Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Been a Hard Day's Night... And I've Been Working Like a Dog

Man, I've been so busy... I never sent my fan letter to Ringo Starr before the deadline! What's a man to do?

Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, a few weeks ago, the former Beatle made it known, via a short video on his website, that he would not be answering any more fan mail after October 20th. Here's the complete transcript of this blockbuster announcement:

"This is a serious message to everybody watching my update right now. Peace and love, peace and love. I want to tell you, please, after the 20th of October, do not send fan mail to any address that you have. Nothing will be signed after the 20th of October. If that has a date on the envelope, it's gonna be tossed. I'm warning you with peace and love, but I have too much to do. So no more fan mail. Thank you, thank you. And no objects to be signed. Nothing. Uh... anyway, peace and love, peace and love."

This raises a few questions:

(1) How much fan mail are you actually getting, Ringo?

(2) Aren't you rich and famous? Don't you have, like, people who could answer your fan mail for you? And if you don't have people... hire some! Have you never heard of this concept?

(3) Why October 20th? What was so special about that day?

(4) Don't you think that your "peace and love" comments somewhat conflict with your insistence that we collectively buzz off and leave you alone?

(5) I mean, honestly: you're Ringo freakin' Starr! How much fan mail could you possibly be getting nowadays?

Ringo unleashed his "I have too much to do" message just about the same time I was getting slammed with stuff to do at work. Notice I haven't written any posts in the past week? Oh, I've been writing, all right: in fact, I'm up to the tippity top of my balding head in requests to write college recommendations letters.

Now, understand: I don't mind writing these letters. My students need them, and I'll do whatever I can to help my students. And so, even though writing these letters isn't something any teacher is contractually obligated to do, I nonetheless consider it part of my job.

But it takes time. This week, I wrote tweleve letters; I still have maybe eight more. Each one takes forty-five minutes to an hour for me to write. (I'm convinced the college admissions people probably spend about a minute skimming each letter over, maybe less. But that's a rant for another time.)

Of course, no school will give the teacher time to write these letters. Normal life still goes on. You still have to teach your classes, create your lessons, try to make a dent into your ever-expanding mound of papers.

At some point, you'll try to spend some time with your family. And maybe you'll devote a smidgen of time on your own personal creative pursuits... like that blog you haven't touched in a week. But don't count on it.

Amazingly, you do it. You do it all. As Joe the High School Teacher (no relation to Joe the Plumber), you write those letters. And meet with kids outside of class to talk about their college essays. And coach sports. And direct plays. And advise the Robotics club. (No, I'm no longer talking about myself here. The "you" here is Joe the High School Teacher, remember. I'm not saying I coach a sport or direct plays or advise the Robotics club. I'm just talking about the kinds of extra stuff that high school teachers do beyond their actual jobs. Get it?)

Again, I hope this doesn't come off as "Woe is I." (Yes, that's grammatically correct.) I think teaching is the noblest, most rewarding job in the world, and I'm glad it found me. And I don't mind writing the letters or reading the essays or doing anything else for my students, because they have given me so much in return.

But I am saying this: Who the hell do you think you are, Ringo Starr?

How can you honestly look into cyberspace and tell your fans-- the people who gave you your livelihood-- that you can't answer their letters? And give as your reason that you "have too much to do"? "Too much to do"... are you kidding me, Ringo? What exactly are you doing that's so time-consuming, anyway? You're Ringo, after all, not Bono.

So, here's my appeal to Ringo Starr: Spend one week-- just one week-- as a high school teacher. Or at any real-- i.e. non-Elder-Statesman-of-Rock-- job. Then re-evaluate what it means to have "too much to do."

Peace and love, peace and love-- except I actually mean it.


Hopaholic said...

You write rec letters? Don't you just have a template for that stuff and insert the name (For example, Joe the Student)? And take it from one who knows, they do spend about a minute reading them (if that.) Obviously, I agree that Ringo is being a putz, but is there a fine line between being noble and simply and wholly wasting your time?

Christine said...

In response to hopaholic, it may very well be easier and take up less time to create a generic recommendation for a student, but that defeats the purpose. How can you genuinely write about each student as a unique individual when you simply plug in a name and their school of choice? As teachers, we're committed to the students. Letters of recommendation are there to help our students move on to the future of their choice and using a generic form would be a waste of their time and the teachers' time. If you truly care, you find the time.