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.