Monday, April 08, 2013

Time for another commitment...

I turned 66 recently -- full social security eligibility -- and am contemplating retirement. This is very hard on me. Part of me abhors the idea of retirement. I love teaching. I love my students. I am thrilled to have captive audience for my silly shenanigans and I relish those "aha!" moments that, after 33 years teaching preteens, I can pretty well predict.

Anyway, I made a commitment in 1971 to Sheila Shaw. I am far from a perfect husband, but I have managed to keep the basics of that commitment and I love her with everything I have. That commitment resulted in promises to Brannon Shaw in 1983 and Lillian Shaw in 1988. My mistakes have been legion in the parenting department, but neither of the girls can doubt my love.

After teaching, with great enjoyment but without a permanent commitment, for 19 years, then taking 11 years off for business efforts, I reentered education, this time, on purpose, in 1999. And, this time,  I made a conscious commitment. Part of that was a commitment to love my students and to find joy in teaching them. I occasionally find myself nose to nose with some little 10-year-old miscreant, but even then I think they know I love them.

Now I face old age. Today my digital buddy, the Questing Parson, gave his goals for old age. I think I can endorse them. I too am determined to keep growing as I "grow old". Time for another commitment.

"I'm Old" by the Questing Parson


  1. I see my comment got killed along with the spam.

    "Part of that was a commitment to love my students and to find joy in teaching them."

    Love doesn't seem like the right word here. What if the kids don't reciprocate? Love them anyway? That makes you a tool.

    1. The spam is irritating. Snarky comments can be as well.

      Well, I'm not sure what you mean by "a tool", Fred. There have certainly been times that my nine and ten year-old students have interpreted my actions (grades, assignments, discipline) as less than loving, and I will be the first to admit that I have been and am far from a perfect teacher. But I believe my first duty is to the well-being of the students charged to my care. I have tried to fulfill that duty, and the two commitments you quote, the first to my students, the second to myself.

      Life is full of sorrow, unfairness, tragedy, irritations, and (believe this 66 year-old) aches and pains. Part of successful living is finding the love and joy anyway. I choose to do that.

      Recently I said something to the effect that I love each of my students. One of my companions reacted with disbelief. I explained, that love, to me, is not some magical force, something you "fall" into, etc. It is a commitment. I choose to love my students, to try to keep their best interests uppermost even when they are least "lovable." I am not perfect at that, but is my sincere goal.

  2. I suppose you should get kudos for your maximum avuncular effort.

    But such effort outside of family or tribe doesn't wear well in the long march of evolution. This seems like a more recent experiment by multi-cultural loving Americans who, if past is any prologue, will be used and thrown away.

  3. Whether you accept Genesis or Lucy or mathematics as your basis of reasoning, we are all cousins.

    Have a great Sunday, Fred.

  4. No, we are not all cousins, and it makes a difference.

    If you think it makes no difference, then you are wrong.

    What evidence do you have that we are all cousins? Sounds more like a political position.

    Evolutionary biologists have studied this in great detail. You are essentially telling me that Hamilton's rule does not apply. Really? Please expound. Here for a casual and recent debate.

  5. It is interesting to me that you have become so het up over this little post of mine. Still I'll answer as best I can.

    We humans seem more alike than different in general, and I have used these three disciplines to illustrate that. I will not pretend to be a Biblical scholar, a geneticist, or a mathematician but I have read that…
    -- Genesis makes us all cousins by virtue of common ancestors, Adam and Eve.
    -- At least some respected scientists claim we have a common ancestor from a few thousand years ago.
    -- Mathematically we need only 30 generations or so to put our total ancestors above the population of the earth, and even taking into account the many ways in which each of us is his own cousin, only a few additional generations would be necessary to cover those discrepancies.

    Cousins being folks who share a common ancestor, I'll stubbornly stick to my conceit that we are all kin.

    Lordy, Fred, I've read that we share a huge percentage of our genetic material with our ape cousins!

    Yes, I do find it useful to remember our universal kinship. Like Donne, I imagine no man an island.

    My students and I spend a lot of time together during their year in my class, more actual "face-time" probably than each spends with his parents during that year. Like all humans, I am an emotional being. I find great joy (and a fair amount of discomfort too, of course) in human relationships. And I know from long and repeated observation the pain that is caused by absence of caring. When my own daughters were in elementary, I wanted teachers who cared for them individually, and I try to care for my students in a similar way.

  6. absence of caring

    Do you suppose some people get too much care? Hmmm?

    Cousins being folks who share a common ancestor, I'll stubbornly stick to my conceit that we are all kin.

    Yes, we have common ancestors, but how close do you want to hold them all? I've got a fondness for prokaryotic cells, but I'm not going to send them any cash.

    Proto-Adam and Proto-Eve had three kids: Denisovan, Neanderthal, and Cro-Magnon. There apparently was only room on Earth for One kid's descendants. Winners and Losers and all that. Or as Lenin put it: Who-Whom?

    The Cro-Magnon household had five kids: Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Polynesoid, Negroid, and Australoid. They went off and started their own countries. Mongoloid man is a little more partial to his kids than Negroid man's kids; and reasonably so, I would submit. How much effort are we to expect Australoid man to contribute to raising Caucasoid kids? We are back to Hamilton's rules: if you go too far afield in spreading the wealth, your genes disappear.

    And we expect this in most every area of life. The Bureau of Indian Affairs carefully watches the blood quantum levels of Tribal members. Maybe at the next meeting I'll announce that Terell Shaw has discovered that we are all cousins, so lets just throw the rolls open to all the cousins. It's only fair.

    There are many advocacy groups for various ethnic and racial groups in this country, and nobody expects otherwise. It is a clambering for the spoils. Unless you are of European extract. Then you just pay.