Am I the “Old Man?”

by ggeurs

As a reflective blogging assignment, I posed an open-ended question to my Advanced Composition students (one of the most enjoyable and fun groups of students I’ve ever had on a class roster) which asked them to consider how the experiences they have encountered in life share a similarity or similarities with Santiago, the old man in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  After posing the question to them, I started thinking about the same idea.  If I could pick out commonality between the old man and me, it would be how isolationist my profession really is.

The narration in The Old Man and the Sea focuses either on Santiago’s thoughts or on the narrator’s play-by-play of Santiago’s actions.  Despite the presence of “the boy,” the story isolates itself to focus on Santiago.  Through the joyful moments and the weary, sad ones, any emotion we experience is directly connected to Santiago.  His job would be easier if he had others to work with, but in the end all he has is himself.

Sometimes life is like that.  As a teacher, my job would be so much easier if I could do things like divide my professional responsibilities to an entire group.  In a way I can through common prep group supports and critical feedback about project ideas, but in the end, delivering lessons, grading papers, record keeping, and a myriad of other responsibilities are mine solely.

The way to avoid the trap of letting my job separate me is to purposefully reach out to others, to recognize the fact just because there are many things which I need to do on my own doesn’t mean I am doing this job on my own.  It gets so easy to not involve others in my daily life because of all the time I spend on the individual activities, but I have been the happiest in my profession when others have been involved…even if it’s just to talk about evening plans.  Santiago yearns to experience this reality, as he looks to talk to the boy about baseball.

I am Santiago.  The classroom is my boat.  The school is la mar.  My profession requires much individual work and attention, but like a buddy on a fishing vessel, my job also allows space for others to work alongside me.  And it’s those moments that are the best for me.