OK, I admit it. Like a ripe cheese or a really fine wine, I have aged. My teaching career has spanned over 30 years and is still going strong. But even though I love education and the children I’m influencing, I feel like a dinosaur. My veteran comrades have retired, enjoying life-after-work while I remain faithfully involved in the precious lives of children.
A whole new generation of educators continues to grow and mushroom into a complex tech-savvy society of dedicated professionals. I refer to them as the Barbie Dolls, which has nothing to do with their incredible teaching skills but everything to do with how they look. Barbie Dolls wear adorable little dresses and teetery heels to teach. They have long shiny hair and perfect white teeth. They sport tans and muscular legs and arms. They know how to text-message, use iPhones, and turn on DVD players. Most of them are in the boyfriend/fiancée/marriage/baby stage of life; distant memories for me.
Their energy levels are high; they never stop moving. They make learning exciting. They run, they jog, they could cartwheel all the way to lunch. They teach dance and gymnastics in their spare time, they go to college at night, and they have exciting and fulfilling social lives. They know what bling is and they know how to use it. They demonstrate the latest dances, wear fashionable clothes, and sparkle with enthusiasm and zest.
98% of the faculty at my school are Barbie Dolls. The other 2%, of which I am a part, wear sensible sneakers for walking, because of lower back pain and knee problems. We have had a variety of body replacements like hips and knees, and I am researching TBA (total body replacement). We are perplexed by the lumpy layer of fat that seems to have spread, donut-like, around our abdomens and wonder if there is anything, other than exercise, that we can do to eliminate that. In the meantime, we conceal it with elastic waistbands and oversize shirts.
Unlike the Barbie Dolls, we do not sit down directly on the floor cross-legged with the kids, unless we have two hefty adults on either side to hoist us up again. We carry extra underwear in our purses in case we hear a funny joke during the day. In addition, we sport little battery-operated fans for entering hot flash territory.
If I leave the office at the same time as a younger Barbie Doll, she gets to her room way faster than I do. Sometimes she even passes by me, as she heads back to the office before I even get to my destination. What’s up with that?
We eat lunch with the Barbie Dolls and marvel at their vegetable salads with fresh lemon squeezed on the top, accompanied with bottles of water. We take pleasure in our three cheese pizza, corn dogs, and chicken fingers and fries with a non-diet soda on the side.
Despite these obvious differences, I never noticed much difference between me and the Barbie Dolls until I found out one day that one of the beginning teachers was younger than my two boys. That caused some troubling thoughts:
She could be my daughter in law!
I could be her mother!
I am really old!
Soon after, a Barbie Doll came up to me and chatted with me about my many years of experience. She asked me, “Tell me, do you ever feel like a fish out of water here at school with all these young chicks around?”
Up till now, I had never been compared to any kind of sea animal. I responded thoughtfully. “No, I didn’t till now. Thanks for getting me in touch with my feelings.”
That was my first indicator that they realized how young they were, and how old I was. In my mind and my heart, I felt young, which led me to question my belief system.
Was I once a Barbie Doll?
If so, what happened?
Will all the Barbie Dolls eventually turn into me?
One can only hope.