Monday, May 23, 2011

Graduation: A Masters Degree... to what end?

Any sort of “wrapping up” is bittersweet – with accomplishments comes reflection, and with it, inevitably, come doubt, regret, relief and even a little joy. What is interesting is that joy is not the most prevalent, nor long lasting of the emotions. There is a satisfaction that comes with people speaking to you about your potential and accomplishments, with hearing your school called – rising and donning your masters hood, with hearing your name (mispronounced) and receiving a fake scroll in front of family, friends and colleagues. But as quickly as it comes, so it lives up to its ephemeral nature. With cap and gown and hood returned the world re-dawns its truths upon your brow, causing it to knot from the effort of sustaining such thoughts as: now that I owe so much money, how will I pay it back? What if I can’t get hired? What if I am unable to live up to the expectation that my degree creates? Should I continue on and get my doctorate? Why? To what end?
These are the bombarding thoughts, relentless and tireless in their attack upon much earned serenity. But they live in reality, whereas satisfaction only lives in our minds. What’s worse is that for so many of us who have worked so hard for two years earning this degree, especially while teaching full time in some of the neediest schools in the country, thoughts of whether to even continue teaching are so prevalent as to become overwhelming. Low pay, a thankless job (beside the incredible satisfaction of changing lives), the constant worry of being laid-off because of stupid seniority in a union that does little more than take your money and give you insurance, the unreasonable (and not for the benefit of the students) requirements mandated by the state in the form of tests that show us nothing of the student and everything of the corruption of our psyche as a country (that has allowed the greatest nation in the world to have a system of education on the level of third world countries).
This isn’t what I want to think about.
When I started two years ago I was sure I had found my calling, I was sure I would not have to look for a job again, I was sure that if I sacrificed financial security I would be rewarded with incomparable satisfaction of having every day be more valuable than the previous. I was wrong. Now I am interviewing with schools (outside the DOE!!), with the hope that they have the autonomy to allow us (teachers) to do what is right for the kids, not what is right for some ledger in Albany.
What do I tell my students of the value of a Masters Degree, or, god forbid, a bachelors?

-Mr. A.M.T M.S.,Ed

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching: Failure?

The blank page stares back, the rain rattles on the window, the city hums and wails… the mind wonders. What truths can be spoken about a life so fleeting? What truth can remain for more than an instant?

The lives of specks, inconsequential, to be sure, are yet the consummation of our thoughts. I of you, they of me, we of each other, but to what end?

I stare at the specks before me, and they seem so much more, so profound, and in great need, and I lose sight of the non-existent end. Somehow they transform their own inconsequential existence to one of such gravity that I have but no choice at all other than to devote my every thought to them.

How amazing are love and dependence?! How they profoundly transform a man’s philosophy and outlook in an instant, and alter one’s behavior more severely than paralysis itself!

These specks! Scholars still possessed of youth. Toughened by the world and it’s reality, yet still possessive of that tender innocence that melts the anger in my eye, the frustration in my mind, and inspires such sympathy in my soul. From where my vision comes I am still not sure, but I see through the vulgarity, insolence, malice, laziness and hostility. I see the attention starved, the guidance deprived, babes who yearn to suckle for but another moment in the warmth and shelter of their mothers bosom – who perhaps yearn unconsciously, never having spent a moment there… ever.

The question then arises to what degree has their potential been squandered, at what point can the human spirit no longer possess the strength to learn and soar? Which are my failings, and which are those of their parents?
How can I Know?
At the end of the day, at the end of the week – what more could I have done?

What more could anyone have done?

How long can a teacher live with the sense of failure - not knowing it’s cause?