The title is a lyric from the song, The Edge of America. I adore this song. Simply adore it. I have for a long time but did not love it when I first heard the album, Big Thing. I believe that I started to love it when I made an emotional connection to it. This emotional connection was a simple one. I felt like the song spoke of my students. Let me give you some background here. As you all probably know, I have been a teacher for the past 16 years. 16. Like many teachers out there, I went into the profession to make a difference. Sounds simple, but it was anything but. I planned to be a Social Studies teacher (History/Political Science/Sociology) but that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself being a special education teacher through a long term substitute teaching job. I discovered that special education was not quite what I thought it was. It was broader than the images I had in my mind and much more intense. Yet, at the time, it made perfect sense, especially for the school I worked at. You see, my students, for the most part, struggled, behaviorally and emotionally. Academics were the very last focus for many of them as the majority of them struggled with the harsh realities of life. Many of these realities were ones that I was lucky to have never had to deal with. My students dealt with every social issue, imaginable, from poverty to racism to abuse to mental illness to drug addiction and more. Yet, they were just kids, trying to make their way in a world in that seemed harsh and unjust. Many of these students of mine seemed to fit many of the lyrics to this song. They lived in the city (“concrete beach”). They didn’t have anything to lose (“there’s nothing left to lose”). Anger certainly was often the most prominent emotion (“Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess.”) It wasn’t easy to teach these kiddos, but, for a long time, I felt supported in my work. I felt rewarded for my work from the kids themselves, from their families, from my school, and from the public. I felt successful. Unfortunately, this feeling of support has not been there for awhile.
Where did the support go? This is a complex answer and one that isn’t part of the scope of this blog. Let’s just say–all areas of support have decreased. Some areas have been not just unsupportive but harmful. Last year, I interviewed at other schools with the hope that switching to a new building with a fresh set of staff and administration as well as a different population of students would re-ignite my desire to teach, my desire to make a difference in this way. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I now know that the song at the center of this blog isn’t necessarily about my students (current or former) but instead is more about me and where I’m at. I’m at the edge of America. I’m part of an educational system that is undergoing dramatic changes. Even worse, I’m part of an educational system that exists in a state in which teachers and teaching have been undermined at best and openly attacked at worse by the people in power, at least from my perspective.
“This is where it ends. There’s nothing left to lose. Nothing to protest.” This is exactly where I’m at with my profession, my career. There is plenty that I should be protesting but I can’t. This is the end of the road for me as an educator, as a teacher. I decided I was going to be a teacher at 16 and now, at 38, I’m ready to walk away. I gave it my all for a very long time. I fought. I protested. “Paradise is lost. Recognition never realized. Salvation lost among the crowd.” Like Duran asks, I do wonder, “Where is your nation now?” While I ask that question, I am walking over the edge to whatever comes next, whatever my next career will be. As I ponder the unknown of my future and listen to this song, I can’t help but to think about how John Taylor must have felt in 1997 when he walked from Duran. Did he feel like I feel? I have many mixed emotions. While I’m ready to go and really have been for a few years, part of me is filled with sorrow. This big part of who I have been will no more. Did he feel that way, even when he thought he was making the best choice for himself? Another part of me is just scared. I don’t know what the future will bring.
I know that I will need to be focused on getting a new job. While I don’t want to decrease everything that Rhonda and I do, I have to be realistic, too. This blog isn’t making us any money. Our book could but that isn’t out yet. The convention is just an event put on by fans for fans. I may have to pull away from this–I don’t want to. (Unless, someone, somewhere wants to pay us! I would gladly accept that job!!) Yet, my main goal must be finding a job and, eventually, my next career. For now, I’m looking at political/non-profit organizations. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it. Maybe then, with a new career, a new me, I can walk away from the edge.