Reinventing yourself at my age is no easy task. One of the reasons I left teaching was because I was beginning to feel like a dinosaur and didnt want to change my values to fit those of another generation.
Now, one of the things I always liked about teaching was that I felt it kept me young. Constantly being around teenagers affects the way you see the world. If youre lucky, it keeps you plugged in to the positive changes going on in the world. If youre unlucky, it makes you view the world more and more pessimistically.
Fortunately, I liked most of the kids I taught over the years and sympathized with their viewpoint. Most of them seemed more positive and optimistic than the adults I knew. I enjoyed working with them, and they gave me hope that the world was becoming a better place.
Unfortunately, I began to lose that feeling the last few years I taught. Its not that I didnt like the kids just as much, I did. I even liked some of the kids whose attitudes I was no longer willing to adjust to and put up with.
More and more, students came to class with an attitude. They came with every intention of getting in the teachers face. Don’t misunderstand me, though, Im all for attitude. I have attitude and always have had. Having "attitude" helps you to stand up for what you believe in a world that often doesn’t give a damn what you believe and would gladly steamroll you into some mindless conformity. But having an attitude doesn’t mean you have to show it all the time.
I spent most of my grade school years fighting because I had an attitude. When I get angry, and thank God that doesnt happen very often, I have way more attitude than any sane man would want. I think I inherited it from my father who became an All-City tackle in Seattle by getting mad in games. Its probably not entirely irrelevant that my favorite comic character is Donald Duck whos famous for his outbursts.
As a teacher I enjoyed teasing kids and having them tease me back. It was often an easy way to defuse an emerging problem, and most kids thought it was fun to tease the teacher. Personally, I always thought school, and life in general, should have been a hell of a lot more fun than it was. After all, this was learning, not torture, and learning is what life is about. Isn’t it? So, why shouldn’t learning be fun?
But the last generation of kids I taught was different. They came in sounding like rappers, WWF clones, or spoiled athletes who think its cool to taunt their opponent. The simplest request was often met with belligerence, no matter how reasonable the request. Boy or girl, made no difference.
Sadly enough, I felt too old to adapt to this new style. I wasnt willing to put up with it, no matter how much I liked a kid. I knew that it was just a fad, part of the current culture, but I wasnt willing, or able, to adapt to the style, understand it or not.
Simply put, at some age it gets harder and harder to change your values and your ways of seeing the world. Im afraid Ive reached that age.