Monday, October 29, 2012

I.D.

Studs Terkel, our national treasure and oral historian concluded in his book Working, "Your work is your identity." Sure is. Not only do we identify ourselves by what we do, we lose that identity when we have nothing to do or no longer work. This conclusion that Terkel reached after interviewing hundreds of people in a wide variety of professions is hardly shocking. Americans have valued work from the early days of the republic. It's a huge part of our national character. In fact, we value hard work so much that when faced with the trauma of job loss, or career changes, or loss of satisfaction in the workplace, we often blame ourselves. From the Great Depression of the 1930s right on through to today's stagnant economy, we have been living with identity crises that stem from work. For a teacher this loss of identity is particularly difficult. I know a few folks that have had a difficult time adjusting to their like after teaching. Their identity changes literally, from Mr.or Ms. whomever to just a first name. That's the least of concerns. Since teaching is so all-consuming, the sudden loss of all the necessities can be jolting. Who am I now that I am no longer Mr. Greene? I think I know. But for many it's a real conundrum.
I've been thinking about distancing myself from all things educational. Just take a little break and remove myself from public education, completely, and see what that feels like. I think it's time. I do enjoy my part-time job working with beginning teachers, but it's not the same. At all. It's not the same as teaching. It's often said that something happens to a teacher that leaves the classroom. They lose touch. I believe that; I always have. When you leave the trenches, you lose perspective, by degree. In the six years I've been away from full-time teaching I can certainly relate to that. I realize that things change exponentially. Many of the issues and methods have changed drastically in the last few years. I appreciate these changes, see them constantly, and try to adjust. But many issues and methods are exactly the same. Discussing big ideas, encouraging students to think deeply and challenging them to enjoy their education will never change. I hope. So what would it mean for me to remove myself from the game. It means not getting so emotionally involved when I resist the privatization of public schools. It means taking a break from blogs and websites, editorials and education books. It means, more than anything else, becoming another person and taking a more neutral stance when thinking or talking or especially listening to anything to do with schools. No identity crisis here. My personality, like my profession is fairly established.

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