Monday, January 16, 2006

Sad. True?

This excerpt is from the newest book, Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes. McCourt was a high school English teacher for thirty years.

In America, doctors, lawyers, generals, actors, television people and politicians are admired and rewarded. Not teachers. Teaching is the downstairs maid of professions. Teachers are told to use the service door or go around the back. They are congratulated on having ATTO (All That Time Off). They are spoken of patronizingly and patted, retroactively, on their silvery locks. Oh, yes, I had an English teacher, Miss Smith, who really inspired me. I'll never forget dear old Miss Smith. She used to say that if she reached one child in her forty years of teaching it would make it all worthwhile. She'd die happy. The inspiring English teacher then fades into gray shadows to eke out her days on a penny-pinching pension, dreaming of the one child she might have reached. Dream on, teacher. You will not be celebrated.

On my best days, this is self-pitying hyperbole. On my worst days, I fear this might be my life. My 35th birthday hit me hard, and I had no idea it would. For the first time in my life, I realize that many of my aspirations will remain dreams. From the time we are children, we tell ourselves, "Someday I'll be famous, someday I'll be rich, someday I'll write that novel, someday I'll be..." Getting older is realizing that many of those somedays will never come. It's sad, but it's realistic. The most important question then becomes, "What dreams keep you going?" For me, it is the simple dream of a loving family. I look at my Grandfather's life as an inspiration. He was a great man because he was loved by his family, and his generous spirit lives on in the memories I have of him. I hope my children and grandchildren will be able to say the same about me.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry if you don't get respect from other adults. But you have a huge impact on tons of students. I know four or five of them personally, and I am one. So shut up.
-Blake
P.S. Teachers certainly deserve a lot more credit than they're given, so don't shut up, I suppose. But the idea that teachers--you specifically--don't make a difference in students' lives is bunk.

Eric said...

I'll shut up.

I mean, I won't shut up.

Wait, what was that again? I'm confused.

You are a good man, Blake Walker. In all honesty, it's the dream of having people like you in class that draws teachers to the profession in the first place, and it's the promise, every year, that maybe one of the fresh faces in your class might be somebody like you that keeps us in the profession.

Eric said...

Wait a minute...

Only four or five?

Anonymous said...

Four or five of my close friends, at least. You know what I meant. There's lots of kids I don't know that well who like you too. I am unimaginably popular--more recognized and admired than the skies and seas--but I'm sure don't know everybody who loves you. My point is that you make a big difference. Actually, my point is that I am really popular.

Anonymous said...

As a current student, I know of many, many kids, who, having gone through the JRP process, gone through the AP system, had the opportunity to experience your film class, have grown to admire you both as a teacher and a person. If your desired “someday” is to be an inspiration, than I feel it is important to let you know that someday is today. Conversations do abound about your life—they’re often prefaced with the words, “Maaaan, I want to be like Woodard.” Your love of family is of particular significance in these conversations. So is your enduring, obvious concern for each student as a person rather than an AP score. Black Walker may be popular, but you are IMPORTANT.

Eric said...

Wow, thanks.... You're making me blush.

I hope you know that Blake was joking. Also, I was joking with the "only 4 or 5" comment.

It's nice to know people feel that way about me. Thanks for making my day.

Jake Dunkin said...

Fantastic reply. As I look into my own future as an educator it's continually difficult to avoid getting discouraged about what kind of rewards await me. We don't choose this career to get rich, and contrary to popular belief, we don't choose it to spend our carefree summers at our lake retreats. Eric, I've only known you for a short time, but I understand why your students enjoy your classes. Your approach to life and family has provided me with a fresh breath of inspiration. I know that my future will be peppered with students such as Blake. Students who truely appreciate the sacrifices that I will make, so that I might provide them with inspiration. Knowing this is what keeps me going.
Ok... enough of that. In responce to McCourt's excerpt... I think that he's full of shit. Teachers are admired and celebrated in our society. They are celebrated by those that matter most. Their students. You must put the admiration into proper context... and that is certainly not in dollar signs, medals, or golden globes.

Eric said...

Thanks, Jake, for your kind words. What you say is probably true, though I always have dreamed of winning a Golden Globe.

Karyn said...

Man I wish I would've had teachers like you guys when I was in high school.

Stacy said...

I'd give you a Golden Globe. I might have enjoyed high school if I had a teacher that was as good as you. Even though I've never seen you teach I have met some of your former students and they speak highly of you.

You always make me think. I appreciate that about you. You help me stretch my 38 year old mind...what's left of it.