Teaching is more than my profession. It is my passion. My joy. My calling.
Lately, though, I wonder if that calling has left me. The joy certainly has, and the passion is fading.
I’ve thought about why this is, and there are probably more reasons than I can really nail down. Some are of my own making, and I’m working on correcting those. But two other significant ones keep coming to mind: changing attitudes and what I’ll call the Linus Syndrome.
Teaching was once a respected and noble profession. No longer. Lately when I read news reports about public response to public education, there only seems to be blame and disdain, and much of it ultimately falls on teachers. I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be until “teacher jokes” are as ubiquitous as lawyer jokes.
Even more significant, though, is the Linus Syndrome. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of the Great Pumpkin in the comic strip Peanuts. Every year at Halloween, Linus eagerly awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, which he believes will rise from the “most sincere” pumpkin patch to deliver toys to the world’s children.
Linus is of course the only one who believes this, but this fact doesn’t quell his sincere faith in the Great Pumpkin’s existence. Year after year, he sits surrounded by lesser orange squash, believing that this time his patience would be rewarded.
I’m beginning to feel like Linus. I believe, year after year, that this is the year I can make more of a difference, that as I sit among other educators who want to change the lives of the children with whom they work, we will collectively see real opportunity to make that change. But year after year my waiting is for naught, and I’m getting weary.
I’m not the only one. (I’m not sure, by the way, whether that makes me feel better or not.) Will Richardson wrote on Wednesday about his own weariness:
I am so tired of waiting for something, at this point almost anything, to meaningfully change in our collective story of education. I look at my own kids every day and grow more and more frustrated with their education, one that is not unlike millions of other kids in this country and one that is no doubt degrees better than millions more.… We generally seem to have lost our imagination when we think about education. And to me, that’s just such a huge irony right now. In the twenty-five years since I entered public schools as a teacher there has never been a time with so much reason to dream, to imagine the possibilities.
There are days I feel like I’m the last holdout in my district, that I’m the only one left who still believes in the Great Pumpkin, and that the rest of my colleagues smile and walk on, shaking their heads and wondering how I could still be so blindly idealistic to think that education could possibly have anything to do anymore with making kids’ lives better.
And with all of that, is it any wonder that we’ve stopped dreaming of what can be? Of all the teachers I’ve had the privilege of speaking and working with in the last few years, I doubt that many of them can even now really dream of a different way, one that celebrates learning and connections and independence in the ways that many of those networked classrooms we see. They might be able to visualize it, but I don’t think many see it as a potential reality in their classrooms, in their schools. There are too many reasons why it can’t happen. Too many obstacles. Too little vision.
I want to still have hope. I don’t want to succumb to the Linus Syndrome. I don’t have any illusions that I’ll be the one to find the cure, but I’d like to think that I can be part of the conversation that contributes to it.
A tweet from Vicki Davis the other day lifted my spirits and helped me see the value in perseverance:
“Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” Don’t give up!
The problem is that nearly every day, I read something in a journal or a blog, or hear a conversation at school, or see a news report, that squashes the hope right back out, and it’s hard not to give up.
For now, I’m staying in the pumpkin patch. But I’m not holding my breath that the Great Pumpkin is going to show up.