All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
Ceremonies like photographs keep truth at bay. No one wants to put on a bad face for a camera. Few will tell the truth when standing behind a podium. Afterwards, the public claps and wine glasses are raised. Mommies and Daddies hug their children painted over with make-up and heels and say ‘smile’ for the camera. The bad boss weeps. One child says his life has been changed for the better. The audience is entranced. We want so badly to believe that what we signed up for is real and that we’re celebrating something worthy, like education. Like, we’re building something new.
This is how mediocrity carries on, I realize. This is how we continue to feed garbage to the poor. This is how we vote for the wrong men and women, or continue to vote at all when all logic tells us that the very system we are participating in is a lie. Do we or do we not live in a democracy?
Oh, gilded city of mine! This sweet sorry of a place where some children go to school to learn in institutions of academic scholarship while others go to ghetto schools (a term I learned recently). It means a place where no real teaching and learning is going on; where children shuttle from classroom to classroom while teachers bite their lips and struggle to get a word in edgewise, where more than two thirds of the day is about managing behavior.
Please do question the very validity of my words. I am coming out of the haze of a Friday “moving up” ceremony and this madness confuses me. It’s like an after-glow feeling, a communal pep rally, in which We (yes, me included) participated in the good ole’ dog and pony show. Or did we?
I know this might be a difficult and annoying question but after today I have to ask: What is the truth? What are we doing when we can put reality aside for a day?
Gotta get it out, gotta get it down. Gotta say it, like it is. Even when it’s confusing.
CAUSE THAT’S SCIENCE, ain’t it?
Fact: There’s nothing about teaching and schooling that is simple.
Fact: There is nothing about teaching and schooling that is objective.
We are grappling with the ultimate human endeavor. And my biggest most urgent interest is what is happening to me, on a cellular level, on a spiritual level, on a social level. What the hell is this thing happening to me, as I feel the suit and skin of a teacher?
Fact: We cannot talk about right and wrong, or one size fits all.
We “the teacher” are a spectrum of light passing through hundreds of children and teachers and school leaders every day. We are circular and imperfect. What does that feel like, to blend with our environment and metamorphosize into an agent of change?
I must be rambling.
It’s the end of the year and any educator will tell you.
Red slips have gone out, including mine. Grades are in the process of going in, photographs and celebrations are in full swing, your difficult (and practically illiterate) student dresses up in a princess outfit, goodbyes to colleagues, cleaning out your drawers, imagining a better (or different) future—all of these things are happening to you, to us, to schooling and so of course the very meaning and purpose behind it becomes an absolute mess.
I walked away from the new charter school building with a rare scribble on my face. It was a cross between a smirk and a smile and a kinked up lip from exhaustion. The school keys and whistle swung on my chest, hitting into me in perfect intervals, pop—pop—pop, until I realized I can pull this shit off. With the whistle in my hand, I turn back and see the principal talking to a parent, two feet away from another one of my students posing for a picture. Invisible me, again. I remember what I told her, “I can clean up your mess. I’m a cleaner,” I told her. The sun is shining and there’s a breeze. It’s after four but it’s not five and its Friday a few days before this place, this role will blow up into the past. Each step floats and I realize I’m not angry or sad or anything. It’s like a limbo kind of time when my feet take me home and that’s all I can do for now.