Yesterday, at the grocery store, I overheard the tail end of a conversation between a customer in front of me and the cashier. The customer was telling the cashier how much he really loved his job. The cashier responded that she loved her job as well. I am not sure what this man did, but I wish I knew what kind of job he held.
I got to thinking how much I really love my job as an elementary school teacher. I feel great that I can make that statement knowing there are a lot of people out there who are working a job they dislike. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to do a job that you don’t enjoy. I would imagine you would burn out very quickly.
At the end of the last school year, I had the opportunity to read a book entitled The Radical Leap Re-Energized, by Steve Farber. The book is about how to be an effective leader. It was written with the business person in mind. However, its advice can also be used by someone like me who is in the business of education.
Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
This statement addresses exactly what I do on a day to day basis during the school year. I am definitely doing what I love. I enjoy working with my students. I learn something from them every day. My students, parents, and school community are the people I serve. Each year I have to remind myself that we are all in this together. We all have to support each other if we want to have a successful year. Finally, I can’t just expect love to come to me automatically. I must remember to give my students and parents a reason to love me, too. It’s best to deal with parents and students in a respectful way. I have to keep my attitude in check.
Sure, there are some days when I question why I got into the teaching profession. It is a hard job and can be very stressful. It bothers me when people tell me that being a teacher is a cushy job. They say things like, “You get the weekends and summers off.” But, what people don’t realize is I don’t get paid for the months I don’t work. And, I continue to work over the summer by attending workshops and inservices. I also read many professional books over the summer to help me improve my teaching skills. I don’t have much time to do this during the school year.
Recently, I read an article in which Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist, author, and speaker, was being interviewed (Your Start Up Life: Fail To Succeed). He was asked to give advice to people who were trying to find their passion while trying to earn a paycheck.
Don’t give up. Being in your element is where your talents meet your passions. The two are important. To be in your element it’s not enough to do something you’re good at. I know plenty of people who are good at things they don’t care for. To be in your element you have to love it. ‘It’ can be anything; teaching, carpentry, law, nursing, graphic design, pathology, working with animals, snow-boarding. You name it. Human culture is as rich as it is because our talents and passions are so various. Some people can make a living from being in their element, others can’t or don’t want to. They just do it for the love of it. Whatever your circumstances, you need to find time to be in your element – to do what gives you energy rather than what takes it from you.
It is interesting Sir Robinson talks about loving what you do. This kind of passion will give you energy to keep going instead of draining it from you. I will definitely keep this thought in the back of my mind as I enter this new school year. Whenever I feel like the energy is being zapped out of me, I need to think about all the reasons I love teaching. That will be a very long list.