While I appreciate good theater, the hundreds of educators protesting in Wisconsin and elsewhere are depicting us teachers as a bunch of spoiled brats. The general public, the legislators and the governors are already abreast of the common gripes. This current spectacle at the capitols makes us seem unreasonable.
Every profession comes with its downsides. Others complain less because they have less influence. Nonunion onlookers observe union supporters with the ability to turn legislators into fugitives and hold working parents hostage and come to the conclusion that public workers could stand to lose a little collective bargaining power.
We all make our choices. Construction is not for me because I do not like to sweat involuntarily; truck driving would not facilitate the home life my wife and I envisioned; and modeling was out of the question since my personal fitness preferences at a young age led me down a road of lonely evenings that better developed the gift of sarcastic introspection I would need to be a writer.
People often choose careers because they become skilled in what they practice and they practice what they enjoy. Sounds good — but then later those same people, without realizing it, get stuck in the daily duties of horrible destinies like nursing, supervising, organizing, repairing, landscaping, computer networking, typing, accounting, et al. Notice these professions all involve gerunds — verbs disguised as nouns. It's a trick. I foresaw the fate of the teaching gerund and I liked it.
There are not many other gerunds that give a person the opportunity to help future adults in the most malleable moments — for better or worse. While sometimes teaching feels more like policing and babysitting, it is more often leading, counseling, instructing and other gerunds more fitting for people like me.
Plus, let’s be honest. I like the freedom afforded by an English degree to blink like an Amish boy in the electronic section at Walmart when friends show me their computers or cars and ask for help. Seldom has a friend called on a Saturday morning for an emergency poem. No one calls me at 3 a.m. to come quickly. People have no expectations for me with toilets or sniffles or taxes or confessions or bail bonds. No reason to call the English teacher.
Occasionally I do get an e-mail and to be fair it is usually not to just say “Hi” — there always seem to be files attached.
We teachers would do better to remind people why we purposely chose teaching as our gerund.
My colleagues and I were asked in a faculty meeting to write down why we wanted to be teachers. We were then supposed to seal it in an envelope and save it for a day when we forget the answers. I wrote that I hated hearing all the victims of 9/11 referred to as heroes. The term should be reserved for people like the firemen that were running into the building when everyone else was running out of it. I came to the field of education because I perceived young people as being trapped and I wanted to join the other heroes running in to save them.
That letter was written nine years ago and since then I’ve experienced highs like National Merit Scholars graduating and lows like three students dying. The goal is even truer now.
While this point is debatable, it is my belief that the teaching gerund is the most critical, except for maybe parenting. I would gamble that if we better communicated our motives, instead of throwing temper tantrums, the public would reward only politicians who do not need collective bargaining.
Brad is an area high school teacher for a school that wishes to remain anonymous and a father of a family that wish they were, too. Brad has been contributing to the Missourian for nearly one week.