The legendary oral historian and raconteur, Studs Terkel, once concluded that "your work is your identity." This, of course, came after completing the wonderful collection of interviews that comprised his book Working. Stands to reason that when we change jobs or retire, we often have to deal with an identity crisis. For teachers, this is all too common. Who will I be when I am no longer Mr. Greene?
Guess what? If my experience is any indication, you will be Mr. Greene. Maybe not in deed, but certainly in idea and inspiration. I no longer arise at 5:47 (that's right) and teach a full day. I no longer experience the anxiety that accompanies a new lesson or parent conferences or grading or even the weekend. But I do still discuss the direction of the profession. In fact, I do it too much.
It's all to easy these days to engage others in an exchange of ideas. Whether it's social media, or just casual talk in the grocery story or coffee shop, people want to share their ideas.
Everybody went to school, so everybody has something to say. We are all experts on our own experience, right?
It doesn't take long to get into a spirited conversation, whether it's teacher bashing, union bashing, single parent bashing, or...one of Oregon's favorite targets...public employees.
Half the time we are preaching to the converted, but occasionally the art and skill of sharing your ideas involves being true to yourself without alienating someone with whom you completely disagree.
I've noticed that when I get extremely frustrated with an opinion particularly vitriolic or uninformed, I issue an invitation. I'm fond of inviting people to join me for a first hand trip inside a classroom. My hope is that I might be able to provide some insight into what and why many teachers do what they do. They never accept. I expect that. Something more than sitting in anonymity would be just too much to ask. Here's another way of looking at this dilemma.
Imagine a clean white linen tablecloth that's suddenly lost its luster with the presence of some unsightly crumbs. The next course won't come until the crumbs are removed...only there is no one willing to do the honors. Why should I have to clean up after myself in a restaurant? goes the internal message. All parties have the option to remove themselves and often do. Game over.