SPidge Tales

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shoot for the Moon; Face It, the Stars are Too Far

I hope my New York Giants make it to the Super Bowl and get destroyed by the New England Patriots. Oh, sure, I’d be overjoyed if they actually won the big game, but I’m realistic. I know that nobody is beating the Patriots this season. I’d be happy if the Giants put forth a goal-line stand on the inevitable “rub-it-in” touchdown drive by Tom Brady & Co. late in the 4th quarter with a 30 point New England lead.

I’ve learned to temper my expectations. I used to believe in shooting for the stars; if you fail—hey!—you’ve still reached the moon. But, really, if you shoot for the stars, you’re going to run out of jet-fuel, and crash land on earth. Why not aim a little bit lower in the first place, for the moon, and if you have leftover gas after the lunar expedition, then keep going for the stars.

There’s nothing wrong with being second best, and there’s nothing wrong with settling for your backup plan. If only the Teachers Union would learn this. I’ve rambled ad-nauseum in earlier posts (see http://spidgetales.blogspot.com/2007/08/lets-end-pointless-teacher.html, or better yet, read NYTimes Columnist Nicholas Kristof, a far better writer than me: http://select.nytimes.com/2006/04/30/opinion/30kristof.html) about the inane certification requirements to become a public school teacher, but now I’ve stumbled upon the real reason for certification requirements: the Teachers Union doesn’t want people who see teaching as a fall-back option becoming educators.

Let’s imagine that Bill Gates decides one day, “You know, I’ve made enough money; I’d like to give back to society. I’ll go teach high school kids about computers.” The public schools would say, “Sorry Mr. Gates. You’re not qualified to teach computer class. You only invented the personal computer.” Or imagine Stephen Hawking thinking, “I want to share my scientific mind with the innovators of tomorrow.” The schools would politely decline; “Sorry, Dr. Hawking, you’re not qualified to teach physics. You’re only the greatest physicist in the world.”

The public schools would make these accomplished gentlemen go back to college for certification. This process weeds out those people who see teaching as a (God forbid!) fall-back option, or starter job.

Well, fall-back options and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th choices are the vinegar and baking soda of the 5th grade volcano science project we call life. Sure, Michael Jordan lived his dream; he became the greatest basketball player ever. Jesus Christ didn’t need a fall-back option; He is our Lord and Savior. Muhammad didn’t have to settle for a backup career; Allah revealed Himself in the Holy Qur’an, dictated by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, Blessing and Peace Be Upon Him. Ron Jeremy achieved his goal; he…umm…got a college degree to teach special education (I’m not making this up). But most of us do something other than our childhood dreams.

Even most professional athletes and movie stars are living the backup dream. Do you think that Major League second baseman batting 8th wouldn’t rather be the shortstop batting leadoff? Do you think That Guy in movies playing the comic relief wouldn’t rather be the main star?

Look around you. That beat reporter for the local paper wouldn’t rather be a columnist for the New York Times or Washington Post? That IRS lawyer wouldn’t rather be a partner in a major firm? Let’s look beyond the work-world to the fairytale land of relationships. Do you really think that ugly couple would be holding hands if he weren’t turned down by the head cheerleader and she weren’t rejected by the star quarterback? Brad Pitt is dating his top choice and Angelina Jolie is sleeping with hers. Almost every other man and woman is with a fall-back option.

I won’t lie; I’m a baseball fan because I didn’t make it as a pro baseball player. I’m single because I’m not good looking enough for the girls who’ve turned me down. I write blog posts and Facebook notes because I’m not a good enough writer to get published. I’m a schoolteacher because I’m not smart enough to be a college professor.

But does it make me a bad teacher because I would rather be a baseball player or a writer? Does it make me a bad teacher if I would leave the job to be a columnist for a major magazine or journal? A person can still work hard and embrace his career even if he dreamt of something greater as a child (there are people bitterly and resentfully slogging through careers after failing their first dream. I’m not discussing them here. I’m talking about the majority of people who make do with dream number two…or three…or four). Somebody has to be the backup quarterback in life and hold the clipboard of second career choices.

I know the Teachers Union wants teachers who dreamt of chalkboards and grade books from the time they drank their mother’s milk, then spent their college careers studying Education, followed by 30-year careers in the schools. But would it really be awful if teaching were open to the many intelligent people in fields as diverse as history, English, philosophy, theology, business, biology, chemistry, Latin, and journalism? Would it really be awful if energetic young college grads became teachers as a fall-back option or career starter option, leaving in a few years and making way for more energetic young grads? Would it really be awful if professionals could easily slide into teaching as a second career and give something back to America’s youth? Am I really writing one of those essays with an annoying amount of rhetorical questions?

Sometimes, those people who are living their dream life are a little toooooooooooo enthusiastic. Think of those Type-A personality camp counselors or dorm directors or motivational speakers who are a little toooooooooooo excited to speak in group settings. No, we don’t need teachers who hate their jobs, and are only itching for the chance to move up in the world (we don’t need people like that in any job). But, there’s nothing wrong with men and women who happily, joyfully, teach America’s youth, always putting forth their best effort, even if they grew up dreaming of being lawyers, doctors, and, yes, baseball players. They may even find that the backup dream is greater than the first item on their Santa Claus wish list. Think of teenage movies; the protagonist ends up happiest when he dumps the super hot mean girl (choice #1) for the slightly less hot (but still plenty good-looking) girl with the cool personality (choice #2).
To every day people: lower those expectations, and not only will you appreciate the small victories, the big wins will be like extra whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake of life. I mean, who would you rather be, a New York Giants fan that sees every playoff win as extra gravy on the turkey dinner we call the football season, or a Patriots fan that sees anything less than a Super Bowl championship as spilling the gravy on grandma? To the Teachers Union: get rid of those certifications, and embrace the role of teaching as a “backup quarterback” type of career. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym. And those who can’t teach gym, substitute teach. I’m substitute teaching, and I’m embracing it…at least until I go back to college for my PhD, become a professor and famous writer, and get a hot trophy wife with a mistress on the side.


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