--- Ray Bradbury.
Years ago I read Up The Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman and To Sir With Love by E. R. Braithwaite and decided that I wanted to become a teacher. Years later I realized that neither book was particularly realistic, but both books stressed one thing...the right teacher can make a difference in the life of a child. There are those few people today who are where they are, in no small part because they knew me, but make no mistake, I am who I am because I knew them.
Some go through life believing that money will be their savior, and some strive for power to show who they are, but it is the people who touch them along the way that will ultimately define them. I have known people through the years who have truly believed that I could have been “so much more than just a teacher.” I could have certainly made a lot more money if I worked in the corporate world. A Dr. before my name would certainly bring more prestige, but would either of these professional paths have brought me more happiness?
I awoke every morning excited to start my day. Each year was a new beginning filled with adventures that only teenagers can present. My fellow teachers were, for the most part, equally happy with their profession and willing to give up some material possessions for the opportunity to share their time with young men and women who kept us all young in mind and spirit. I taught them Emerson and Thoreau while they taught me Rap and Hip Hop. I taught them Shakespeare’s English while they kept me up on current day slang. I gave them hugs when they needed them while they gave me hugs when I was the one in despair.
The take away from this is not that teaching is the best profession, but rather that any profession that makes you happy is the best one for you. My brother-in-law left a very lucrative career as a construction plumber and went back to school to work in the field of physical therapy. He found his happiness in the service of others and made many lives more comfortable in the years that followed. Yes, many people jumped to a second career after realizing the importance of loving what you do.
This all came to my mind because of the book I read and reviewed this week. I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High by Tony Danza takes us in a classroom once again and highlights the life of a teacher. Danza spent a year in a Teach for America kind of program which combined his skill as an actor with his dream of teaching. He spent a year being filmed teaching a tenth grade English class in a Philadelphia high school. Like its fictional counterparts, this “real life” teaching situation didn’t reflect total reality, but it helped to show a small part of what teachers face each day.
Unfortunately, the current television sitcoms feature teachers who are less than the upstanding citizens we want them to be. The 2016 show, Teachers, put teachers in such a disparaging light that I couldn’t watch it. This season’s A.P. Bio features a somewhat insane and totally vindictive college professor teaching an A.P. Biology class in a high school in Toledo, Ohio. He is surrounded by underperforming teachers and a clueless principal. Funny show, but scary messages. Gone are the days of Welcome Back Kotter, White Shadow and Room 222, where teachers were role models and students used only words as weapons.
I am happy to say though that in the non-television world, the lion’s share of teachers are still heroes, and a preponderance of students are kind, hard working young people who are learning to follow their own dreams in a world that can use a few more dreamers.
As always, a complete review of the previously mentioned book will follow my blog.