Like many of you, I took a pseudo-break from work last week. Though I retired from the classroom a year ago, my mind constantly revolves around education. That’s really not surprising, since I’m still writing about it and consulting in the private sector. In addition, I’ve always looked for ways to connect everything “out in the world” to my teaching, so my brain has learned to default to that mode after 30 years.
Before I sat down at my computer today, I walked my dogs while listening to a podcast. Things were going pretty well as I laughed along with Martin Short and the hosts of Smartless (Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes) and I focused on not letting my Great Dane Karate Kid me in the knee with her head again. But then Martin Short compared his stint on Saturday Night Live to preparing for final exams on a weekly basis. That set my mind off on grading controversies and school reform… Hayes redirected me when he asked Martin Short about advice he had once given Sean about life, and Short replied, “Oh, you mean the nine categories?”
Short reminisced about a tough period he was going through in his late twenties when he first asked himself, “What if your career was one of nine courses you took?” He explained that you could still get a “good GPA” even if you didn’t do well in one of the categories. You can read about the categories in this article by Ben Carlson. The comedian/actor reflects on his performance in each category about once a year.
As I listened to Martin Short reflect on how his categories had shaped his life, I reflected on my decision to retire in 2019 – which had been predicated on the fact that I was flunking eight out of nine of those categories. I thought about the teachers and many others out there returning to work today, some of whom are feeling the tremendous pressure not unlike taking final exams every single day. And I wondered what it would be like if we lived in a society that did not define success as making lots of money or having a job around which everything else must revolve.
I like to take my metaphors to the extreme, so I began to question if some of Short’s categories would be considered “Core Curriculum” while others are electives. Would I get extra points if I took the Honors or AP version? Where can I get a syllabus for Creativity?
Then I remembered that I was planning to get back to work today and plopped by behind down on my chair to write this blog post.
I didn’t want to retire a year ago. But I was flunking the Martin Short School of Life big time. I’ve spent the last twelve months working on my skill gaps so that in 2020, I may have earned an “F” in Career, but everything else was a passing grade.
And that’s okay.