“The fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Cassius, Julius Caesar.
The Native Hue of Resolution
Happy New Year! I hope you didn’t think that was the end of it. (If you followed me here from my last post, then you know what I’m talking about. And if you know me, you’d know I could never leave it like that.) My natural tendency has always been towards a flair toward the dramatic, and I could never resist melodrama in my writing or my life. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please read my last post and this will make much more sense.
I had said that if I had to do it over again, I didn’t think I would. When I started, I wanted to teach because I love reading, I love writing, and I love introducing people to new ideas and concepts. Before I did this I worked in insurance, answering phone calls and processing claims. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day doing the same thing day in and day out. I felt my soul was withering and dying. But I remembered how much I enjoyed being a camp counselor, working with kids and showing them parts of nature they’d never seen before. And before that, how much I enjoyed being a leader in my martial arts club, teaching fellow students how to defend themselves. So I began the long journey of going to back to school to get my degree, to get my certificate to teach, and to get my soul in proper working order.
Since I started teaching I barely read anymore, maybe three or four books a year. I started writing a novel a few years back, and it’s limping along on life support barely forty pages long. I’ve gained at least forty pounds and I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. And I feel like my wife and children are living with a stranger, one who falls asleep during movies, laughs too little, and falls to anger too often.
Then there are my students. I’m not even sure what they’re learning. I could tell you what books we’re working on, but beyond that, I haven’t a clear idea. Partly because I haven’t the time to focus on what I’m supposed to be doing, and partly because I have begun not to care. My only desire is to survive the next week so I can get closer to summer.
But that’s about to change because I do have an idea for this new year. A wonderful, terrible idea. A resolution for revolution. What if teaching didn’t have to be all those things I mentioned before? They are because we accept that they are, because they have been for decades, but what if they didn’t have to be? And not just by me, but by a lot of teachers. What if we started teaching for the kind of job we wanted when we began to teach, and not the one we were told we have? We are people, humans with beating hearts. It’s time to get them beating once again!
I challenge you, my fellow down-trodden teachers, this new year to find what you once loved about teaching, about why you wanted to become a teacher in the first place and bring it back into your classroom. But before you do, get rid of something you hate about teaching now. Out with the old! Free up some space, whether it be in your classroom or in your heart. Then, once you have some space, in with the new! If it’s some pointless part of the lesson plans that serve no purpose besides the fact your district paid for it, get rid of it. If it’s a professional relationship that has turned sour, but you maintain because it’s expected, find a way to fix it or end it.
Find that soul-sucking pit in your daily life and cast it out, then bring that spark back into your life in some way, and when you do, let people know. To long have we given everyone our ears, but few our voices (Polonius was full of it anyway) Teachers have been silent about what we go through because we are expected to sit and take it, but what if we did not? No, I’m not talking about breach of contract, about sharing all the dirty secrets of our respective districts and what not, but we’re talking about our lives! We don’t share the joy we find or bring, not to everyone. Let people know what you do, the good as well as the bad.
As for myself, I hate teaching old classics merely because they are canon. If my job is to get these students excited about learning, about writing and reading, but they hate the books, my job has failed before it has begun. My first resolution is to start introducing my students to more reading that they enjoy; curriculum be damned! And if my career goes down in flames doing what I love, so be it, because it is better to go out in an inferno than to be slowly extinguished.
I’m not going to lie, this may be the last death throes of a drowning man. I may be grasping at straws because the machine is so much bigger than me and will chew me up in its gears without so much as a hiccup, but I’m beyond caring. And if I can give that behemoth just the littlest bit of pause, knock loose just one tooth in a cog, then I will have accomplished something. Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us do the same, the machine will have to be fixed. Because it’s broken, and it’s breaking us as well. Don’t let it. It’s not worth your health, your family, and your sanity.
For those students who I’ve already taught, I hope you learned something from me, and if not, may this be your lesson.
For those teachers who are going through hell, as Churchill said, “…keep going.” And if you cannot, don’t. There is no shame in it, and you deserve better.
For those teachers who are fortunate enough to have your lives fairly well in hand, look out for those who do not. And speak out when you see those injustices. If you do, I thank you.
And for those teachers who stand by my side day in and day out, I thank you, but be ready to do more than stand, for an enterprise of great pitch and moment is about to go intentionally awry. (And to Willy Shakespeare, I am so sorry)