In our last issue of the Redmond Reporter, we saluted Doug Kimball, one of two well-known teachers at Redmond High School who are retiring at the end of this school year. Now it’s Ray Cassidy’s turn to be recognized for his 36 years in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD), starting at Lake Washington High School and moving on to RHS, where he’s taught social studies and coached football and baseball during the past 26 years.
THEN AND NOW
A Seattle native, Cassidy attended the now-defunct Lincoln High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at University of Washington, where he was an Army ROTC student. He also received his master’s in education degree at UW.
After fulfilling his military service, he went right to work in LWSD.
Differences in teaching practices and students’ lifestyles have been most noticeable over the last 10 years, Cassidy said. “The amount and impact of technology has been both good and bad. They can acquire and manipulate data so much better. Kids are so ‘wired’ now. And I don’t mean that like the context of being wired in the ‘60s. They stay connected electronically.”
As a perfect example, when Cassidy writes the day’s assignments on the white board, students don’t copy them down manually. They take photos with their cell phone cameras, he explained, clearly amused.
On the other hand, “There’s a significant change in how they relate to each other. They think talking by texting is having a conversation. It’s not,” Cassidy added.
He cited a 1985 book about future trends, which said that as we increase use of technology, we must also increase the human touch.
“Kids are losing communication skills,” he remarked, wearily. “And cyber-bullying has increased ways kids can inflict lasting damage on others.”
Back when he was in school, he and his friends masterminded their share of pranks, he admitted. But it saddens him to see how reputations can be ruined by malicious postings on sites such as MySpace. He’s also observed that communication is more complicated when it’s not face-to-face. It’s harder to decipher statements’ meaning or innuendo.
“And kids today are so stressed-out,” he continued. “We are asking more of them academically and it is a tougher world, economically. In 1972, if you asked them how many had after-school jobs, maybe three or four would raise their hands. Now maybe only three or four don’t raise their hands.”
At this time of year, many of his students are feeling panic about AP exams and college entrance requirements.
As if all of that isn’t enough, “more kids now come from single parent homes and have inherent problems because of that … we see more kids with emotional baggage,” said Cassidy. “This is not an easy time to be a teen.”
THE BEST AND WORST OF TIMES
While Cassidy misses simpler times, when the high school experience was less of a gallop into adulthood, he said he will dearly remember the camaraderie he shared with student athletes and the ways he made students groan or laugh when he showed them videos from their grandparents’ generation.
“When I showed them the introduction of the bikini swim suit in the 1940s, I told them, ‘Now remember, this is your grandmother,’ and they all went, ‘Awwwww, that’s sick!,’ he explained, cracking up.
Then he showed them the famous photo from V-J Day at the end of World War II, when a jubilant sailor grabbed a nurse on the street and spontaneously gave her a passionate kiss. “Any questions about the Baby Boom?,” he asked the students. “Nope. They got it,” he said with a smile.
And as a history teacher watching kids witness “history in the making,” there have been some profound opportunities, said Cassidy.
“The obvious one was 9/11. But to go back further, we used to have five to seven German exchange students every year — and we had seven the year the Berlin Wall came down. Back then, we had only one cable TV hook-up in the whole building. But when the news came that the wall was going to taken down, we turned on CNN and took all the German exchange students out of class and sat them down … .”
Cassidy paused, choking up at the memory. “Some cried and they wanted to go home so bad …,” he trailed off. “And in 1981, I was in the back of the little theatre and I heard, ‘They’re bombing in Baghdad.’ And one of our ball players was involved in that.”
On a more local level, he believes it will be interesting for students to see the transition “between Rosemarie’s government and John’s,” he said, referring to the passing of the torch from longtime Redmond mayor Rosemarie Ives to Mayor John Marchione this year.
However, he knows the students might not pay so much attention to it immediately. “The longer you live, the more important history is,” he pointed out. “For a young person, there’s not a lot of history that relates to your life.”
He said students often glaze over when they hear about America’s Civil Rights movement. In a modern, diverse community such as Redmond, it’s hard for them to fathom segregation or the struggles between black and white people.
Here, the disparity is more on an economic level. “Kids have not always done a good job of being kind to someone because they don’t wear the same brand of shoes or the right clothing label,” he said.
Cassidy’s wife Robin teaches at Horace Mann Elementary School and his son Sean is assistant principal at Redmond Junior High. His daughter Erin works at Aerojet. He also has a daughter-in-law named Erinn (that’s Sean’s wife) and a son-in-law Aaron, who is married to Erin.
“Whether I mention Erin, Erinn or Aaron, I always know I’ll get a response,” he joked.
He’s also a proud grandpa to Sean’s daughter Brooke and son Drew.
“People keep asking me what I’m going to be doing when I retire. Well, I’ll tell you what I’m NOT going to be doing,” he said. “I’m not getting up at 5 a.m. every day, not gobbling my lunch in 15 minutes, not grading papers, not attending faculty meetings. I will take time to write, take care of myself, and then there’s always ‘Honey Do’s.’”
However, he stated, “I’ll miss the kids (at RHS) — there’s some I’ve not seen since they got married and moved off. And I’ll miss the teachers, even some who succumbed and went to the dark side of the force at Eastlake for a while — and I want you to say it just like that — but we welcome them back.”
Cassidy’s never lived in Redmond, he’s a Bothell resident, but thanks to all his years in Mustang Country, he said, “this place has definitely been a big part of me.”