My class of 12th graders in 2013
30, 29, 28, 27…
This time of year I’m normally counting down. But now, there’s no counting. The days come, and the days go. The calendar turns, and I don’t care. My calendar has changed.
Recently, someone asked me if I missed teaching. It’s not the first time someone asked. I actually ask myself the question often.
After all, for more than a decade, I was a high school English teacher. I worked in the same school and had many of the same colleagues over that time. While that’s not quite Letterman type of longevity, it’s still significant.
I felt at ease in the school. I knew my way around the halls, the neighborhood, and the bureaucracy (that was the toughest part).
We identify ourselves by our profession. After all, what is the most asked question when you meet someone? “So, what do you do?” (Back in college, it was, “What’s your major?” It was after that line I struggled with the women. I was so awkward.)
Anyway, I was ready with an answer. Continue reading
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.– spoken by Atticus Finch, written by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Simple, isn’t it. Don’t judge. You don’t know a person because you don’t have his/her perspective. By the way, Scout was just seven years old when Atticus gave her this advice. So if a seven year old can understand these words, why can’t we as a society?
We All Judge
We all judge. All the time. Don’t shake your head no. You do it and so do you and so do you. We all do it.
Judgment was a theme I touched upon when I taught To Kill a Mockingbird to my high school students. Here is how I proved that we all judge all the time.
It’s the first day of school. As you walk into each classroom for the first time, what’s the first thing you do? You look at the teacher. You look at your fellow classmates. You figure out where to sit. The whole time you are judging. And this is true any time you go somewhere the first time or a place that is out of your routine – public transportation, a store, etc.
Some students would disagree with me and maybe you do too. However, I stand by my statement. We are assessing the situation and location. Is it safe? Am I going to be comfortable here? Are there potential problems here? And what is the way to get the answer to these questions? We study the people around us, and we judge them.
“A book is waiting to be read. When you open that book, you give it life. Let it live. It wants to live,” I often advised my students. Yes, I know books are inanimate, lifeless. They are simply words on pages (or Kindles or Nooks or other e-readers, but that’s not the point) bound together. Lifeless.
But books don’t have to be lifeless. They can lead you anywhere and to anything. Books can take us on journeys, teach us lessons, foster our imaginations, help us to appreciate others, and so much more.
Yes, books serve as our travel agents to anywhere and can leave us laughing, crying or both along the way.
But for a book to live, it needs to be opened.
I know you have dreams. Maybe, you’re pursuing and accomplishing them. Maybe you consciously gave up on them and moved on. Or maybe your dreams have fallen by the wayside because, well, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” as John Lennon said in Beautiful Boy.
It was the early to mid-90’s, and I was in the middle of my traveling years. This was a special time for me. You might say I found myself though I never knew I was lost.
On Columbus Day weekend, a couple of friends and I decided to rent a cottage in Lake George, NY. We sat by the lake, fished, rented a canoe, and just hung out. We also partook in some substances.
The next morning when my head stopped spinning, I was sitting on the porch in my underwear. The rest of my clothes were wet. Don’t ask me how – I have no idea. One of my buddies – EI – and I were talking about our dreams, goals, and where we saw ourselves in the future. I forget EI’s response. Hey, it had been a crazy night. Yet, I remember what I said, “I want to have a piece of my writing published by the time I’m 30.”
I never submitted anything to a publisher.