Do It With Passion

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At the start of January, I retired from Sonoma State University after 30 years of teaching. My colleagues thought it was a good time to go and indeed I know educators face immense challenges these days. But I'm not convinced they're greater than they were 60 years ago when I heard my own teachers muse about the imminent crisis in education and explain that it wasn't only or just a bad thing.

Indeed, in their minds -- and mine -- the realities of the crisis in education have made teaching all the more imperative as a profession. Today, with jobs in short supply and anxiety levels rising, every drop of education counts more than ever before.

I don't regret a life spent in classrooms, especially among 17 and 18-year-olds who talked intelligently about everything from homesickness to lovesickness and, as one student put it, "the meaning of the universe." If I were 25 again, I'd become a teacher all over again knowing that education is woefully underfunded and that teachers are sadly underpaid. In our imperfect world, teaching is, for me, as close to a perfect profession as humanly possible.

If you're young or old and thinking of teaching I say, "Do it and do it with passion!" Teaching will nourish and inspire you. Moreover, the rewards of teaching keep coming. Last December, a student I taught in the 1970s showed up to share memories of our time together. I'd given him a shelf of books, he remembered, including John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Now he had a book for me, Jack Kerouac's "On The Road," a classic I've read again and again and know almost by heart. I took it just the same, knowing it would accompany me on the road that leads to the kind of life-long adventures that provide teachers and students alike with real world wisdom.
With a Perspective, I'm Jonah Raskin.

Jonah Raskin is working on a book about the idea of wilderness in American literature.