‘For the kids, man’; on the challenge of a new semester and why I teach

For me, there is really only one reason to do anything in this world. The same reason Sammy Sosa used when he was caught with a corked bat in an MLB game in 2003.

“For the keeds, man. For the keeds.”

His excuse was that he used a corked (and therefore illegal) bat in batting practice to put on a show for the kids. Now, as someone who loves batting practice and has seen Khris Davis put on a show at the Coliseum, I don’t hate the excuse. Seriously, I saw Khris smash a suite window in batting practice once, about 425 feet from home plate. It was amazing.

And Sammy has a fairly well-established history of playing to the kids. It was even immortalized in the movie Hardball, which is not bad, but so unnecessarily sad.

But his excuse is clearly a lie. If he used the corked bat all the time in BP, he should know the difference between the corked bat and a regular one.

But the excuse of “doing something for the kids” is fairly foolproof, because who can be against that? Who can be against making extra effort for children? “I believe the children are our future” was a meme in the 1980s, making an appearance in Coming to America.

Oh, maybe you didn’t realize memes have always been around. Remember how people would always say “cha cha cha” during the birthday song? Where did that come from? Can you point me to the exact point when you first heard it? Probably not. But it was everywhere, and most kids knew about it. What would we call that other than a meme? Memes have always been around.

Anyway, for me, doing things “for the keeds” is basically the meaning of life. I tell my students the point of this life is to leave behind a better world. Doesn’t that directly benefit the children?

We’re going to become dust. All that matters is the impact you left behind.

The movie Coco agrees with me. In the movie, a spirit disappears when there is no one alive who remembers them. And who are the ones we remember the most? The heroes. The champions. Those who did things greater than themselves.

Sure, we remember some legendary bad guys, too. But most of our history books are filled with heroes and brave souls who stood up against the injustices of the world. We look up to them; even if we sometimes forget to follow their example.

Every good teacher you’ve ever had was doing it “for the keeds.” Like my previous career (journalism), there are no teachers doing it for the money. Monetarily, being a teacher might be the least rewarding position in the world. There are a handful of tenured professors who make big cash; but they are few and far between. The vast majority of college instructors are adjunct, who are paid hourly for instruction time and receive little, if any, benefits. There are dozens of stories about adjuncts working multiple jobs to make ends meets; living in their cars; foregoing health insurance; or all of the above.

But also like journalism, I didn’t choose this job for that reason. I chose it because I can’t hate what I do. I chose it because I had a few amazing teachers who were there “for the keeds,” and they helped turn a young knucklehead into a grown adult. I honor those teachers every time I take the lectern.

This semester, I am taking over a school newspaper as adviser for the first time. I am simultaneously thrilled, terrified, excited, nervous, happy and anxious all at once. This is what I wanted. It’s time to step up to the plate. I am as ready for the challenge as I will ever be.

But it will be a very long and arduous semester, no doubt. I am teaching like six classes on three campuses. I will be teaching all day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I am going to read so much college writing, you guys (eek!).

I am certain there will be days I can’t do it. There will be days I will wish I had become a manual laborer of some kind, so I would never have to answer a work email from home. But on those days, I will remind myself it’s not about me. It’s not about what I want or need.

It’s for the keeds, man. For the keeds.

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