16 September 2011

Get Better, Not Bitter

Today's entry title comes from a newly-popular mantra here in my hometown.  See, we have a local boy (Tyler Sash) getting ready for his rookie year in the NFL.  And this Get Better Not Bitter motto has become his catchphrase, recently emblazoned on various apparel items for purchase here in town...which were snapped up faster than walking tacos at my dinner table.  The general idea, I presume, to not let life be a downer, but to work everyday to get better, as it were.

And while I'm all about local youth making something of themselves, I'm not really a jump-on-the-bandwagon type of person.  Thus, I have not purchased a GBNB shirt.  I simply haven't felt the need.  I can admire the idea without wearing the sweatshirt, right?

But, I would like to illustrate how this very mantra has woven itself into my life recently.  Last night, I attended a company picnic with several other family members, and a cousin of mine, who is a current senior at the local high school, asked me if I missed teaching there.

Naturally, I gave a pat, nondescript answer at the time.  Because, really, the truth might have hurt.  Even myself.

The answer to the question is no.  I don't.  I surely thought I would.

However, I should clarify - I do miss my colleagues. 

Hm.  Wait.  I miss one quite regularly, and about three on an intermittent basis.

I do not miss the kids.  At all.  And here's why.

This cousin of mine is enrolled in Advanced Chem (of her own volition, mind).  She does a fair bit of complaining (especially on facebook) about how hard it is, how demanding the teacher is, etc.  Also, this rant is sprinkled with typical 18-year-old remarks about graduating, getting out of town, etc.  The grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome.

And that conversation led to this epiphany: for all the character-education and self-esteem-building we have done for our kids, we've left out this one very important lesson:  doe your worke with a chearfull harte ... as they might have said in early American times.  Bless my cousin, she's going to tough out Adv Chem, because she knows it's academically good for her...but her bitter heart isn't going to change the class, the teacher, or difficulty.

In general, the art of being cheerful is quite a lost one, I think.  The mindset begins when people have perspective, that idea that somewhere, someone is in a tougher, rougher spot than they.  When they've got a grip on that very simple idea, their hearts can begin to go about the business of living on a wave of buoyancy.

Maybe it's not fair to expect 18-year-olds to master that skill.  But I still want them to do it anyway. 

So, that's probably why I don't miss the kids yet.  My expectations of them, and what they actually do don't add up very well.  Get Better, Not Bitter, right?  That's why I resigned last spring.  And that's why I prefer working with college students. 


  1. HD:

    Yes, that reminds me of the story of a man who was bitter because he had no shoes until he met a man with no feet.

  2. Well said, very true. Wonder if part of it is students not wanting to be at school or not wanting to study a particular subject.

  3. @Whit: I really like that saying, and actually used it the other day.

    @Skinny: Quite possibly, actually. A very sad side effect from No Child Left Behind, maybe?