Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Texas Rangers

Every day, I walk into the House of Heaven, but today got to return to my favorite room that has been otherwise occupied all Fall— classes with the 3-year olds! How I love them! Always have. Always will. Because our Intern program required some re-shuffling amongst myself and my two colleagues, I reluctantly gave up the 3-year-olds for the Fall, but now have the supreme joy of getting to work with them for awhile.

It’s a rare situation—and has been my whole career—to get to work with the same kids over an 11-year span. I think it has helped shape my optimism about human growth and possibility, watching kids blossom in all their distinct ways and in all their different timetables. Many a graduation speech I’ve given professing my deep admiration and affection for a child who drove me crazy in preschool.

I often joke in workshops about meeting the incoming 3-year-olds for the first time and thinking, “I hope we’re gonna like each other, because you’re stuck with me and I’m stuck with you for the next 11 years!” And isn’t that a healthy situation, like the villages of old—and still many today—where human compatibility is not based on hanging out with just your Facebook friends, but anchored to the long haul commitment of sharing space on the planet and learning how to cope. Of course, many simply carry personal and group hatreds with them their whole life long, but hey, maybe if they had to be in music classes together every week for over a decade, they’d discover something to appreciate about the other.

So today while watching them dance around the room to my piano music, I played a little game with myself that I often do, trying to imagine who they will be at the other end of our time together in their 14-year old bodies and minds. And then it struck me— I won’t be here. 

Well, theoretically I could be still teaching here at 75 years old, but it doesn’t seem all that likely. One of the first signs of my teaching career mortality.

And retirement keeps swirling around me. I remember the TV show “The Texas Rangers,” which always began with an empty street and the rangers coming from different sides one by one until they formed a kind of V formation. And then at the end of the show, they peeled off in reverse order until one person was left walking.

In the 70’s and 80’s, my lifelong teaching colleagues and I appeared on Gaven St. in a similar way and since 2000 hit, they began leaving one-by-one. The latest is my own wife, holding the longevity record of the school teaching art for 42 years. I’m right behind her at 41, but now the street is looking might lonely. Well, not really, plenty of great young teachers who are a pleasure to walk with (including my own daughter), but all the retired oldies are like beckoning sirens singing to me.

It looks like I’ll be keeping my boots on for at least a couple of years more, but sorry, 3-year olds, I don’t believe I’ll be speaking at your graduation. 

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