Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Checking the Mirrors

I used to ride in the third seat of our old station wagon facing backward. I stared back into the traffic imagining whatever I could think to imagine. I was the turret gunner on a space ship. I was a spy tracking the cars following us. And once in a while I got philosophical and the road was my past unfurling.

I have spent a great deal of time since then looking back through time at the way things have been, the decisions and mistakes I have made. I play what-if and should-have as though these were games to be won through vigor and repetition, but winning and losing both seem elusive.

Yesterday I had the chance to look backward in a different way. I was at the wheel this time, glancing in the mirrors. I listened to two colleagues from my old school lament the state of the place. They said the things I had said for my last few years there. I felt their frustration and my own relief.

Back when I was sure that it was my duty to fix that school. I just had to get myself heard. So I shouted louder each day. You can imagine how well that went.

I was churlish, hurt, and angry. I spun out of control. I was being told to let it go, roll with the changes, and get on board. I didn't see any way that I could.

When I left there, I was relieved but stuck with lingering doubts about myself. Why was I unable to accept? Why couldn't I just shut up and go along? I felt defective, immature, and stupid.

Yesterday, hearing how things still are and hearing how defeated other people sounded, I almost smiled. Not out of malice. I just felt vindicated about some things.

I acted like a child back then. There were better options. I'm not absolving myself of that. I should have found better ways to express myself and cope, but the situation really was as broken as I had imagined. I could see it in my rearview mirror, clear as day.

Eyes forward now, I see that the larger system of education is broken. Sometimes I shout about it, but I catch myself before I've gone too far. It is peaceful in my classroom when read, write, speak, and listen. I work for the students not the politicians. Administrators sign my check, but they're happy so long as I get the results they're after and keep quiet.

I'm no longer sitting backward in the third seat playing games. I've driving forward down the highway away from that old place that made me feel so crazy. Who knows where I'll end up. Only way to find out is to write on.