Thursday, September 06, 2012

wisdom and occupation

from my new favorite tv show, Warehouse 13 (season 1 episode 10), when Artie realizes all the people in the diner are the Regents , the group in charge of Warehouse 13 (a top secret government warehouse where all sorts of magical artifacts are stored). Instead of having his piece of pie with his boss in the diner, he realizes he is having a top secret meeting with all the Regents:

Artie: You really expect me to believe that...?
Valda: What exactly were you expecting, Mr. Nielsen? Hooded cloaked figures standing in half-light around a perpetually burning flame?
Regent Archer: He's seen too many movies.
Artie: I... You know, I just would have thought that... this waitress is a Regent?
Valda: John Adams was a farmer. Abraham Lincoln was a small-town lawyer. Plato, Socrates were teachers. Jesus was a carpenter. To equate judgment and wisdom with occupation is at best... insulting

I had to share this, because that last bit that Valda says is an amazing thing for the writers to add in there. "To equate judgment and wisdom with occupation is at best insulting." I do not know or understand why some people only look at the paper trail you've acquired through your career.
 I knew a custodian that was a good friend of mine when I first started teaching. Every day after school, he'd come to my room first, talking as he cleaned and I did my work. Every time I talked to him, he told me about a different experience in his life: "Why when I was a formula one racer..." or "When I owned a paper mill..." or "When I was in charge of a group of women working at a cannery..." "When I lived in Sweden..." Always something different. He always had something wise and insightful, surprising. 
Once I asked him, "Ben? If you've done all of those things in your life, what makes you stay here, cleaning up after middle-schoolers and their messy teachers?" He laughed and said, "Why wouldn't I? I'm in charge of my own little world here. I get to meet people like you. I get to be around kids. I love it. Besides, I only have my high school diploma." 
On the one hand I felt the injustice of it. Couldn't anybody see he had so much more to offer?! Why do we have to place people on pay scales according to very expensive pieces of paper - book learning is one thing, but real experience is another. Then, on the other hand, Ben wasn't upset about it. He knew that the world offers certain things to those who are willing to pay for them, and he also knew that anything he got was going to be well-earned. I do not believe he HAD to be a custodian. I actually believe he liked being one. He was every teacher's decompression tank at the end of the day. His judgement and wisdom was needed.
 I am constantly reminded that there are short-sighted people and institutions in this world, and at the same time I'm reminded that it just makes me work all the harder to be the person I wish other people would be. It makes me want to go to places where real experience is actually trusted and longed for, respected and sought out. College degrees are one thing - they can be wonderful, exciting things. But they are just that, "things", which can actually mean any number of things, not always that someone has the experience to carry out the job they supposedly trained for, well.
 There is so much I want to say about this subject, but the essence of it cannot be summed up in a 15 minute interview where the woman says, "Be succinct. Also, we do not have time to look at your picture portfolio." Because she's already looked at your resume', and of course that says everything she needs to know about you. 
I recently had an interview where the committee members actually had, literally, 20 questions which required loads of talking on my end. They encouraged me to keep going and talked to me like a person. "What sorts of things would you do to help the child who just is not succeeding?" So many avenues, so many answers, so much experience to talk about. They wanted it all. They wanted me to talk them through my pictures. They nodded, they laughed. They understood. That was amazing. 
There are people out there who understand the worth of experience. If I'm not okay being a clerk at a department store, which I could be, then I must look in places where I am appreciated, for just who I am right now. I've worked very hard to understand and hone my skill sets. Nothing, not one thing, should replace experience.
I recently had someone ask me to apply for a job at his school, because, as he said, "I want real people working for me. People who've been there and know kids. You're an amazing teacher, and a good person. I want people like you!" 

John Adams was a farmer. Abraham Lincoln was a small-town lawyer. Plato, Socrates were teachers. Jesus was a carpenter. To equate judgment and wisdom with occupation is at best... insulting

1 comment:

sarah said...

Insightful post. I hope you get that job!!