So my wife suggested this morning that my family exchange names for homemade gifts this holiday season. I promptly vetoed the suggestion, mostly out of selfish concern that I had nothing adequate as a homemade item. My cousin and uncle are excellent carpenters. My brother is an adept outdoorsman. My wife, sister, and mother can all bake very well. I brew beer, but not nearly as well as my sister's husband.
The products of my talents and knowledge don't have much of a market. I'm great with directions, but Mapquest et al. has made anachronistic any set of maps and directions I could create. I could give one heck of a historical tour of a variety of attractions, but that doesn't have the appeal of a table or turkey call.
There are times when I feel somewhat inadequate about my practical skills. I'm at best a proficient painter. But I can't work with electricity, plumbing, or wood. I don't have much that I can do which would make money on the side or save us from the cost of hiring contractors. I'm skilled at teaching kids. I'm skilled at explaining the way our country or economy works. I'm skilled at interpreting the past. I'm skilled at elevating students' ability to write. Those skills earn me a nice living doing a job I love, but they don't lend themselves to bragging rights.
In an earlier conversation this weekend, my wife complimented me on being an outstanding student. It's a sign of nerdiness, but it's probably right. In one way, it seems out of date given that I haven't been a full-time student for more than fourteen years, and I haven't been a part-time one since 2007. I did harness those skills and talents for my National Board Certification, which I worked for last year and learned that I had earned last weekend. And I do harness those skills to learn the material for courses at which I am a novice at teaching. Perhaps it's time I gave thought to how I can do more with that skill set.