I’ve decided, once and for all, that I’m coming back as a dog.

Not to get morbid or anything, but if life is a football game, I’m in the fourth quarter. So while I refill the bird feeder, wander the aisles of my local supermarket, or find other creative ways to mark time until the clock reads zero on that big scoreboard in the sky, I think about how much I admire my dog, Jack Bauer, and how easily he handles the ebb and flow of life.

I loved teaching. I viewed it as a creative act. I was more performance artist than typical educator. I laughed out loud, at least once, every day of my 26 years in the classroom. How many insurance agents or explosive ordinance disposal technicians can say that?

But I wonder how Jack Bauer would handle the less appealing duties of a teacher — the boring workshops and meetings, the busy work, the parents who refuse to deal with reality?

In the midst of a whole-day workshop on Dynamic Mindfulness, the kind of workshop led by the kind of presenter who makes me think, “Why, I have a mind to roll over, close my eyes, and take a nap,” my dog would do just that. On his back, all four paws in the air and not a care in the world about how it looks or what his colleagues might think about him.

What would Jack Bauer do if asked to engage in hours of data entry, listing goals and objectives for the sixth-grade language arts curriculum, all in the spirit of “informing” the good taxpayers of Hampstead — who pay my salary — but who care, not a whit, that their child is expected to “use commas, parentheses, and dashes to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements.” Knowing Jack, he’d spend a minute or two sniffing the Common Core binder listing all the rules and regulations that govern public-school teacher accountability. Not liking what he’d smelled, he’d trot away to find something else to sniff, or maybe sample off the carpet, and leave the data entry to others.

And I remember sometimes taking the easy route when dealing with troublesome parents. Why wouldn’t I, for example, provide little Joey with the opportunity to improve his grade—a pedestrian A minus — with a take-home extra credit project that Mommy could “supervise”? I might want to say, “Little Joey should have worked harder on his in-class assignments and earned a solid A.” But I’d probably cave, express my heartfelt sympathies, and thereby provide myself with the opportunity to get another parent off my back.

Jack Bauer would not waste time with niceties. He’d at minimum snarl and growl at the first sign of disrespect. If he really didn’t like what he was sensing, he’d start barking. And I don’t mean the lazy, mournful bellows of an old basset hound. I mean a shrill, incessant bark combined with personal space invasion that would send any unassuming middle school mother running for their minivan. With that problem solved, Jack would give himself a full-body shake, walk around in a circle for a while, roll up in a ball, and take a nap. You don’t worry about a nastygram from a parent when you don’t know how to read.

An infinite number of tree trunks, with an infinite number of fresh, new fragrances to smell, every day. Belly rubs, on command. An endless fascination with chipmunks and squirrels. Yeah, I’m coming back as a dog.


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