Sunday, July 31, 2016

Joe Biden's Cryptic Message

I'm really puzzled by this quote. To me, what you do pretty much is who you are. I am, first and foremost, a teacher. That's how I see myself.

I did get some pushback on this when I posted it on Facebook. People said, hey, I go to work every day, but I hate my job. So people don't see themselves as drawbridge oilers, clerks, fortune tellers or whatever the hell it is they do for a living.

I'd argue that what you do is not necessarily simply what your job is. For example, I do a whole lot of other things besides teach. At this very moment I'm blogging. You may know me more as a blogger than a teacher. I'm also an activist. And believe it or not, I can play the fiddle. I have a lot of bad habits. You may see yourself as a mother, father, churchgoer, anarchist, civil war enactor, public nuisance, or pretty much anything. It doesn't necessarily matter if you spend your days doing something else.

I guess I'm lucky. I love my job. I don't dread going to work each morning. I hate a lot of the nonsense that swirls around my profession, but I have no complaints about the kids I serve. Sure, some of them are a pain in the ass sometimes, but I'm a pain in the ass all the time.  So it doesn't really faze me.

I teach my students to find what they love and pursue it. I teach them to be open and pay attention. I teach them to try new things and see if they like them. You never know when you're going to fall into something you love. I hated math, but if my students love it maybe they can build careers around it. And I'm grateful if they do, because then people like me won't have to. The world is a better place for that.

It makes me very sad to hear from people that they hate what they do every day. That's a big chunk of your life to surrender to drudgery. One of the reasons I support union so strongly is that it offers options to working people. While the exterior conditions and pressures of our job are increasingly ridiculous, what we do still matters, and the kids never change.

The only thing that really changes is when reforminess creeps into our classrooms and makes it harder for us to serve them. That's why we have to be open and pay attention just as the kids should. We need to seek opportunities to stop demagogues like Trump's VP and his ilk so as to do our jobs better.

And I think we need to dispense with the legend that teaching is a calling and thus different from other jobs. The main difference, as far as I can tell, between a calling and a job, is that a job pays more. There's really no crime in asking for or getting more money. This may be a calling or not, but NYC still owes me around 40K it's not paying until 2020, and the people who collect my tax bills want their money now, calling or no calling.

I don't think Joe Biden had bad intent when he said that. But I'm not exactly sure what he was talking about, and I'm not entirely persuaded he knew either.
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