As much as I love working with the kids, being an educator today -- especially in public schools -- is getting to be really difficult because of things that have nothing to do with the job of actually teaching. Enemies of public education, politicians and corporate/business interests, have their hands in every part of education now -- with rallying cries of "school choice" and "breaking the public school monopoly" and demanding "accountability" while expecting teachers to "do more with less"-- more standardized testing, more mandates, more bureaucracy -- with less funding, lower pay, fewer benefits.
People across the country blame public school teachers for all the supposed problems of public education -- calling us "glorified babysitters" and repeating the age-old (and offensive, if you ask me) joke "those who can't do, teach." The real problems in education are actually much more complex, but it's much easier to blame the teachers than to deal with the real problems and find (and fund) real solutions.
Still -- it all makes for a pretty unpleasant work environment with much more stress than I'd like. My fear is that it won't start taking a turn for the better before I get to retirement age. Nowadays, when I'm sitting in meetings about the latest new standards (which seem to be updated and revised monthly) and newest mandates -- I find myself more and more thinking about doing other things. Building bicycles is the main thing that keeps coming to mind. That, and maybe running my own bike shop. Possibly both.
|Could wielding a brazing torch be in my future?|
I would really like to take some framebuilding courses. It would be a pretty big investment in time and money, but I'd like to learn how to build with lugs, and possibly even to weld (I prefer frames with lugs, but I'd like to be able to do both). I've been reading about different framebuilding classes in different parts of the country. Prices seem to vary a bit but most seem to be several weeks long and several thousand dollars -- not counting things like lodging and other expenses. Then there would be the investment in equipment in order to set up my own shop. Things like jigs and alignment tables, torches and cutters and other metalworking tools can't be cheap. Coming up with the money would be pretty tough. That's why it's all just a daydream so far.
I think about being able to build bike frames, and perform repairs and modifications, and I think that even if I continued to teach, it would be a great side-line. For years, I've taken summer jobs to supplement my income (it was necessary, believe me), so this would just allow me to be self-employed. From what I know about the custom frame business, it can take time for a builder to gain the kind of following and build up the business to the point where they can make a decent living out of it. Doing it just as a sideline would be a great way to slowly gain that experience and respect without feeling like I have to live in poverty for a labor of love.
I'd love to be able to custom-build bikes for people, or even just repair damaged frames. I think it would also be fun to take tired old bike-boom era 10-speeds and breathe some new life into them and sell them on the side. Maybe over time, if my name got out there and if enough orders started coming in that I could turn it into a full-time job, then I could re-evaluate the priorities.
Oh well -- it's all just a daydream, for now. Something to get me through those depressing meetings. But who knows. . .