North Shelby man chronicles brief teaching tenure

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

At only three weeks, North Shelby resident Phil Fishman’s full-time teaching career was, by far, the shortest job he had ever held.

But the brief experience is something he holds dear to his heart every day.

Although he spent years serving as a substitute teacher at Pelham High School, Riverchase Middle School and other area schools, Fishman admits he was not prepared to lead a group of middle school students for more than six hours every day.

“I’ve joked that I may apply for a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the shortest teaching career ever,” Fishman said with a laugh. “I started on August 28, and the job lasted three weeks.”

After attending UAB for several months in early 2006 to earn his Alabama teaching certificate, Fishman began sending out resumes to every local school he could think of in hopes of landing his own classroom.

Fishman’s job search eventually led him to Thompson Middle School, where he was offered a job as a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at the beginning of the 2006 fall semester.

“The school was looking to reduce the class sizes, and I was hired on the third week of the term,” Fishman said. “Initially, I had a lot of parents upset because their child had been pulled out of other classes to make up my class.”

Fishman, who was 67 at the time, spent his days rotating to different classrooms in the building with each class period. He had spent time substitute teaching, he had completed every educational prerequisite needed to teach in Alabama, but Fishman said he quickly realized he was in over his head.

“It was just too much stress for me. People who haven’t taught in public schools have no idea what is involved until they are actually doing it,” Fishman said. “Basically, the second weekend after my second week of teaching, I decided it wasn’t for me.

“It was kind of a joint decision between me and my wife. Teaching was stressing me, and it was stressing my marriage,” Fishman added. “My exit on that next Friday was really a stressful and tearful time for me.”

Through the experience, Fishman said he gained a newfound respect for teachers. Even though he made a quick exit from teaching, Fishman said he does not regret “one second of it.”

“It was my second job after my retirement, and it was one of those things that I don’t regret doing,” Fishman said. “I really have a lot of respect for the teachers who do that every day.”

After Fishman’s tenure as an educator, he began to look at the notes he had taken while he was teaching. Today, those notes and Fishman’s memories of his time spent at TMS have evolved into his first book, “Teacher’s Gotta Dance,” which is available on

“I didn’t set out to write a book. But those few weeks really had an impact on me,” Fishman said. “I honestly would not trade that experience for anything, and I hope the kids I had will agree.”