Above: Aram Kabodian
Aram Kabodian wasn’t planning on coming back to teaching. After a year-long hiatus, however, the East Lansing resident has answered the call of duty and extended a teaching career spanning 28 years to see just one more round of seventh grade English students through at MacDonald Middle School.
“I was actually on a shift [at Schuler Books, Eastwood] when I found out about this job,” Kabodian said. “The middle school called me and said ‘we interviewed for this job and couldn’t find anybody, are you interested?’ and I said ‘probably not.’ So I said I would call them back and so the next day I called them back and said ‘Let’s talk.’”
The job in question is a part-time position to cover for English teacher Joie Marinaro, who is on leave for the duration of the 2017-18 school year. Kabodian, who taught English at MacDonald from 2006 to 2016, finds that the part-time position affords him more time to himself while allowing him to do the thing he loves.
“I think a part-time job, if one had been available when I retired, I probably wouldn’t have retired, I just would have gone to part-time,” he said. “I still felt like I could do the job, I still felt like, you know, I missed working with students, I missed my colleagues, and part-time gave me the option to do some teaching but also have some of my day to myself, so I appreciated that.”
Kabodian’s decision to retire, he says, was in part due to the hectic schedule he had created for himself. “I pushed it a little too hard those last few years, so many weekends and evenings working, grading, it was just too many hours,” Kabodian said. The part-time position has allowed him to focus on what he believes is the most important part of teaching: helping his students fall in love with English, and maybe have a little fun along the way.
“One of my odd goals is for students to ‘not hate’ English when they leave my class,” Kabodian said. “When I see a kid go, ‘You know, I didn’t think I liked reading, but here’s a book I read and I liked it,’ … seeing the interest, the improved interest of students over the course of the year makes me feel like I did something.” Unfortunately, he says that students’ increased grade-consciousness in recent years has interfered with that process.
“I think more and more students are a little bit more grade-obsessed,” Kabodian said. “And that’s discouraging and disconcerting, they’re not as much about learning as they are about ‘What’s my grade?’ … I want to say to them, ‘you know, it’s 7th grade guys … let’s have a little bit more fun, or let’s do your best, let’s try and learn something, let’s get along.’”
This development has not put a damper on Kabodian’s enthusiasm for teaching, however. “Part of the reason I came back was my connection with the kids, connection with my colleagues, and help kids feeling comfortable with the subject, and being excited about the subject … those are things that are still there.”
Of course, that’s not to say that Kabodian isn’t looking forward to retirement at the end of this school year. In addition to enjoying more travelling, reading, and writing than he could enjoy while teaching, Kabodian looks forward to sharing his experience and wisdom with others in his profession.
“I’m writing a book, a ‘teacher’s survival guide,’” Kabodian said. “And it’s just tips ... for longevity in the teaching profession, how to not burn out. I’m working with another teacher on that.”
Not one to leave students out, Kabodian had some advice for middle school students as well: “It’s not a prison. We’re a little too regimented once in a while. But fun is not a four-letter word. Let’s not be afraid of it.”