A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The final leg

In The Art of Exceptional Living, Jim Rohn declared: "What's important is not what you get; what's important is who you become." As I enter the last leg of another school year, I have come to a deeper appreciation of the bitter and the sweet. Despite everything that has gone wrong in a quixotic pursuit where for 10 years my primary goal has been just to get a foothold long enough to acquire the skills and mastery needed to "make a difference" in the lives of my students, I know that my character has become more perfect because of the pursuit. I know that my performance has been validated at the school level. I feel that my investment in the community has not been a total waste, and have faith that the direction of a few lives has been changed for the better.

Knowing what I know now, I enter the final leg of my 10th and, what seems increasingly likely, my final year of teaching, with more gratitude than bitterness. Despite my shortcomings, I know that I have "made a difference," not in the spotlight, but quietly, behind the scenes, and without commendations. I know who and what I have become. No faceless administrator, from high upon on a hill, who would put my name up for a vote for non-renewal before a school board, without any conversation with me, in total disregard of the most current input of a respected Principal or any of his staff, can take that knowledge of who I have become away from me.

When I hold up my pewter 1984 Hoyas National Championship mug, which is typically filled with Jolly Ranchers or Lifesaver's mints, I warn students, "Never steal from the cup of success!" Perhaps my major mistake in entering the profession was a misconception that getting a foothold would be easy. When I entered the teaching profession in January 2003 as a substitute teacher, had I know what I know now, no way would I have ever had the courage to enter a field for which the barriers to entry seemed so low, but in reality have proved to virtually insurmountable for me. Financially, in terms of opportunity cost and actual dollars spent, my decision to enter the teaching field has been a "money pit," a financial black hole.

Having relentlessly brainwashed myself with messages from Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, The Courage to Live Your Dreams, Denis Whaitley's The Psychology of Winning, for 10 years I steeled my self against failure and rejection with a burn the ships behind me decisiveness of a Roman, and later a famous English King, a mindset held up as a model of courage by Napolean Hill and others. That failure is not an option modus operandi led me to "double down," earn a Master's Degree, and continue a high risk strategy of pursuing success in a profession that had rejected me, and mocked me my efforts at every turn with smug analogies comparing me to a dancer in "the dance of the lemons."

Safety and procedural compliance seems to be the guiding principle of big school systems that must protect themselves against litigation. Somewhere earlier in my career I probably violated some procedure, and likely some personnel administrator happily found some flaw in my paperwork. Perhaps, maintaining a blog, although I never identified where I worked, always changed names and dates, and consciously fictionalized every encounter, has been my undoing. I don't know. For whatever reason, I was accepted into a Master's cohort sponsored by the locality where I work, so I falsely assumed everything was okay. Apparently, I was wrong in my belief that all I needed to was to become an effective teacher, because discretion and human relations have gone the way of the dinosaur in an age of big data and faceless personnel decisions.

Since I am in need of closure, I will request an opportunity to meet with the top administrator face-to-face, so that I can look him in the eye as he explains the reasons why he decided to put my name before the school board for a vote not to renew my contract without even speaking to me, and possibly without input from my Principal and those who have evaluated my performance this year.

This new information, which I received by letter yesterday, might change my wife's decision not to follow her company which is moving to Houston in 2015. At some point, I need to tell her the unfortunate news, because bad news is best faced head-on. Whatever happens, I will do my best to face the coming storm with courage, and teach my final leg as if my life and legacy depends upon it, even if it means the risk-reward has become so skewed,  the reward is no longer worth the effort.