Sitting around the house on a Saturday morning and wondering what I have to do for the day, I realized that I am a lucky man. I get to decide what I can do on a day off, or any day for that matter. I have a predicament before me. I am back at school for the year and it has been a mixed blessing. As to be expected, I found that my freedom being off during the summer extremely constructive. I wrote and wrote and wrote to my heart’s content. Thousands upon thousands of words appeared in several pieces currently in the process of transformation from quirky imaginings of a questionably sensible mind into consummate examples of phantasmagorical prose. I read, and watched old movies with gusto. I went to the movie theater and watched a guy climb into a suit of armor and blast evildoers with futuristic weaponry. I re-watched “Marley and Me” only to discover that I am a slobbering, weeping mess where it comes to chick movies. I discovered the Shangri La of my lifelong dreams.
Unfortunately, the lovely interlude that I reveled in proved to be somewhat less of a productive exercise then desired. Yes, I lived and loved the life of a financially secure writer of note. I did not even think about the real world until it came time to work a summer school session. Now, to tell you the truth the time off proved more of a reductive activity then constructive. It degraded my delight for teaching and put me further in love with sitting at the silicon-based life form on my desk whilst I engender the next Great American Novel.
The crux of the situation is that teaching pays the bills. Writing prose feeds my soul. It does not buy the medicine my senior citizen ass needs. It does not make my truck payment. It does not provide for the necessities of the real world. Yet.
I can happily detail that the some of the joy of teaching has returned with the presence of my pupils. I love the kids and will always. Especially the special kids I get to teach. I found myself at odds with the educational system at the end of the last school year, and thought that it was time for a change. For a time going to work became more of a chore then I would like to engage in. My misspent youth was chock-full of times when I walked into the bosses office and informed that the employer du jour that they were, in fact, shorthanded. I yearned to do this at my current place of employment, and do it with gusto.
Until, that is a kid, one who I had clashed with before coming to love, stalked into my classroom with fear in his eyes and announced that he was going home that day. My kids are all participants in the Child Protective System. They come and go in no particularly sensible manner, lie in the middle (well, near the end of) of a school year. The idea of returning home is not necessarily a desired activity. He stood before me shaking and looking as if he was lost. With a tear in his eye, he asked me how he was going to graduate without me.
I am not the greatest schoolteacher in the world. I have a lot to learn. I have friends that are great educators. There is a man that works at my schools who, when he worked at another school was informed the he could no longer work there, watched as his students walked out, and refused to go back to class. Another friend, the real Mr. Science, has been teacher of the year. I encounter people all the time who, upon discovering where I work will tell me; “That’s where Coach Smith works, he’s the best! I would have never graduated if it were not for him. Tell him I said hello!” My principal, well, the sweet woman that I call my principal, had kids come into her office all the time just to give her a picture and get a hug while telling her about this good grade or that frustration.
These people are exceptional educators. I am just someone trying to get to the end of the day and not distribute any ignorance. The kid in front of me telling me that I was necessary for him to graduate broke my heart given my craving to tell my boss to kiss my ass. All I could do was give him a hug and tell him to remember the things I taught him and to call the school if he needed to. The other kids had the chance to see me cry that day. It was not that bad. They just got quiet and did their work. Kindness comes in many forms.
I do not know how long I am going to be a teacher, but I had to write this today to remind me that there are kids that think they need me. The truth is that I need them much more then they could ever need me. I pray that I can be what they need.