Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Open Door

I have news. Not political news or even education news, but completely personal news.

My wife and I are expecting. In fact, we're expecting twins.

This is only partially a surprise. There was some science involved, but science does not account for the twin part. So that was a bit of a shock. We have moved past the Really Freaking Out stage for the moment. We are due in June, so we have time to plan, to paint, to stockpile two of everything.

There are other adjustments to make. That's not a bad thing, but I am reminded once again that hard-and-fast life plans are for dopes and cowards. Mind you, you should have a compass, a set of values that you steer by, a direction that you move more or less steadily. But hard and fast plans? Ha!

My life bears so little resemblance to the life I would have predicted for myself forty years ago that if I traveled back in time to confront younger me, he would bust a gut laughing. And yet the life older me is living is so much better than anything younger me imagined. It is also infinitely better than the life that older me thinks I deserve.

I don't talk a lot about my life because I don't know how to talk about it without sounding like I'm bragging because most days I feel like the most privileged, blessed, fortunate individual on the planet. Life should be kicking my ass. Karma should be bitch-slapping me on a daily basis.

See, for much of my adult life, I have been an ass. Blowing up my first marriage ended with a sign falling on me, a sign saying "You cannot keep being this person." And so the part of my life that wasn't about me being an ass was about me learning to do better, and that has been a good education, except that other people paid my tuition in heartbreak and misery. The previous Mrs. Greene was a good person, and she deserved better. Our children have grown up to be exceptionally fine human beings; I could not tell you exactly how that happened, though I know that they are good at walking through doors. My daughter's oldest child turns two today; my son is getting married in less than a month.

Which I think is one of the big tricks in life. Walking through doors. You are in a room, and on all sides there are doors, and one day the times is right, and a door opens, and you know that it's time for you to walk through it, and if you are brave and confident, or at least sure that you'll be okay, you walk through it. Mind you, lots of people don't. They say "I want that other door over there" or they try to beat down a different door or the step partway through the door, one foot on either side of the door frame, never entirely in the next room that is waiting for them. Or maybe convincing yourself that by using the proper words or plans or dance moves, you can control which door opens and when it opens. Then when the wrong door opens, it's a crisis, a disaster. Some people sit in that first room their whole lives, surrounded by doors, never stepping through any of them. Just sitting in that first room for a lifetime.

This is what I don't know (okay, there's a ton I don't know, but here's the thing I'm focusing on at the moment). I don't know how to translate what I know about How Life Works into the kind of canned, cramped education that is demanded of us these days. The notion that we think we can gaze into an eight-year-old's paperwork, then look that child in the eye and say "This is what your life is going to be" is just so-- who does that? Tarot cards and frog bump readings make just as much sense.

This is education-- You have to know as much as you can so that you understand as much as you can so that you can build a life as well as you can no matter what the terrain ahead of you turns out to be. You have to acquire as many tools as you can, and you have to understand yourself as well as you can, because then, when the door opens, you can grab your tool box and think, "Cool. I can do this, and even if it's hard or scary or unknown, I will say yes to this door because there is something for me on the other side."

And nobody can fully know who you are and nobody knows what doors you will stand in front of and nobody, really nobody at all, knows which doors will open for you or what will be on the other side, all of which means that anybody who says, "We've mapped a precise plan for you with the exact equipment you'll need, no more, no less"-- that person is selling something, and not a very good something at that.

In the meantime, I have just a few years to start thinking about education once again as a parent, considering not just the questions of how to provide education in my classroom or how to advocate for policies in my district and state and country, but also how will I help these particular tiny humans (both of them!) navigate through the world of education.

This is exciting as all get out, and my wife, who is also my best friend in the world, is a great person to enter into this adventure with. She can walk through doors like nobody's business. Door opens; she says yes. Great lesson that. In the meantime, everyone is healthy and happy and ready to start shopping for second-hand baby stuff (if anyone has just been waiting to hire me as a consultant/speaker, now is probably a good time-- also, consider giving my book as a Christmas gift to 100 people or so).

This is an adventure-- the best kind of adventure. It has prompted me to think about education on the lower end of the age scale, and it has reminded me that the classroom ought to be an adventure (though not, as one twitter wit suggested, a game of Jumanji that we can't win). It ought to be about preparing to walk through more doors, about being ready, about being willing and able and ready to grapple with the challenges and victories and defeats and about a million things more important than making sure that you generate the right sort of data on a bubble test.Let's do this. I mean, let's not go through the motions-- let's really do this.


  1. That is so cool! Congratulations and best wishes!!

  2. Warmest congratulations and best wishes to you and your wife, and your whole family, as well.

  3. Congratulations! Best wishes to all four of you.

  4. Congratulations, Mr. Greene. I, as well as all your readers, are very happy for you and Mrs. Greene.

  5. What this means for you responsibility wise, is that you have an absolute obligation to be alive and healthy for another 19 years.

  6. Congratulations, sir. These twins are lucky, lucky people, and you might be the most blessed man on the planet.

  7. Congratulations to you and the misses...get as much sleep now as you can. You may be deprived for a short time in June:)