I teach. I’m not an award winner, I’m one of many, but I’m one of many who make a difference. I know that I might make a small difference to some, an average difference to others, and if I’m lucky, a big difference to a few. Yes, I enjoy my work. There are times, though, that I don’t enjoy my job. To this statement, I answer yes, but a qualified yes.
You complete your education (high school, college, university, graduate school, whatever) because you want to, not because you feel like you should.
This one is a little more difficult to address. I completed my degree and then went back to school to add the specific classes that I needed to earn an elementary teaching license. Yes, I did it because I wanted to do it. However, in a field with stringent licensing requirements, there wasn’t much – really, there wasn’t any choice in the matter. To earn my license, this was the road I had to travel.
Helping others is not something you do as an afterthought. It is a central part of who you are, just as doing what you want is.
I took these statements in the order they came, which was also in order from easiest to hardest. No one goes into teaching for the “summers off.” In my field, work doesn’t end when the bell rings. We spend extra time planning, assessing, evaluating, and more. My schoolbag is heavy on weeknights and heavier on weekends – unless I plan to spend part of the weekend in my classroom. Filling out referrals, getting services for kids who need more help than I can give, and working with counselors and social workers are all tasks that come outside my workday. Helping others is ingrained in all educators, all the time.
When it comes down to the crunch, though, choosing my own path is rarely an option. My disability doesn’t fully block my personal journey, but it creates side trips. Hearing impairment is both costly and mentally challenging. Hearing aids and their related testing and services are not covered by health insurance. Learning to lipread and educating those around me are ongoing responsibilities. I can only hope that as hearing impairments become more common in the mainstream, people I’ve taught will use those adaptive skills as they work with others like me.
Family needs affect the route, too. We’re truly the sandwich generation, responsible for our children and our parents. Paying college tuition for one child, working out IEPs for another, helping parents move out of homes and into condos or apartments, the list goes on and on.
These are important tasks, all of them. If I rephrase the last statement, it maintains its meaning while being more realistic for my life:
Helping others is a central part of who you are, part of your daily life. The choices you make reflect that outlook and philosophy.
Remarkable? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m on the right track. Let’s get that high speed rail installed so I can make more progress!
Thanks to Chris Guillebeau at AONC for the thoughtful inspiration behind this post.