Sunday, April 6, 2014

Walking to Work and Back, 2014 (Preface to Two Beings)

Walking to Work and Back, 2014 (Preface to Two Beings)
I have often marveled at those who not only work full-time in the schools, but also do second or even third jobs.  I would count the duties at home, of those who are raising children or taking care of elders or the ailing, as at least another full-time job. This burden, that has its joys as well as its sorrows, appears to fall most heavily on women, who make up much of the teaching staff, especially in the lower grades. But many men also carry this weight, in addition to their workload from their teaching jobs.  

For both men and women teachers, the job-related work often eats up many hours beyond the official work-day and work-week.

The travails of teaching in the public schools of a city such as New York may or may not be known to the general public in this country or abroad. It is often a difficult job, to put it mildly -- some would say an impossible one. And experience does not always lessen the difficulty or reverse the impossibility. But teachers adapt and even find sustenance from their work -- and
not just financially, vital as that is.  

If they are unable to do this, they quit, are forced out -- or somehow continue to teach, finding solace in other things. Of course, many successful teachers also fall by the wayside, increasingly so as the pressures mount on the schools. And success can be a transient thing, especially in a profession where so many changeable factors are outside one's control.

I describe, in these verses (in Two Beings), my own walks home after work in the evenings. For many years, I used to travel back and forth from work using public transportation, spending an hour and a half, on average, each way. I was younger then, and I was able to cope. 

At the time, I was teaching my own subject (physics) and I felt that what I was doing, even with less effort than I now put in, was more meaningful and helpful to the students.  So going to work and back used to be different, for me, than it is now.  The morning commutes, mainly by bus, were relatively peaceful, with my mind settling on what exactly I was going to teach that day, and how I would go about it.  The long trek back was fatiguing.  

But things do change, for all of us.  

Over the past several years, I have worked closer to where I live, walking just over a half-hour each way. 

The walks back home in the evenings, even in the darkness and cold of the winters, are now relatively tranquil (as the rush back home may not be for those with major family responsibilities or a second paid job).  The walks to work in the mornings, even in the brightest of seasons, are very different. 

In the evenings and nights, I walk through the city streets, tired from a long day at work, trundling my school things.  But I notice many things, especially the changing skies and the trees.  In the mornings, I manage to munch on a bagel and sip coffee while waiting at intersections.  But my mind is cluttered, racing, preoccupied and confused.

At work, the teaching instincts and habits take over, and I do what many school-teachers do, seeking to notice and attend to the students while still trying to maintain focus on the subject matter. But it is a sad, mad rush, and, increasingly, a cruel, even criminal business, despite whatever extraordinary efforts students and teachers may put in.

We are all different, and so no two teachers are alike. But there may be some things that many of us have in common or may at least empathize with. So here's one old teacher walking back from teaching, late in the evening, and then going back to work early the next day -- and what he sees, feels and thinks as he does this.  Perhaps we shall hear from others.

Two Beings

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