Apparently, if you can’t get a job, teach…

What’s with all the new teachers?

There’s an old adage, taken from an ancient Chinese proverb, that goes, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Now, aside from the fact that I don’t think that’s what the original Chinese intended given what an unfair statement it is about people who devote their lives to educating, I do, however, think it says something about the way things are going now – and our attitudes towards the teaching profession.

People in various professions and industries are being laid off in droves. Many of them are “resorting” to being teachers. I understand that people need jobs, but I don’t think that is a particularly inspired reason to become a teacher.

My opinion of teaching being a fallback profession is about the same as my opinion regarding that “old adage.” Who is it that is spreading the rumor that teaching is easy and can be done by anybody? Here’s a newsflash: Teaching is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. It also happens to be one of the most under-rated, underpaid and under-appreciated professions in existence.

In fact, its difficulty, lack of remuneration and thanklessness is matched only by its vital importance. Well educated students today mean a well educated workforce tomorrow. Each human being gets one childhood, one chance to begin one’s life on the right foot. Each child has a right to expect and receive the best education which we as a society can provide them. And to think that you can just walk in and become a teacher because you got laid off from your “real” job is an insult to teachers and a slap in the face to children who deserve better.

Maybe I take it so personally because people treat my profession the same way. People revere and revile writers in equal amounts. If you tell someone you’re a writer, there’s a 50/50 chance that he is going to be awed or roll his eyes. Everyone thinks they can do it. And, to avoid sounding conceited, who am I to tell them that they can’t? After all, I’m not on the “New York Times Best Sellers” list or anything. I’m just a struggling writer with a freelance column and a blog, trying to make a career for herself.

But I have always wanted to be a writer. I’ve veered off a bit here and there trying to find my way, but when all is said and done, the only thing I’ve ever dreamed of doing is writing. It’s what I’m studying in school. I have entire bookshelves full of titles like “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” “The Elements of Style,” “The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing” and “The Associated Press Stylebook,” just to name a few. It’s not a fallback career, something I’m puttering at in my spare time or the novel I’m fuddling with in my retirement. All of my time, spare or otherwise, is spent writing, editing, rewriting or reading someone else’s writing.

And that is how everyone should approach their career choices. With passion. With heart. With everything they have. And to treat someone else’s passion like it’s your fallback job is wrong. It’s also foolish. Not only is teaching difficult, but some people seem to mistakenly think of it as recession proof. But it takes money to fund schools and pay teachers and lack of money affects education just like it does everything else. Broward County in Florida is laying off nearly 400 teachers this year.

So, lets all toss out that “old adage” about doing and teaching and embrace a different one:

A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”  ~Author Unknown



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In the name of experience, bon appetite…

Tonight I will be dining in the next restaurant scheduled to be eviscerated by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Seems somewhat illogical to me to eat in an establishment that is doing so poorly it has elected to appear on an internationally syndicated program that will show it at its worst and have them laced into by an acerbic and volatile Brit. It’s along the lines of agreeing to go on a date with someone when you know they’re going to be on Maury next week – if Maury had a posh accent. I even have to pay for my own dinner. Blimey!

But still, the idea is to get out and do interesting things. And I’ve done some pretty wacky things over the years in the name of experience – and of journalism. I’ve stayed in a castle that was run by Scientologists and resembled the set of  “Clue.” I spent the night in a room with preserved amphibians floating in large jars of formaldehyde. I’ve been serenaded on my birthday by drag queens. I once attended a Playboy pajama party – in pajamas. I’ve eaten snails. I even went on a truly disastrous date with an Australian. (The accent has lost all appeal.)

Still, I don’t think of myself as a particularly adventurous person. I like to play things safe. I don’t jump out of planes, gamble with real money or participate in competitive sports. I’m Safety Girl. Every adventurous, risky or wacky thing I’ve ever done, I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming by my less-than-safety minded friends. I don’t want to say, “Thank goodness for them” as this will only encourage them, but I have to admit none of them have brought me to death or ruin – so far.

