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James Decker



Recorded by

Daniel Horowitz

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This interview with James Decker was recorded on August 3, 2022 remotely via Zoom. James is a sixth grade social studies teacher based in Portland, Oregon. James has been teaching for 20+ years within the Salem Keizer Public School system. Reflecting on what he'd like to hear of other teacher's perspectives, James talked about how he was curious about why teachers in poorly funded, more politically red states, especially those in the South, have stayed in the teaching profession. He spoke about politics directly: the 2024 election and Roe vs. Wade being repealed, and what he sees as a very divided time in America. He understands why there is teacher shortage: underfunding, less freedom in curriculum, etc. He said that he has been able to avoid political backlash to his teaching by crafting his courses very carefully but that he has colleagues who are constantly embroiled in scandal, which makes it hard to stay in the profession. Regarding teaching in COVID, he said it saved his career. He was burning out before the lockdown and teaching online allowed him to focus on just teaching as opposed to what he said an in person teacher has to do: which is be councilor, manager, etc. to the kids. Still, returning he said, while difficult, has brought a lot of the technologies into the classroom which he thinks are beneficial: especially setting up his whole course on Canvas. James spoke of the changes in student behavior: aggressiveness and violence in the classroom upon returning which led to a discussion of guns in school - not a good idea for teachers he said but he also mourned the removal of school officers. We spoke about the Education Narratives Project, and he was curious to see the entire archive. He ended the interview thanking educators as a whole or anyone supporting and listening to educators.

Interviewer Bio:

Daniel Horowitz was born and raised in New York City, making extended forays to Boston and New Orleans, only to return to teach and work in his hometown. He holds a degree in Media Arts from Northeastern University, a Master's in Creative Writing from the New School and is currently enrolled at the CUNY Graduate Center in the Biography and Memoir program. In New Orleans and coastal Mississippi he has been conducting a long-term oral history project on the lived experiences of climate change. For the last four years he has taught and learned alongside children at forest schools, first in Prospect Park and then at NOLA Nature School in the Couturie Forest in the City of Dreams, egrets, alligators and all. He currently teaches Science and Gardening in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

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