Whenever I try to describe a serious fan, I think about how serious fans seem to take any little event, memory, idea and more and relate to their idol(s) or to their fandom. I am no different. Just this past week, I took time to remember my little visit to Washington DC that took place a year ago at this time. Why did I go? Simple. I was invited to attend the Inauguration of President Obama. Not only that but I got to attend the official ball and got a tour of the White House, which led to my second meeting and picture of President Obama. (If you want to read the blog post with details of this, you can go here.) How come I got this tremendous experience? I volunteered as a team leader for the Obama campaign from summer 2008 to the very end in November 2012. I gave a lot of my time, my effort and my energy. A year later and I still feel the same. I feel so very validated by this. The experience taught me that I was capable of quite a lot and it also gave me something that I didn’t realize until recently that I needed. It gave me satisfaction in knowing that I was appreciated. It was a big thank you. I worked hard and I got something great for it. I never felt so appreciated as I did as part of that campaign. The staff I worked with directly always took the time to thank me and those volunteers working with me. Beyond that, the top campaign staff did, too, as did the President himself both in person and in many, many of his speeches, including his victory speeches. This idea of working hard, being appreciated and rewarded for it is something that I always believed even as a little kid. I knew that I worked hard in school and did well in my classes because of it. I can’t help but still believe that today as an adult even though that hasn’t always been my experience.
Recently, when thinking about my chosen career, teaching, I started to wonder when I became so frustrated at work. This, of course, is a complex answer and one that I’m sure I don’t have the complete answer for. Yet, in thinking about campaigning, I realize that part of it has to do with this core belief that working hard leads to being appreciated and rewarded. I don’t feel that it true at my paid job. It doesn’t matter how hard I work. I have worked very hard for a very long time at my job, but that doesn’t seem to matter to people. I am judged by test scores and by how well I control the behavior in my room–not by my effort at all. In fact, it doesn’t feel like I’m judged as an individual much. Instead, I am lumped into the large entity of “public education” or the large group known as “teachers”. These two large groups often create a lot of negative ideas and feelings for too many people and for too much of the public, at large, as well as for those who pass laws and budgets affecting education. In general, there is a lot of teacher blaming that takes place in a variety of places, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways from what I see. It is the exact opposite of what I felt on the campaign.
This is when Duran Duran entered my thoughts. How are they judged? Like my test scores and behavioral referrals, they are judged on hits, albums sold and tickets sold. Is this fair? Is this the best way to judge them? Of course, I would say no. I would even say that they shouldn’t worry about their commercial success. Quality music is what is important. I try to say something similar in my classroom. It doesn’t matter if I’m hitting some arbitrary number in the classroom as long as I am creating relationships with kids and helping them make progress, right? Yet, just like Duran, I can’t help how I’m judged. Now, I’m sure that people will point out how much they appreciate that I’m a teacher just like Duran hears how great they are from us, their fans. Is that enough, though? Is that enough to overcome those outside metrics by which judgement is made? Is it? I don’t know. I know that I struggle with this, especially when I have experienced appreciation and reward. Does Duran struggle like I do since, they, too, have experienced validation and public appreciation? I, obviously, can’t answer the question but I know that in thinking about this, in comparison to what I have experienced, it has made me more understanding of their desire for commercial success. I get it a little bit more now.