Bird Droppings July 21, 2019
Doing what you love is not really work
“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham
For many local teachers next week is getting back to school for teacher workdays. I am sitting here getting ready to ride down and pick up grandkids. Retirement for second time is wonderful. Graham’s statement for me has been true about teaching for all my life. It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past fifty years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty plus years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started in graphics doing everything by hand. I had been talking with a graphics teacher in high school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.
One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my father’s book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.
As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years’ CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as red further.
“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988
As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to is there material even in our high-speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.
“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008
I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.
“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA
As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly, it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste my dear friends.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)