Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Rose, Is a Rose, Is a Public School Teacher

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I've been thinking a lot about names lately.  Perhaps it's because we've been chatting with our daughter and son-in-law a lot about baby names, listening to them make decisions as they contemplate their baby boy's name, our first grandchild's name (can't wait until April).  A baby's name is important, it labels his identity from that first cry when he leaves the womb and is placed in his mother's arms or when the adoption agency hands a new dad his daughter for the first time... "Hush, little Baby, don't say a word!"  But a name doesn't develop the child's identity.  What develops the child's identity is the way he or she is treated, nurtured, loved, honored, nourished, cared for, respected!
In "Romeo and Juliet" Juliet argues that a name is just a name, but rather it's what lies beneath that name that's most important.  And we all know when Juliet says, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" she's just stating that she should be able to love who she chooses to love, despite his name.  Gertrude Stein's most famous quote is, "A rose, is a rose, is a rose."  In her staccato style, she used the phrase many times in her poetry (first in "Sacred Emily" in 1913) and she once said, "I'm no fool.  I know we can't go around saying 'A ... is a... is a...' and yet she used the phrase often (maybe she just liked the way it rolled off the tongue or her pen).  But Stein and Shakespeare probably pondered those words carefully before they appeared in their writing.  They probably read the words over and over.  And, so we name a rose a rose.
I was looking at the name of my blog this week "All-en-a-Day's Work."  A simple play on words that my son used on his projects when he was little and that I "borrowed" when I created this spot for me to share my ponderings.  When I looked up the meaning of "all in a day's work," I discovered it meant, "If something is difficult, unpleasant, or strange... it is considered to be 'all in a day's work," a usual part of the job."  But my blog isn't just a mundane, routine, or unpleasant part of my teaching life.  Certainly my entries can be sporadic, but it's an important place for me to contemplate my beliefs, my discoveries, my wonderings, my ideas.  It's a place for me to share a little of myself with whomever reads it, for whatever it's worth.  It's one place for me to give the thoughts in my head an identity.  It gives them a chance to develop.

I've been a public school teacher for 31 years.  I love my job.  I've said it before, I fell into my career when my wife gave me a copy of Writers: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald Graves.  That book changed my career path and changed my life.  I became a teacher because of little things that nudged me into my vocation.  The signs were all there and I believe it was God's plan for me to teach; the one who lead me to the public schools.  I take the name "public school teacher" seriously, just as I would if I taught in another setting (and we're so lucky to already have that choice).  It's more than just being called "teacher" for me, I am proud to add "public" to my name!  

My identity is not developed by working within "an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge."  My Identity is not developed by spending my days in "an entry level position."  My identity is not developed by what Graves calls in The Energy to Teach, "pundits who have never taught."  My identity is developed by passion - for learners and learning.  I love my career - with it's ups and downs, changes, mandates, and other "stuff".  But I try to focus on the joys, the celebrations, the exciting challenges.  There's nothing better than spending the day with children, except perhaps continuing to learn myself. 

I've developed my passion as a public school teacher by looking into the eyes of 25-30 kids each day.  I've developed my passion through hours of professional development, hours of reading, hours of watching others teach.  I've developed my passion by writing and sharing my thinking with others.  I've developed my passion by being the father of four wonderful children who have all attended public school.  I've developed by passion by being married to another teacher.  I've developed my passion by surrounding myself with colleagues and friends who care just as much about education as I do.  I've developed my passion by spending thousands of dollars on children's literature and professional literature that helps hone my craft.  I've developed my passion by talking to and learning from Stenhouse and Heinemann authors.  I've developed my passion by attending and presenting at conferences, working in schools across the country and in Canada, and spending countless hours talking about education on the telephone with grand friends.   

I've developed my passion as a public school teacher, because I have witnessed exciting, wise pedagogical changes in 31 short years (which is far less that the 150 years that we've recently been told there have been no changes).  And, I continue to teach because passion can't be easily extinguished.  After all, I am a teacher for goodness sake.

Names are important.  I'm sure my children would agree.  
Once you choose it, it goes public.  
And then you can help develop the identity of what you've named.

What's in a name?  
That which we call Public School Teacher.  
Boy, does it smell sweet!

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