Words spoken by Clint Eastwood in his role as Dirty Harry, Inspector Harry Callahan, in Magnum Force.
I suppose they can serve as a cautionary, even if the phrasing may not be absolutely on target.
The fact that a person can do something, even do it well, does not mean that he should do it.
If I have become clear on anything as the result of the mini-retreat I took this weekend, it is that.
I may not as yet know what I will do for income after this school year.
I know things I will not do, even though I can.
I know that I have to be able to keep writing - too many have told me they do not want to lose my voice, even thought at times they strongly disagree with me.
I know that in some way what I do has to involve the essential aspects of teaching - challenging, encouraging, prodding, pointing at new possibilities, exploring together.
I may at time fantasize at playing a bigger role in politics or policy. But a man's got to know his limitations. I have a voice that can contribute to both, but the value of my words on either come from being rooted in a different world, a different experience.
So long as I can do so with integrity, I think I should try to teach. And if not in a classroom, then teach through my writing.
The setting will change. I will almost certainly have to go outside my own comfort zone, which is fine, considering that I challenge my students to go outside theirs.
Now of course the issue changes - what if no one wants to hire a soon to be 66-year-old as a teacher for a classroom setting? What then?
Then I may have to find other ways of teaching. And there I may find overlap with politics and policy. Perhaps I will have to invent a new role, perhaps one I have not considered will find me.
I can manage others. I have done so in business and government. I can certainly consult. Again, I have done so in business and government. I can do both well. Yet even when I have been lucratively compensated I got less satisfaction that even on my most frustrating days in a classroom.
I get a similar satisfaction when something I write speaks to others.
I need to change. It was right for me to take the buyout.
In Quaker terminology, I am seeing in some fashion way opening - an indication of how I should explore the future.
My ego would have been boosted had I gotten into the doctoral program at Harvard. I did not. That way closed.
I would have been pleased to get the fellowship at Columbia to write a book. But I can write the book without the fellowship, if I really want to.
It is through teaching, and through the writing that flows from my being a teacher, that I best make a difference.
That is how I am most myself.
The only question now is will I be teacher in a classroom or will the walls disappear and a larger world become my classroom?
My limitation is that I am a teacher.
My gift is that I am a teacher.
The only question is where and how I fulfill that calling.
I think I now know what I want to be when I grow up.