The saying that “Those who can do. Those who can’t teach,” used to grind my gears like nothing else. I would think of the job demands placed on teachers’ time outside of school –coaching, advising, committees, preparing lessons and assessing student work — all while working toward mandatory advanced degrees and/or re-licensing and most of us were also trying to raise a family, and while many of us were holding down second and third jobs just to make ends meet. There was precious little time to “do” anything but the teaching job and much less to contribute anything original to our fields of expertise.
The now-deceased Frank McCourt authored the bestselling memoirs Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis. Prior to his literary accomplishments, McCourt taught public school in New York City. for thirty years. Angela’s Ashes was published when McCourt was 69 years old and recently retired. When a journalist, who was either ignorant or dismissive of the demands placed on a teacher’s time and energy, asked what took him so long to publish his first book, McCourt replied, “I was teaching, that’s what took me so long . . . When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you’re not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.”
I can relate to McCourt’s late entry into the world of professional letters. When I began writing novels, I was in my mid-forties and had already been teaching for over twenty years. The writing required me to give up coaching and to devote as much of my “spare” time that wasn’t already being spent preparing for class, grading essays, and being present as a husband and father at home. Most of my writing time was carved out late at night after everyone else went to bed, on weekends, during school vacations, and throughout the summer months. To find writing time, I had to eschew other diversions, mainly television. I ain’t whining; I’m just saying. For most teachers, especially those with children of their own, it’s all we can do just to stay ahead of the next class period.
Anyway, in addition to my teaching, I’ve been able to “do” to the tune of three novels with a fourth (Belfast, Ohio) being released this month. I’ve also written for Lake Erie Living Magazine, and I regularly publish personal essays here on my blog.
I’m not alone, however. In fact, there are a number of teachers in the Port Clinton City Schools who not only teach but do in their chosen field.
From our physical education and health department, Del Culver and Seth Benner do not just preach the importance of fitness and maintaining a healthy diet, they model it. Over the years, they have both been active in a variety of exercise, including running, swimming, cycling, volleyball, softball, hiking, endurance races, and any number of water sports. In addition, they both remain remarkably fit with BMIs still in line with their days as high school athletes.
Adam Murray and Bruno Bush from the music department are actively involved in the arts outside of their excessively-demanding, school-year schedule of concerts, musicals, and various performances throughout the school year. This summer, Adam performed with the Kaboom Collective, an orchestra comprised of some of the Cleveland area’s finest young musicians. The Collective recorded a brilliant album with the critically-acclaimed trio The Accidentals.
Meanwhile, Bruno served as the musical director for The Wizard of Oz and Cabaret for the Sandstone Summer Theater in Lorain County, northeast Ohio’s premier community theater and nonprofit teaching theater. In addition, Bruno composes orginal music and performs with Zero to Sixty, an a cappella group who perform in northeast Ohio.
Good on ya, boys!
Matthew from the New Testament is often given credit for coining the phrase to “practice what you preach.” In fact, the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus composed the line, “Practice yourself what you preach” two centuries prior to the writing of Matthew’s gospel. Anyway, I say, “Hats off!” to all teachers who find the time and energy to put into practice in their lives, what they “preach” in their classrooms.