Monday, August 17, 2015

Hanging On.


 When I was a kid, one of my mom's friends commented about her son's great career aspiration.  Trash day was his favorite, as he found the perfect window seat to watch the garbage trucks come down the street, slowly dumping trashcan after trashcan into the back of the truck.  He was enthralled, and could barely take his eyes off the process.

"When I grow up, I want to be a GARBAGE MAN!"

His mother prodded for several months, hoping to sway this desire, until he finally explained his reasoning.

"If I am a garbage man when I grow up, I get to HANG ON THE BACK OF THE TRUCK and pretend I'm a FIREMAN!"

There's no arguing with that logic.  All the benefits of being a firefighter, with none of the heat, I guess.


Whatever you want to be... just be happy.

We've heard the phrase, "be whatever you want to be, just be happy."  Maybe it didn't come from your parents, but it certainly is familiar from a sappy sitcom or two, resonating with a wonderful learning-experience ending.  The world needs firefighters AND garbage men.  It's easy as a Teacher of the Gifted to admit that, and then suggest exactly which class in the high school should be tapped for recruiting interested volunteers.  (Clearly not THIS classroom, move along, move along.)

This morning I encountered "On What to Be", in the Huffington Post, which hit me squarely between the eyes as I was mapping out the career unit for Information Literacy.  It provided a lot of restructuring, as I've gone through my day today, considering the goals of this young author, and thinking back to the would-be firefighter/garbage man of my childhood.  Before you read the article, read this one quote:

"What I want out of life is to live simply, honestly, and humbly. My ambitions are to show my children that they are loved and to make the world around me a little better, a little more beautiful, and a little more peaceful. In my heart, I feel like this is a worthy way to spend my time in this world."

 WOW.  How could any parent argue with those ambitions?  How could any HUMAN argue with those ambitions?  A simple balance, where one works to live, instead of living to work.

BUT WAIT.  Does your perception change, if you knew that the very individual who wrote those wonderful ambitions is a GIFTED kid, with all kinds of potential?  And what do we "Teachers of the Gifted" owe to encourage our high ability students, who, by the way, may have the cure for cancer ready to spill out of their brains with just the right encouragement.  When, as teachers, is it okay for us to let an "underachieving student" underachieve?  

What do we owe our students, ourselves, and our society? 

 The author of the Huff Post piece, Kelly Quirino, goes on to say:

But there will always be a small piece of me that finds fault with my aversion to ambition—a little voice that tells me I am wasting what I have been given, that what I am is not enough. 

Do we have a right to steal happiness from the best and the brightest, for the ultimate betterment of society as a whole?  Please read the article.  And lose some sleep with me, on this one.

 These are the things that mull in my brain as I cut out letters, and staple bulletin boards together, preparing for the first day of school.  What do I really want for my students?  How should we define success?  And is it up to us, as teachers, to decide the answer to either of those questions.

The room isn't finished, there are many tasks to be completed.  I'll muse for another 8 days, and then I'll be too busy teaching to rethink, or burden myself with guilt.