Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Songs in the Key of Life

"I'll write a book. It will be called
Life and How to Live It."

I don't know when I really decided to be a teacher. I mean, I guess one could say I decided some time after moving out here in '99 (way back in the 20th century). I remember times before then when I thought about it. There was a time in the mid-90s, when I flirted with the idea of teaching English as a Foreign Language somewhere overseas. There were times before that when I had done some workshop or presentation, and somebody said, "You should be a teacher." I thought about it. Even as a high school student, I recall always liking the opportunity to teach something in front of the class. I guess it's something I've always wanted to do; it just took the right confluence of events for it to happen. Lord knows, some think it certainly took me long enough to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
I've always thought that whatever I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing. Whether being a student, working for my dad, selling furniture, doing amateur (and some professional) theatre, whatever I was committed to was what I was supposed to be committed to at the time. What other possibility was there?
At the moment, however, there are a few things about teaching that are just driving me up the wall. Our current administration (school, district and federal) all seem to be conspiring against we teachers on a daily basis. Low pay, increased workload, little support, no seems like the most unrewarding and difficult thing I have ever done. Some days you just want to call up somebody in charge and ask them flat out: "Were you born an asshole, or do you have to work at it?"
But then, there are those moments that come frequently, even daily, when you really connect with one kid about something. Sometimes it's about scholastic stuff--they finally understand how to write a good thesis statement. Sometimes it's about something bigger--getting a kid to realize the benefits of being empathic, talking with a student about dealing with setbacks, or helping a student manage a bad mood. These moments are the one's that make it more than just some job. You realize that in some way you are a caretaker. Yes, I educate--that is my job title--but more than that I try to involve myself in the total well-being of my students. That is the part that all the talking heads and stuffed shirts just don't seem to really get. I am given more and more hoops to jump through. I am at odds with the people who employ me. I have no respect for the person who is supposed to be my boss. But when the bell rings, and the door closes, and it's just me and a mess of kiddos--that is what it is all about. And I realize that this is what I may really have been "meant" to do all along.

Sorry for the treatise. It has been a difficult week on the local political front, and I just needed to vent and give myself an affirmation. A recent development in the relationship between the district administration and we edumacators left a colleague in tears today. Real tears. That is not what the school board is supposed to do to teachers. They really are a bunch of dumb asses sometimes.
Homecoming is Friday. The big Purple-Gold Powder Puff Showdown awaits. I am confident in the girls. They will be competitive. I even think we could win. We shall see. It is a ton of fun coaching. Coach B and I certainly have a good time talking smack with the opposing coaches in the hallways and getting to know the players (many of which I didn't know before practice started--we have a school of more than 2000). I hope to have some pics to post this weekend.
I am also chaperoning the Homecoming Dance and attending the football game on Friday night AND supervising the Amnesty International concert on Saturday night. Monkey and I hope to fit in a pretty long hike on Saturday, too, so I should be pretty exhausted by Sunday (the day on which the Cardinals sweep the Astros and make it to the World Series for the second year in a row).
Ah, the commitments I make to shepherd the youth of central MO.

"And you may ask yourself,
'How did I get here?'"
--Talking Heads


Anonymous said...

Hang in there, Monk-a-monk!! Those kids and that freakin' administration are lucky to have you as one of their teachers. I know there have felt like lots of bumps on the road this school year, but you have an awesome community of fellow edumacators and you will all band together and something good will come of it. And if not, you won't be in it alone. Much love and respect from me for what you do every day.
xoxo, Monkey

Anonymous said...

Don't let the fools get you down or deter you from doing your noble work of educating, broadly defined. Needle you sibling style as I may, I can also be serious for a moment to tell you that you are an excellent teacher. I treasure experiences I had with select teachers who shaped me tremendously. You're doing that same valuable service for kids and for your colleagues at a bleak time in this country. Unless you'd like to change your career to, say, professional activist, I say keep fighting the good fight there in the school. OK, not literally. I mean, I know you need to break up some fights every now and then. Anyway. Oh, and go team [fill in whichever color powder puffs team you and Coach B got this year]!