Every Good Morning

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Gather together one hundred teachers who have worked in the same two buildings. Add food and drink. Make it a celebratory evening — two of their own are retiring. Make it personal.

It is personal.

These people are one tribe.

Not they.

We.

I am one of them.

ojr 1We share stories and worries, we run along the same lifeline of rumors, and we know the names of the families and children whom we have taught through generations. We know the muscles and blood and bones of the buildings where we teach — that is, the intimate history of this school district going back more than sixty years.

Where does that happen anymore?

Look around the room.

Note that the jowls are coming out, mine too (the Irish genes’ triumph), and some have been through health scares. The networks of lines around our collective eyes could string poles all through the District. Spend twenty to forty years with one large group of adults and you see the transformations from raw youth to middle age to the onset of old age, the drooping shoulders relieving the supple walks of young men and women, but a sense of tempered experience also asserting itself. These people know how to laugh at absurdity. Aside from cops, what other group understand so well the doofus occurrences of comedic human beings — kids, parents, administrators and their own. Some of the loudest laughs all night rose up when speakers reminded us of our wilder moments. Those taxed with keeping order as an integral part of their jobs are often secretly anarchic themselves. Scratch most teachers, and you will raise up a rebel.

Look around the room.

This is the middle class. No one here went looking for boatloads of money. They came out of idealism, a desire to work with kids, perhaps also out of an aversion to spending a life in a cubicle. They have fought to become middle class and have paid a price in the public mind for the temerity to rise by fighting for their ascension.

I am a partisan here, utterly biased, wholly partial, a chauvinist, but I would testify under oath that out of hundreds and hundreds, I can only think of a few narcissists, a scattering of the miserable who never should have walked into a classroom, a smattering of the deeply incompetent. Most teachers I have known are first-rate souls — generous, funny, talented, faithful to kids — superb coaches, counselors, classroom savants, and more than a few of those men and women in possession of incandescent intelligence and moral bearing.

Look around the room.

ojr 1They are laughing, now standing to clap for two of their own, now standing in line to wish them, one by one, good fortune, good life, more happiness.

The job is personal.

The stories will pass down, the traditions too. The line goes on. The affection in this room could warm a home on this cold night.

© Mike Wall

2 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    I know it’s been too long.
    I really got sad knowing I’ll never teach again. It was wonderful to hear your words on teaching. You were the standard we all tried to obtain.
    Much love.

  2. Rich Marchini says:

    Great post Mike!

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