More than “Just a …”

So I almost started a podcast about teaching. No, really. I was in my fourth block last week and while my students worked on a reading assessment, I spent a good half hour filling Post-It notes with the outline, format, and topics for a podcast called Ninth Period, which would be conversations about being a teacher. And I’d also probably spend some time each episode pointing out the ridiculous of those in my fiend who purport themselves to be “thought leaders” or “experts”–you know, people who bestow upon themselves the superlative “innovative” or who will always remind teachers that they need to be “humble” or “think of the kids.” I guess I figured that I spend enough time on Twitter pointing out this stupidity that a long-form version of it would be a great idea. So, three Post-Its and a half an hour later, I had the idea.

Said idea unraveled pretty quickly, though. It began with the title. Ninth Period as the extra help period at the high school I attended, and was anyone outside of Sayville High School alumni from the 1980s or 1990s really going to get that? And was I really going to be able to have a guest come on a regular basis–after all, the show probably needed to be bi-weekly at least. Plus, podcasting is an incredibly crowded field and most podcasts about teaching don’t punch down (or maybe they do–I didn’t listen to any). Finally, this was part of what I did when I blogged about teaching, and one of the reasons I stopped was that nobody gave a shit. Now, I know that from having three other podcasts with small audiences that people giving a shit isn’t the reason you do it, but this was different. But it was related to my job and therefore it felt like it needed to count more. And ultimately? That should be the reason I put the work into a show.

So the podcast idea has been jettisoned, and that should be the end of it, but it made me wonder why I felt the need to put so much work into it in the first place. Sure, it was just an idea, but I have ideas all the time and I don’t draw up a three Post-It Note plan. Well, it comes down to something that has been a problem of mine for most of my life: I feel like I have to be “more than.”

I suppose many will tell you that is actually a positive trait; it shows drive or ambition. I guess that’s true, but I am more prone to seeing the crippling flip side, which is the guilt and shame that comes hen you are just in your role or life and not being anyone or doing anything extraordinary. It’s a learned guilt that was piled up vi years of feeling like I as in academic competition with those around me coupled with the shame of hearing about people who didn’t do more with their jobs or passion. So, in school, I would grade grub and be an obnoxious smart kid (although to be honest, I’m not sure if that came across … I certainly look back and think that’s how I was) who did he is best to at least front when it came to achieving but dep down was wildly insecure. And that carried over into adulthood and my teaching career. From the outset, I had this idea that it wasn’t enough to be “just a teacher.” I needed to be the above and beyond and … oh, I don’t know, parlay that passion into something bigger lest I hear the phrase “It’s a shame you didn’t do anything else with this.”

Yes, the voice saying that is an internal one and it’s the same toxic bullshit that makes me regret not being one of the cool kids, because while I know none of that actually matters, that toxic bullshit is incredibly prevalent. Why be when you can be more? You know, even though I actually am very uncomfortable with self-promotion or being the center of attention.

I contain multitudes.

Anyway, I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rid myself of this. Just the other day, I had a good day at work because I was just focused on what I was doing; however, I couldn’t help but think of all the things I wasn’t doing or could be doing, or what I could be doing differently. But when I stepped back and processed these thoughts, I had to ask: what is it that I would do differently or what more could I be doing What has this job brought me in return for the extra and for the above and beyond? “Thanks for all you do?” And why was I ever doing the more? Because i felt I had to? In order to prove some sense of commitment that I have convinced myself I have to have?

Besides, the extra things I want to do take me beyond my workplace and field and they allow me to not have to spend every waking moment engulfed in a job that I’m supposed to consider a “calling.” And making that choice–which is not a shame to be making nor is a lazy one–makes an important different.

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