey’s memoir offers a realistic and humorous view of the realities behind high school instructing, spiced by his periodic exaggerations.