Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The World to Come

As my final exams approach, rather alarmingly, talk has once more arisen in my house about what I will do post-Graduation. Teacher training is all but at an end, and this, it seems, suggests that the one thing I am allowed to do is strive to become a teacher.

The question of whether or not I feel ready to become a teacher has never been raised.

Allow me to explain. Yes, I have had the training. I could comfortably go into a classroom and teach. The actual job isn't the problem. I had a table thrown at me, teenagers shout at me and disrespect vaulted around the classroom, but the students aren't the problem. Not their behaviour, anyway.

The problem is that becoming a teacher is more than just training. It involves a sense of acting in loco parentis, in the place of the parent. I'm twenty two years old, technically the youngest person in my family, and my ability to take care of myself in the Big Scary World has not been demonstrated to either my parents or myself. And, to put it bluntly, I'm not ready to be a parent.

I'm sure this isn't a shock. There aren't many people my age who feel ready to become parents. I am sure there are many who have children at my age (or younger) who don't feel ready until they are holding their newborn son or daughter in their hands. But that's different. That's an actual emotional, parental connection with a child.

I don't believe this will last forever. Yes, starting any new job is difficult, so I don't expect to settle in right away. But I think I should still have a choice in what I do with my life before going into teaching. To go from primary, to secondary, to tertiary level education, only to go right into the world of work without any loans to pay off seems a frightening ordeal, and it makes me wonder when I would actually get a chance to live my life to a reasonable degree.

New teachers are kept on their toes for at least the first two years of their career. Am I supposed to wait until my mid-twenties to do the things I want to do in my early twenties? I'm not even talking about anything particularly adventurous. I'm talking about the chance to live my final years of youth, working outside of a school. I want to write, to use my writing in new ways, to hopefully earn an actual income from writing that can be sustained when I start teaching.

I don't see the problem in that. But then, I'm not the one questioning my decisions.

As I thought about all of this today, I happened to pick up some reading material for my English course. Two articles: 'Death of the Author' and 'Against Interpretation'. When I finished reading them, and applying what I could gather from them to Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, it occurred to me that, in reading these pieces, in assimilating them, in thinking about them within the context of another piece, and my own reaction to said piece, I was preparing myself for a future in writing.

What is the point of such realisations without the actual future in writing?

The world to come, the world of work and relationships and the dreaded act of Growing Up cannot be without writing. That's a plain and simple fact that's central to my being. If I can't chase the dream of writing for a living for a year without school or exams or lesson plans, how can I ever say that I feel fulfilled in my life. Teaching is important to me, but it's not the only thing that's important to me. If it was, I wouldn't be an interesting teacher at all.

I think, soon, the time will come to explain this to my parents. I don't mean to sound disrespectful to them - I understand they want me to make something of myself as a teacher - but I don't want to do something that goes against who I am just to make them happy. Respect goes two ways, and if I'm ever going to actually face the world - as a teacher, a writer or, to borrow a phrase from John Hughes, a fry cook on Venus - I have to be seen in their eyes as an adult, capable of making my own decisions, allowed to pursue my own dreams, and prepared for the chance that I make my own mistakes. I wouldn't expect anything less from my students, so why from myself?

To quote Diana Scharf Hunt, "Goals are dreams with deadlines." I'm asking for a year.

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