A little back story: Anyone who's seen my bio may have noticed that I left advertising in 2002 to pursue a teaching career in public education. Chalk it up to a mix of post 9-11 do-goodism and the English degree burning a hole in my pocket. A program through Johns Hopkins assigned me to Frederick Douglass High, the second oldest historically black high school in the country--and alma mater to Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway.
For nearly three years, I abandoned the ad biz, and was transformed into "Mr. McDermott" (or " 'ey, yo, Dermott" to my students), a bald, white English teacher in a struggling public high school in Baltimore City. Without turning this into a diatribe on the perfect storm that occurs when economics, society, family morals, and education break down simultaneously, I will say that it was the most painful, the most challenging, and at times, the most rewarding job I've ever had.
And it provided the setting for Academy Award-winning documentarians Alan and Susan Raymond to chronicle a year in the life of minority education. Coincidentally, it happened to be the year I made the decision to leave education. I returned to advertising shortly thereafter.
So what's the point of all of this? Why the post? Honestly, I'm not sure I know. The two toughest decisions I've ever had to make were the choices to begin teaching...and then to leave it. Perhaps it's the chance for folks in our business to look at themselves - their organizations - and get some perspective. To celebrate the diverse experiences of the staff. And to look at ways in which we can make a difference beyond just the ad du jour, the creative brief, and the media buy. There are bigger things at work here.
Or maybe it's just an opportunity to see how good we really have it.
If you've got the chance tonight, check out the film. HBO, 9pm. The Raymond's cinema-verite style ensures that you'll get as close to the day-to-day as is physically possible. It won't always be easy to watch, but I promise it'll give you insight. Into what? Hell, I guess that's up to you to figure out.
3 hours ago