In theory, teaching looks like the ideal job. All those school holidays. In Europe, every six weeks we have vacation. We even shut down for the week long ski break to hit the slopes. But there is no escape. Even on mountaintops, teachers obsess about how to reach kids. For today’s students, conditioned by instant gratification in a society wired 24/7, attention spans last no longer than 15 seconds, the time it takes to microwave a muffin.
I subscribe to A. Word. A. Day, though anyone who never deletes messages and regularly receives warnings, “your mailbox is full, you may no longer send or receive mail “ has no business collecting more words. But there are too many wonderful expressions out there.Like the word that flashed on my computer screen today. Nihilarian comes from Latin, nihil, for nothing, and means one who feels their work, is useless. Like it sounds, this word is hilarious, so LOL, which in SMS speak, means laugh out loud, (not love a lot, like I thought.) Great word. Describes my life.
Probably depicts your life too especially if you work in business, government, military, or education, like me. Unless self-employed, like it or not, we are cogs in the machine. My medium, education, epitomizes bureaucratic redundancy. Bureaucrats love to develop new theories and adopt new strategies. It makes administrators feel creative.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in education. No one loves the double speak, gobbledy gook, psycho babble more than school officials who pontificate on how to learn, what to learn and what constitutes knowledge. Consequently every so often, educators worldwide are obliged to rewrite the curriculum, so that it can sit on a shelf for the next decade until it is time to pass accreditation again.
At our last staff meeting, gearing up for our next accreditation, our director urged us to sign up for horizontal and vertical assessment teams. Horizontal squad? That’s for me, I thought, slumping in my seat, eyes at half-mast, nodding off.
In the education factory, caught up in the frenzy of curriculum, reports, assessments, accreditation, and accountability, I wonder what happened to the good ol’ days when all we did was teach? I spend more of my waking hours in meetings and in front of computer screens diagramming and documenting data, than in contact with kids.
The school system offers a parody of real life. Committee membership reigns over thought processes.A famous French leader, De Gaulle, coined the adage, “Want to bury a problem, form a committee”. Politicians taught us that.In the USA, we can also thank government for No Child Left Behind legislation, which as any teacher knows, is still wreaking havoc in our public school systems.
Schools offer a smorgasbord of committee choices.Strategic Planning Assembly. Campus Development Group. Ecology Awareness Association.Pilot Program for Global Responsiveness.And now our new Horizontal Assessment Team.
Alas in an era where technology makes us slave to machines and human contact is at a all time low, at an age when the food we eat, air we breath, and water we drink can be hazardous for our health, words remain a harmless indulgence. A word a day dropping out of cyberspace for free is a mini gift for our minds. When the drudgery of your job gets you down, google Wordsmith.org. for an environmental-friendly, safe, cheap chuckle a day.
Sept. 13, 2009. Now that printed word is dying, the only way I foresee getting published in the near future is 10 seconds in cyberspace. So Gerald sent me up to become a blogger even though I am of the fraidy cat generation anxious about technology. The economic crisis of 2009 has become so dire that many worry newspapers will not survive. Magazines will be the next to topple.And lastly, books may bite the dust. A bleak outlook for a wannabee writer.Pessimism abounds in our home. As a printing company director, Gerald sees the writing on the wall, but refuses to read it –what is life without words? Email, SMS, Facebook, twitter, blog, it’s a brave new world. How will the over the hill, hard print loving, fifty somethings – ever fit into 21st century.
The existential crisis is nothing new for me.I never outgrew the adolescent angst about, “who am I? ”My life course complicated the question. I moved 12 times in 18 years between 4 different countries on 2 different continents. Since the age of 26, when my pro basketball career ended in a harrowing accident abroad, I kept rewriting the script.
My most recent transition… empty nester. Our daughter long gone enters the medical world as a doctor-in-training in Minneapolis. Our son joins her at Macalester in the Twin Cities. Our living room is tidy, the grocery bill dropped, washing machine stopped spinning, phone never rings, and no one limits my computer time. The house has never been so neat, organized and easy to run. What am I crying about? The emptiness, the haunting loneliness, the bittersweet nostalgia of days gone by when I was M-O-M on call 24/7.
Waves of sadness hit me at random moments when I least expect it. At 8 am as I drive to school sans an inert jean-clad, body slumped in silence under a hoody riding shotgun next to me. At 5 pm when I come from work, the trail of snack wrappers, Poweraid bottles and notebooks trailing from the kitchen to the bedroom has disappeared. Lebron T-shirts, mesh shorts and blue jeans no longer dance in the breeze on the line outside my window. No one asks, “What’s for dinner?” “Can you take me to practice?” “Got any money?”
If my refrigerator, gas tank, and pocket book are so full, why is my heart so empty? Everyday I give myself a pep talk… Isn’t this what I longed for, uninterrupted time alone, no socks to wash, no meals to cook, no one asking to toss the football, catch the rebound, or edit an essay, “ASAP it’s due tomorrow, Ma!”
“Quit moping! Snap out of it,” I repeat like a mantra. He didn’t get hit by a car, fall off a mountain slope, join a cult, drop out of school, get sent to Iraq or any of the zillion other things a mother worries about. Instead he accomplished more than we ever dreamed. He graduated with honors and flew off to college 4,000 miles away. While he enters new adventures, his dad and I remain behind marveling at how that kid, who now towers above us, grew up so fast when we weren’t looking. In a blink, he is gone from day to day lives, but never far from our hearts where he remains cherished at every stage, all ages, always and forever our beloved, green-eyed, Franco-American boy.