by: Alex Stubenbort
“Love implies anger. The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing”-Edward Abbey
If I was to be honest (and I pride myself as such), teaching is one of the most frustrating aspects of my life. That’s right. I said it. Teaching gets my goat on the regular! In fact, if I was to rank life undertakings in order of the most anger-inducing, the list would read as follows:
1) Married life with my beautiful bride
2) Raising my two beautiful children
3) and choosing TEACHING as my profession
Now, before you walk away from this post believing you are reading the ramblings of a madman who found a way to successfully lose his wife, kids, and profession in one three-item list; understand that if I was to create a similar list that ranked my top three life undertakings that brought me the greatest joy, it would read the same, verbatim, as the list above. My reasoning is simple: when someone is passionate about an aspect of their life, it is beautifully filled with the person’s entire self. The peaks and valleys of the human condition are not devoted to the mundane and the ordinary. Brushing my teeth and taking out the trash have never moved me to tears. Sharpening a pencil and flicking on a light have never given me goosebumps. That level of feeling only exists when I allow myself to be fully vested and fully vulnerable. That is what life’s passions are supposed to feel like: that nauseatingly beautiful feeling of reaching the tipping point of a roller coaster’s tallest drop. And on a good day, that is what it feels like to be a teacher.
I started my teaching career in a Florida Juvenile Detention Center. When I share that with my fellow public school teachers, the vast majority of responses are versions of the following: “Thank GOD you got out of there!” What they fail to realize is that I wouldn’t be half of the teacher I am today without the sheer joy of discovering that the stolen item found in a detainee’s bunk was MY copy of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”. Having to confiscate paper clips and erasers being used as makeshift tattoo needles and watching a young man’s eyes glimmer with awe when I explain to him that the light he sees from a night’s star is anywhere from 4 to 4,000,000 years old was not out of the ordinary in a day’s work. It was both AWESOME and AWFUL, TERRIFIC and TERRIBLE. The moment you felt you truly changed a child’s life, a familiar face had found his way back into juvenile detention to begin a brand new sentence.
That is what it is to be passionate: to pour yourself into someone or something without any guarantee that the effort and care will ever be reciprocated. That’s what it is to teach. So if you find yourself angry, if you take it personally when a student couldn’t care less about your subject area, if you want to punch every bad influence that stands in your students’ path to learning and discovery, if you want to SCREAM every time you hear a fellow teacher urge an aspiring teacher to reconsider; you are not alone. You are simply doing your job.