Go the Distance.

These pictures are from the set of the motion picture “ROCKY BALBOA.” I was an extra in the final fight scene.

There’s this moment in the movie ROCKY where the timid Adrianne looks at her love in the eyes and says “why do you want to fight.” Rocky says simply, “because I can’t sing or dance.”

“Those who can’t….teach” is a common saying. I hear it often. Usually it is presented by someone who has never stepped in front of a class before. Usually it’s said after someone presumes they know what it’s like to be in the field of education…”and those amazing three-month vacations, where teachers relax and walk the beaches…nurture rich, dark tans…and live in Never-Never land until August!”

Give me a break. Granted, my particular position is nothing to complain about. I work in a beautiful school, with amazing students…and the faculty lounge coffee?…..It’s not so bad. But, anyone who says that teaching is a field where lazy, wanna-be professionals go to die…they need a gigantic bite of reality pie.

Rocky is probably not a prime example. But I like the fact that this boxer continues to fight against insurmountable odds, because he truly believes he is destined to do so. “Because he can’t sing or dance.”

This school district in Las Vegas is not a good one. Even the superintendent agrees. But, I refuse to believe that ANY educational environment is beyond hope…and likewise, I refuse to believe that every teacher is “lazy” by the saying’s insinuation. Teachers are forever students, always wanting to grow as providers. I’m not saying we’re all alike…some are short…some are tall. Some graduated with a 3.9 GPAs….some barely graduated….yet all teachers get the same opportunity: “To mold and shape the future leaders!”

I suppose it’s just like saying all lawyers are sharks…and all doctors are quacks. Sheesh. Is there anything nice to say about people out there? Is there any positive reinforcement? I know there is, somewhere. And I’m not just talking about the superficial nonsense that accompanies those denim vests with sparkly reindeer or “Happy Holiday” flowers that elementary teachers wear. Look beyond the Christmas Tree ornaments that say “Teachers are Special”….and remember, before anyone can scrutinize a teacher’s motives…a teacher’s philosophy….a teacher’s effectiveness….you have to agree that at LEAST all teachers have one thing in common….like Rocky Balboa, they keep getting up when knocked down. Everyday is a build up…and test of endurance. Everyday teacher’s must file away their personal lives and allow their student’s personal lives to take the forefront. They must go the distance. In a sense…they are the ultimate student. I can’t think of another job where the goal of the job is to purposely plant yourself in the seat of the target audience and simply…endure….transform….regroup….and engage again.

My wife once said that teaching is the only job where your job description changes EVERYDAY. No two days are the same. Ever. Think about it. A fireman knows that either they will or will not put out fires that day. Teachers put out fires….start fires….talk about starting fires….prevent fires….fuel fires….or catch on fire! They are the only people that plan for the un-plannable. It’s a tough job.

It’s also the most refreshing and rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I continue live with the stigma of having to live up to a Private Lutheran School Teacher expectation. Is that too bad? Nah…but it’s an expectation. And in or out of the classroom, attempting to ALWAYS exceed that expectation gets tiring sometimes. Sometimes it feels like a never ending battle. Sometimes it’s a thankless, never ending battle. Sometimes it’s a losing….thankless….neverending battle.

It’s no wonder my colleagues at Faith Lutheran are such amazing people. I know I roll my eyes at the stodgy-ness of some of their philosophies. Perhaps the philosophy that needs to be under the microscope should be mine! My rolling eyes never seem to think that though. But, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have the freedom to go to my Lord in prayer every day. In a school that not only embraces that….but encourages that….well, it makes the un-plannable approachable. It’s makes fire feel bearable. It helps the weakest fighter go the distance.

Alright…I’ll go there. Why am I not working as an actor on Broadway? Heck…working as an actor anywhere! Why? I don’t know. God’s plan, I guess. I can tell you this. Ten years ago, I sure wouldn’t have told you that I was going to be a high school teacher. But then again, ten years ago I was pursuing an acting career…and I was in a self-loathing, self-indulgent, self-ish…pit. My ambitions consisted of landing that commercial audition and feeling the warmth of the spotlight on my face in front of a crowd. Sounds okay for the novice goal-setter! But for the ambitious, A.D.D. actor….nope. It wasn’t enough. I was so scattered…I didn’t know what was around the corner. All I knew was that when I turn that corner, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go next.

Today…I turn the corner and find myself inspired by the shy wallflower in my 4th block class whose eyes sparkled when I used her example in class. Or the tough-guy jock in 1st block who actually made eye-contact with me today and….listened. A milestone? Maybe. A goal reached? I wouldn’t necessarily say that. But I do know that every morning…I put on both of my socks…I shave my patchy face….I eat my Apple Jacks….and I dust myself off, and start all over again.

Those who can’t…teach?

How about: “Those who have faith…teach.”

Without the grace of God…the support of my God…the wisdom and strength of my Lord…I could not even get out of bed. I’d be spineless, scared…and lazy. I’m not the example of a good teacher. Shoot! Not by a long shot! But I’m the example of an average student. One who lives, breathes, prays and learns with my classes everyday. I wouldn’t change that opportunity for anything in the world. Funny thing is….for a silly starry-eyed wanna-be actor….I never even saw it coming!

I don’t agree with Rocky. “…because I can’t sing or dance.” Eh…what does he know. I’ve seen Rhinestone! But I admire the character’s determination. I admire the fact that he knows what he NEEDS to do, whether or not he WANTS to do it. I can’t explain WHY I need to be a teacher. But I do know this…it’s not because of the teacher’s lounge coffee or the promise of a juicy red apple at the end of class. It extends so far beyond that. I can’t tell you why! I don’t know myself.

Instead…I’ll take my summer breaks, thank you! (Or as I call them, “scrimmages.”) Because if it wasn’t for those long runs up the stairs of the library, and the punching bags…and the desire….Rocky would have never gone the distance. I just continue to hope to last the next round….with faith.

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