Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Love My Job (Seriously)

Regular readers of this blog (I believe there are at least three, now) probably expected that the headline was setting up some sort of sarcastic satirical rant. But no-- that's not where I'm going today.

Because I do, in fact, actually love my job.

Sometimes it's the obvious stuff. A few weeks back I was hustling in overdrive overtime to pull together a hundred-plus students into a production of the annual variety show, standing in that big pre-show circle at all those faces excited and committed and simultaneously part of something brand new and also an eighty-four year tradition at our school. They had worked so hard and they were so excited and they created such a special night for hundreds of audience members and it was not possible for me to be any prouder of how each put his or her personal stamp of sweat and inspiration and talent and spark to those performances. How could anybody not love that?

Sometimes it's not so obvious. Today I was up in class and we were seguing straight from the difference between jazz hands and spirit fingers into what turned out to be an infomercial for the three uses of semi-colons (three! count 'em, three!) and we are all just enjoying ourselves while we nail this stupid punctuation nuance and I am thinking, damn, I have the best job in the world (although I'll admit I can see how not everybody would necessarily love that part).

Sometimes it pays off for decades. I teach in a small town district, and while many of our grads leave the area, many do not, and many stay in touch. To see these people strive and grow and sometimes fall but then find a way-- it's an awesome thing. To see the many amazing ways in which a person's life can unfold, unexpected and not according to plan, and yet eventually finding its own way-- I tell you, it's watching my students grow up and go into the world that has reassured me more than anything else in life that ultimately, for most people, things turn out okay.

And the generations. I see families unfold through generations and through years, see parents pass their own struggles and strength onto their children. I see parents and children trying so hard to figure out how to love and support each other, and I get to know both sides of their story.

I mean, the line about touching the future because I teach is great, and I don't disagree, but I am also up to my elbows in the present and it's awesome. I get to work with real live living growing changing rising and advancing human beings. Not like doctors and nurses who see them when they're sick, or lawyers or social workers who see them when they're in trouble-- I get to see them when they are becoming themselves. I get to see them learn what it means to be fully human, to be who they are, to be in the world.

I am driven to understand just like I am driven to write and make music and ride a bike, and I am driven to connect other people to what I understand and to see what I can see through them. Like the guy shoveling coal into the furnace that drives the engine in the belly of a great ocean liner, I get to work next to the burning heart of humanity.

We talk about all the things that matter and all the things that don't, and we talk about how to talk about them, and we talk about how to bridge the gap between human beings, to share understanding, to pass on some of that heat from the burning heart. Every one of my students is a giant waiting to stand up tall, struggling to channel strength into those legs.

We read and write and do every piddly thing any English class ever did. We look into the literature and the paragraphs and the prepositional phrases and we try find some way to use it, some way to move forward, some way to grow and rise and embrace ourselves and the world.

It is not always pretty and it is not always neat and not always according to plan, and lord knows some days I am not very good at it for any number of reasons, up to and including that I'm an imperfect rough draft of a teacher. I may never retire because I don't think I can quit until I actually get really good at this.

The worst is to get distracted by the stupid stuff, and we are all awash in a sea of stupid distractions these days, and that's mostly what I write about. But I need to let myself know (and you, too, dear reader if you have hung on through all these paragraphs) that there is a reason I do this and it is bigger than all the stuff that I bitch and moan about. There's is more to this, to me, than the bitching and moaning. There is the energy in knowing and passing it on, there's the joy of grinding through the tight places to the places where the sky is fresh and clear, and there is absolute heart-shaking awesomeness of watching young humans grow and grasp and build and rise and become fully human and fully themselves.

Make no mistake. I love my job. I freakin' love my job.


  1. I seriously love your blog - this post and all the hilarious things you say!
    BigTime Literacy

  2. That was a beautiful and refreshing piece to read on a Friday of a particularly rough week for me. Thank you so much. You are right of course. The human element - actually getting to work with young people who are so full of promise for the future - is the very best part of the job. It is also the part that gets ignored by all of the reformy people out there. I feel the "reformers" look at our students, our children, in a very negative light, and it's disheartening. So thank you, again, for a heartfelt reminder of why we do what we do as teachers.

  3. Thank you for this. I am going to read it to my fine arts department cohorts at our meeting tomorrow. Love it.