Another year has passed by and I am still feeling the same way I did when I first wrote this piece. I decided to re-post it because it expresses my innermost feelings precisely. Please forgive me for any redundancy.
I fell asleep one night twenty-seven months ago and awoke to a startling change in my life. Back then I never imagined how it would affect me so deeply, so profoundly. Today when I awoke it became very apparent to me that my life would never again be the life I had known for the last twenty years and surprisingly I found I am totally unprepared.
Funny how people take their everyday routines for granted. Some people never give it a thought, while others plan every moment. Some people love their jobs, while others drudge themselves through it. I suppose I had a mix of both ways, but mostly I loved my job. The people I came to know, the help I was able to give, the feeling of accomplishment I experienced completing a difficult task. All of those experiences gave me purpose. I didn’t really know until today what it meant to know I can never do that job again, never meet new young people, never have a conversation with a scholar that left me breathless and learning something new or even having a debate over our different outlooks on life. It hit me like a ton of bricks today and the sadness of this forced retirement engulfed me beyond my imaginings.
I still feel too young to be retiring, but alas not being able to use my body as I did before that day twenty-seven months ago has changed all my best laid plans. I never would have believed anyone who told me I would be so lost and so sad just from leaving a job, but I am those things and more. Even writing, which I always believed to be my future, has lost its luster and appeal lately. It astounds me thinking that my purpose is now gone. Good advice is ever flowing my way and ideas from others about what to do with my time now, but none unfortunately wear my shoes nor have my personality so all the good intentioned words of wisdom don’t help me at all. I compare it to the loss of someone dear. Everyone at the funeral says they are sorry for your loss and I’m certain they are, but it doesn’t validate what you feel from that loss. Well, when you are forced to give up something you care about, as I was, it is the same as experiencing the death of a beloved friend or family member. There truly is no consoling. As all hurts heal I have no doubt this will also pass in time, I just don’t know how much more time needs to pass until I can feel like my old self again or if in fact, I ever will.
Am I feeling sorry for myself, probably yes. Do I have a right to? Without a doubt. Maybe something will change again in my life one day soon that will allow me the privilege of feeling I have a purpose on a daily basis. Who knows? Change is certainly apparent everywhere for everyone, just do yourselves a favor and don’t take what you have for granted. Appreciate it, go ahead sweat the small stuff cause the small stuff matters as well, savor all of the moments because you may fall asleep one night and awaken to discover your entire world is changed and you can no longer have the purpose you have today.
I have dozens of friends and relatives who are teachers. I have worked in higher education for over twenty years. Because of those two facts, I feel qualified to speak about teachers in today’s blog. So here is the way I see it!
In today’s society it seems so easy to pick out the teachers who are “bad” or who make the wrong choices or who shouldn’t have become teachers to begin with or were turned into monsters from their experiences. There is always a media hoopla nowadays about the negative aspects in teaching and the education system itself. I don’t want to talk about what is wrong in today’s education system or about those handful of people who shouldn’t be teachers, but I do want to talk about the changes I have seen through the years in the attitudes toward teachers and about the most unappreciated profession in America today.
Many years ago a teacher was respected, they were the educators of our children. The people who had the knowledge that we as parents and our parents didn’t have. It took me years of working within the education system to realize that teachers, as in all other walks of life, are ordinary people with all sorts of different personalities. However, there is that one element that I recognize in teachers that not everyone possesses and that is a desire to help children and adults alike, to open their minds and experience the power of thinking independently in order to make a difference in both their individual lives and the world in general. The look I have seen on a teacher’s face when they have reached a person who struggled to learn and then one day that very same child or adult was enlightened is priceless.
Only a person with the calling of a teacher can truly experience such a phenomenal feeling that reaching someone through teaching can give them. These people, these teachers have earned our respect. Through their chosen professions these individuals have created a path and an opportunity for our children to progress toward the future and to make a difference in some way, big or small, that will affect the entire world. These people, these teachers deserve our respect. Yes, it is harder to be a teacher today because there are so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about teachers in the general society. Media helps to further that belief by focusing predominantly on the negative teachers and less on the overwhelming majority of positive teachers. This false sense of knowledge is a portion of why people have lost respect for this great profession and have in many cases passed these negative attitudes along to their children. Years ago, there was an education system that allowed its’ teachers to be severe disciplinarians, it took a lot of change and lot of maturing to realize that punishment of children in so severe a way is totally unacceptable, unwarranted and has no place in education. All the teachers I know today agree with that finding and strive everyday to teach undisciplined children and adults alike. Most of them teach their lessons while children talk out in class, throw things, start fights, or worse. These teachers hunger for ways to reach these students, but unfortunately, how can they really accomplish that if the system itself strips the teachers of all authority? In today’s educational environment, teachers have to literally possess the patience of a saint or some other extraordinary being. They must be politically correct at all times. They must tolerate being cursed at, verbally abused and sometimes even physically abused. There is no course of action for teachers today, and yet, there they are everyday in their classrooms willing and ready to try to reach at least one mind if not all.
These are the teachers I write about today. These are the people I know exist in my family and in my circle of friends. These are the teachers who are in the majority and these are the people who should be respected more than any other profession. These are the people who still possess knowledge that most of us will never touch upon. These are the people with whom we leave our children in the care of day after day. These are the people who will shape our future world by imparting to our children the knowledge they need to make a difference in this world. From pre-kindergarten through graduate school, these people work endlessly with one purpose in mind and for that alone they have earned and deserve our respect. I, for one would love to see the day dawn, when power is given back to the teachers of today. The ones who know that severe disciplinary actions are unnecessary and are things of the past. The ones who will use that small dose of authoritative power to have a classroom of people where mutual respect exists. History has shown us that mutual respect is the key to accomplish many great things, it is up to us as parents and guardians to instill in our children this notion. It is up to us to impart the truth about teachers and to watch over our children and to be aware of any abuse of such power. It isn’t the role of our teachers to be the parents or guardians. The teacher’s role is to teach. The teachers I know (and there are a lot) want to do just that. They want to spend their hours in classrooms teaching for it is their calling to do so. We can help them to do that by doing our part and by teaching respect for those who have been called to this great profession. We can stop feeding into the belief that we know better than them and dropping the attitudes that are picked up by our children that exude an aura of disrespect and superiority. We can help teachers to do their jobs, their calling, by supporting our schools and by check-listing the administrators instead of the teachers. Society today tends to blame the teachers for its failing education system, when in reality it is the think tanks within the administrative side of education that is to blame for our failure in educating our children, but that is a different blog, for a different day.
Today I want to say thank you to every teacher I have ever had and to every teacher I know. Thank you for choosing to become a teacher. Thank you for your patience, your fortitude and your understanding. Thank you for doing the very thing I, and many like me, are incapable of doing–teaching on a professional and disciplined level! Thank you for wanting to do that in the first place! I hope this week each of you has an opportunity to experience the gratitude you richly deserve and that in some way, big or small, you are celebrated and most of all respected.