What is your JOB?
By Elizabeth Wright
Teachers...with their responsibilities, work, their jobs...their job...what is our job? I never get asked much about my job. Everyone has been through school and pretty much (thinks) they know what I do as a teacher. Take attendance, keep grades, grade papers, contact parents. But when I think about my job, these aren’t the things I think about; learning targets, success criteria, and 5D+ evaluations aren’t what comes to mind.
I was recently asked a question at a conference for Washington Activities Coordinators (WACA) I attended a couple of weeks ago. The question was: what is your job? Sure we have a lot of responsibilities as teachers: attend meetings, IEPs, offer feedback, etc. But, my JOB entails way more, yet can be summed up fairly succinctly: my job is to teach kids to care about things greater than them, love one another, acknowledge inequities, and perpetually question why things are they way they are.
I decided to start looking at my practice differently after this question was posed. I have always felt that I am a person before I am a teacher and that children are people before they are students, but I've never actually named this.
What has naming this done for me? It's changed how I teach, how I talk to my students, how I interact with kids I see around campus. I've found myself answering their eternal question, “what are we doing today?” like this: “oh we're just hanging out and playing volleyball” or “we're just hanging out and working on our service projects.” Throwing “hanging out” in there has made a difference in how the respond to my answer. I get less “ugh” and more acceptance of the activity. It has helped me to be more patient when I don't have the energy; more compassionate when I'm overwhelmed and drowning in ungraded papers; more humble when I make a mistake and apologize for it. It's made my job easier, my relationships better, and my heart happier. If I feel this way, I can bet some of my students feel it too.
Teachers, if you're having a hard time, and we all know March is a tough month, name this. We are kind and loving to our kids, but remind yourself every day that you as a teacher and your students are people first. I'd love to hear if it changes you too.