Despite my protestations to the contrary, however, I truly believe in trying new things, living life to the fullest, dreaming big and aiming high. I just think people should wear their seat belt is all.

In the spirit of living life fully, I leave you to read my favorite poem while I dine in sub-par surroundings. It’s by Dawna Markova and I keep it taped to my mirror to look at everyday.

fully alive
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or of catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.


Filed under Opinion

A virtual life well lived…

Not having a job is an odd experience. I’m luckier than most of course. The funds are holding out for now, and the freelance work, though limited, is steady. I have no health insurance of course, but I’m certainly not alone there.

No, for the most part I can’t really complain. In a way, I am living the life that most women lived for centuries – I spend most of my day, most of my time, in my home. I do laundry, wash dishes, clean. Without children to take care of, however,  there’s only so much cleaning and puttering to be done. So, I watch a lot of daytime television. Read. Take the dog out. Let the dog in. And, if I’m feeling really spirited, I run an errand.

Sometimes, I find myself wandering around in a vague haze. There is no structure to my day. I have no reason to get up at any particular time, so I tend to sleep late. I have nowhere to go, so I lounge about in my pajamas. I have nothing to do, so I don’t do much of anything at all. Except one thing – Turn on my computer.

The first thing I do whenever I get up, is log on. I check my Facebook, Twitter, my bank accounts, the shipping status the latest book I ordered, both e-mails and my various instant messengers. My actual day might be distinctly lacking, but my virtual day is rich and exciting.

I check CNN, NPR and NYTimes incessantly and every time something peaks my interest, I post a comment and a link on Facebook.

I have several blogs that I follow and after reading them I generously offer my deep thoughts about what was written.

I comment on friends’ pictures, posts, statuses, links and even their lack of those things. (“You haven’t posted anything in days! Where did you go?”)

I troll Amazon for good deals, check out their latest recommendations for me. I order things at one sixteenth their actual-world cost and then brag about it to all my virtual friends.

Between my laptop, my cell phone and my remote control, I’m connected to the entire universe. Without the internet I would be going stir crazy in my house. (Of course, without it I might also be compelled to walk out into the bright light of day and find an actual life.)

But think about it: What makes a full life?

  • A rich social life? Thanks to the internet, I speak to more people on a daily basis than I ever could just walking around outside. And I’m only friends with people online that I know from real life. Some of those friends live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Some of them I would have to cross oceans to speak to in actual life.
  • A fulfilling career? Currently, I work as a freelancer. I’m a writer. I used to work full time at a newspaper – one of the industries suffering the most in the current economic climate. There is nothing I did at my job that I cannot do from my laptop, in the comfort of my bedroom, lounging in my pjs. And, in fact, the freelance work I do now is the column and listings that were a large part of my full time job. And as to my co-workers – In the office all of us sit facing our computers, not looking at each other. I would carry on e-mail conversations with people who sat ten feet from me. I still do though now we’re miles apart.
  • A close and loving family life? I spend more time with my family than I ever did before. I take a break from editing listings to get a cup of tea from the kitchen and while I’m there I stop to talk to my dad. If my brother needs a ride somewhere, I’m there to give him one.  And since I’m not fighting rush hour traffic to get home from work, I can cook a real dinner and we can sit down together and eat it. And the dog is certainly getting a lot more attention than he used to.

I, like most people, always used to talk about all of the things I would do if I didn’t have to spend eight hours out of five days out of every week at a job. First of all, I would look fabulous because I would finally be able to work out everyday. I’d finally get my first novel written. Read the classics. All the little things that I let slide before would be done.

My life would be polished, managed, perfect.

So maybe it’s not any of those things. But who’d want that anyway? Sounds boring to me. And maybe the trick to this routine-less life is to fill it, to find a routine, one of your own making, instead of one dictated by a company.

Maybe I spend most of my day in the virtual world, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile place in which to be. It’s a virtual life, well-lived.

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