Life lessons and aha moments come at unexpected times. Yesterday, as I ate lunch, I watched the first episode in Jerry Seinfeld’s newest project called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I loved the Seinfeld show and continue to try and see Jerry Seinfeld in action.
The gist of this new show is that Jerry selects a car based on his “guest”, picks them up, they travel around catching up, and eventually stop for coffee. In this episode, he was catching up with his Seinfeld show friend, Michael Richards. As I listened, they began talking about the success of the show and their craft. At that point in the conversation Michael started to cut himself down saying he studied too hard and should have been more relaxed about preparing. He implied that others had fun and he didn’t because he felt that preparing took so much practice. Immediately, Jerry stopped him and said, “I don’t accept the judging of process.” He continued by stating, “we are all trying to get to the same island.” He then finished with, “what matters is when the red light comes on” … “our job is to make sure they enjoy it”. Jerry and Michael go on to talk about how it’s about working selflessly not selfishly and the importance in remembering that.
That is teaching in a nutshell…selfless not selfish. Our goal, as teachers, is to leave kids in a better place than when we get them. Each teacher has to prepare in the way that makes him or her feel ready to “perform”, to put on the best show possible. As I have reflected back on what I heard them say, I have wondered…in what ways might we support our-self and others in doing just that? And more importantly, how can we build each other up and not tear each other down with judgment as we all work to achieve that same goal? How can we be a positive influence and not a negative influence?
What I choose to take from this conversation is this: we each have to do what we feel we have to do to prepare, we must respect that in ourselves and others, and we must presume positive intentions of others, because we all have the same audience and the same goal. That audience, those kids, deserve our very best. Parents, communities, and the world are depending on us. We are all here for the same reason doing what we can. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better we do better.” We are all doing best we know how.
So as many of you, my friends, go back to begin a new year with students, my hope is that you take care of yourself, you take care of each other, and give the kids the best experience possible. Make sure they enjoy the journey you get to share with them.
*Coincidentally, I heard about Comedians in Cars Having Coffee on NPR as I drove home from some class visits last spring, and yes, it took me this long to get back to it. I will be watching the rest of the episodes. Who knows what else I might learn.