Monday, April 20, 2009
Writing on Ice
The temperature in in the 90s today. It's still April. I'm glad I don't have to begin this Monday after Spring Break back in the classroom. But I am going back today. Tomorrow I drive back up to Portland and today is my only chance to see the new El Cerrito High School.
I'm curious if any of the ghosts of the school that once stood on the exact site will be lurking in the new hallways. Will any of the faculty, administration, the thousands of students I taught, be in attendance. It's quite humbling to see a school disappear into this air, and then reappear. Realizing you know nothing of the new campus is like playing chutes and ladders with your career. And yet, I am there.
In teaching and discussing Arthur Miller with my classes, I often used his ideas on immortality. Miller believed the human desire to be "known and remembered," as Willy Loman said, was the greatest human need. "Greater than hunger, sex, or thirst," he said. But it's akin to, "writing your name on a cake of ice on a hot July day."
I never intended to have my own brick on the wall. When the idea was first announced, I dismissed it completely. Then a few colleagues added encouragement. Finally, the Miller quote resurfaced in my head and I found both amusement and the challenge of writing on the wall. In 20 words how can I sum up 33 years. I wrote, I cut. I re-wrote, cut some more and finally had it down.
Not My Profession
Today I found the wall, and the brick. Guess I've got a few years before the cake of ice begins to melt. What I never expected was to be included on that wall a few more times. There were other bricks with messages from former students and colleagues. Messages about classes taught, students inspired, careers completed.
It's a fact that a teacher can work for decades in a school community and be forgotten in a year or two. It just happens. Can't be helped. The immortality comes in the words and deeds of of those who follow. Those we worked with and taught. Those who got what there was to get. What we got.
And still, it's lovely to have a brick in a wall. It's all on the brick.