Typically, when I stare into the mirror, I am mighty fond of the reflection. I study it a lot as I shave, brush my teeth, and do something with the feathers I have for hair. I admit I have always been a bit vain. I have noticed more, now lately, the wear and tear of the years on my face. She calls them my wrinkles, I call them my life lines. There, staring back at you, is irrefutable evidence of a life well lived. As I one of my students once said, “you can see the life on his face.”  I’ll take it as a fond attempt at saying, I’m ruggedly handsome, but then it happened. There was something different about the reflection this time. A closer look revealed certain hues on the side of my head that– had to be the light! I looked again and there they were in all their silver hued goddamned glory. I stared for a moment at those little shits and suddenly the lyrics to an old song came back to me with a whole new level of understanding. If there were ever a film made of my life, the soundtrack would be compromised primarily of Bob Segar. After seeing the formation of a grey streak coming, my heart sank a fathom and that line from Against The Wind,”I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then,” has etched itself into my psyche. I do wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.


I can see you looking at me like I have three heads. I have said it before and I will say it again, the hardest part of teaching has nothing to do with the interactions I have with those goofy little globs that sit in front of me. The hardest part is in the maneuvering around the delicate and fragile egos of the adult forms of those globs. More stress comes in the handling of adults rather than children. Case in point, when you return from lunch to find young children running around the parking lot, dashing in and out of cars, while the adults stand around in their gossip circles and texting on their phones. I asked a child what she was doing sitting in the middle of my parking spot. She looked at me with an air of annoyance and said, “reading.” Strangely I said, “Sounds good.” and parked elsewhere. At a minimum, at least she knew what the hell she was doing. When I approached the adults on duty they were having a conversation about drinking games. I confronted them about not watching the children and they told me, in no uncertain terms to worry about teaching!  It is examples like that one, that make me wonder how the same state that issued me a license to teach, gave a license to some of the same in that circle jerk of irresponsibility.


A colleague of mine was in the army. He explained to me that the Army, was grossly inefficient with its use of material, men, time, and other resources. He then expressed his sarcastic joy that when he became a teacher there would not be much of a learning curve. I couldn’t agree more. Especially with schools use of  time. I get two preps a day, one of which is a PLC meeting, the other is a weekly department/staff/grade level that at times serves a purpose, but more often then not makes me want to gouge out my eyes and pour gasoline in them. I spend that time writing a list of all the necessary tasks I could be completing while I am sitting here having my time wasted. Half the time the reason for meeting is so we can show the district that we met. Truly a noble use of time if you asked me. Most of my day is utilized for tasks that have very little to do with teaching in my classroom. After that, I have another meeting.


If you look at any random school you will see the jock, the party girl, the bullies, the stoner and burn out, the social butterfly, the wallflower and the neanderthals, the band nerds, theater dorks, and the choir things…and that’s just the administrative team!


One of the phrases I hate the most is, “those who cannot do, teach.” Sadly enough there are many in the classroom and in the front office who emulate this silly notion on a regular basis. You can see them on their phones during team planning and faculty meetings and they are usually out of the building as soon as, if not before, the kids leave. They have an excuse for everything and are usually the most beloved by faculty members.  The next stanza to the phrase says, “Those who can’t teach, teach gym…” but that’s another story; present readers excluded of course.


The way I see it, teaching is pretty useless. Hold on a minute, before you light that torch and start passing out pitch forks hear me out. What we do is useless. They can get the same education either looking up stuff on the internet or by acquiring ten dollars in late fees at the public library. If distribution of knowledge was all that we did, computers could do a better job. What we provide is far greater than anything that is measured on some exam. We provide the love and nurturing that sometimes is far too lacking in these peoples lives. We provide the encouragement and the mental fortitude for them to carry on. Why is this something I listed as wishing I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then? Love costs. Love takes a toll on you that often is far more than what we wish to pay. Then you find yourself staring in the mirror at a touch of grey, wondering if it is worth it. Its getting harder and harder for the reflection in the mirror to answer that question.

As always thank you for reading Tales From The Red Pen. You honor me every week! Until next week, I bid you Adieu.



  • Those who don’t love kids and love teaching are what’s wrong with education…from before my time, during my time, and now during your time. Aaron, you are so very insightful.

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