Bird Droppings February 18, 2023
Doing what you love is not work, even if you are tired at the end of the day.
“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham
I learn something daily as I wander the internet and read books I find along the way. My life’s journey has been exciting and filled with constant challenges for the past twenty-three years. 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 doing graphics arts by hand. I talked with our graphics teacher at the high school, and 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 a computer direct to press. Publishing is literally in the palm of your hand. I can do more from my smartphone than my laptop in 1998.
I have been thinking back lately; perhaps it is the music I have played in my car as I ride around. Many of the songs I have been listening to are fifty-four years old. Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, Duane Allman, and Cowboy go back over fifty years. Sometimes I recall the exact moment I heard a song for the first time or things happening in my life. This is how a great teacher touches students’ lives. Brief snippets that we cling to and hold on to and cherish.
As I try to write daily, I enjoy sharing the words and thoughts of great thinkers. One note of interest is as I find quotes, I tend to either save or use them 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 I see teaching for me. I love teaching, and it matters each day I work with students, maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham, I found that she was one of the most powerful women in Washington in her time. She was the publisher of the Washington Post, and it was with her permission the Watergate scandal was reported and published. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. 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 built it into the company it is today through careful planning. I found the following quote that hit me as I read 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 if there is material that needs to be withheld, even in our high-speed world. So often in apocalyptic movies, the president hesitates from telling everyone that the earth is in line to be hit by a planet-sized 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 not know and fry at some point? I return to my original quote, and for me, finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me, it is teaching. When I was down about not finding work in the publishing world, my wife said, go back to teaching; you 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 resign due to a nervous breakdown, and a job opening was there for working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. The next thing I knew, I started teaching on September 11, 2001.
“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That is 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 have been talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and other Foxfire teaching settings. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had a different story, but as I gathered the words together, each was influenced positively, and each has used what they learned as they go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers and their feelings toward 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 never 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 way, I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my rationale that it is equally about that life journey and academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach-to-the-test idea driving education now. Sadly, it is a long time later that 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. I guess I had too many directions today, and as I wind down, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)