Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dream Deferred

Teaching is a hard profession. I say this because I do it. If I were the manager of a video store, or a fast food employee, I would say the same thing. I have, since I have done all three of these jobs. That's part of the reason they call it "work." I also put together steel furniture. That was hard. So was mowing lawns. Washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant was too. The easy job I had may have been when I had the Sunday shift at a smoke shop near Boulder's pedestrian mall. Most of those afternoons consisted of selling the occasional pack of Gitanes to budding hipsters and a few copies of the New York Times to crossword aficionados. Most of those days were spent reading magazines and waiting until it was time to lock up for the day.
Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that what makes teaching such a challenge is that I took it on as a profession, not just a job. My friend Darren, God Rest His Soul, used to talk about how his idea of a great job was to become a substitute teacher for the Muskogee, Oklahoma school district. This idea was generated from his knowledge that, at that time, all you needed to become a substitute teacher in Muskogee was a high school diploma. This was back in the 1980's, when it was okay to teach that Pluto was a planet. Darren figured that he could probably get away with doing the absolute minimum when it came to actual teaching and still come out on the long end of the stick when it came to knowing more than his young charges. What he didn't know, he surmised, he could make up.
That, and the lunch. This was the centerpiece of Darren's plan. He was going to carry a great big briefcase into the classroom, and rather than having it filled with important books and papers, tests or worksheets, he would fill it with the best possible lunch. The kind of lunch that any seven to twelve year old would find themselves drooling over at the sight: Great big sandwich with plenty of cheese and meat, Cheetos baked to a delicate crunch, and a compendium of cookies and Hostess treats that could become legal tender in the event of a nuclear war. This was the 1980's, after all.
Darren never did get to live his dream. It could be that part of the reason I found my way into a classroom had its beginnings in that dream. And that lunch. Now I just wish I had time to eat it.

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