What are you passionate about? Why do you get up each day (besides that meaty paycheck) to go to work? It’s the middle to the end of a semester for all of us. No doubt, fatigue has set in and we’ve gone from ‘cruise mode’ to ‘survival mode.’ Please tell me it’s not just me…..Bueller? I thought it might be wise to spend a post sharing what I love because it can be really easy to get a bit down in the dumps at this point in the semester…..
I love watching people learn. Young or old, it’s still this magical, intoxicating drug to me. It’s my passion. I’m a teacher, a practitioner. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching my mom how to use her iPad or watching a sixth grader discover they CAN figure out how to make a solar panel work with a small motor, the feeling that washes over me is the best drug. No amount of melted cheese or new shoes replaces the feeling I get.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog thinking about the problems in academia, the issues and stressors we place on ourselves as educational professionals, so this week, I want to spend a post thinking about what I just can’t get enough of about my job because not only am I grateful for it, I love my work. An Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post got me thinking about this after the author discusses his trials of being on faculty at UVA after the summer sparked such controversy at the university.
“So, to my university’s Board of Visitors, President Sullivan and Dean Everyone, I’d like to offer this reminder: The way my students learn has nothing to do with “strategic dynamism.” It has everything to do with being in a place that gives them the space, time and luxury to think. We should not forget the events of the summer, but neither should we forget, in the name of progress, all that has worked so well for so long.”
I highlight the sentences above because I think that universities have forgotten why students come each year. Not only is it the chance to gain experience, attend classes, swim in new pools, or attend other campus events, but it’s to stretch the mind, to drink some ‘grow up juice’ and offer them the time to think about their individualism and who they are and will become as they age. The first 18 years of their lives are scripted by parents, families, social-norms, and standardized tests. College should not be more of the same. I realize it’s a business, but the faculty that I have had the good fortune to encounter love the art of TEACHING, of stretching the minds of their young scholars, of engaging in weighty conversations, even if it does make some uncomfortable, and working along side their students to get them to form individual thoughts, begin to look at their own identity, and encourage them to keep reaching. It’s NOT to plug another laptop in, arm wrestle over expense reports, and get inundated with enough emails to drown a small child.
Why do I stick with it? I see it. I see those teachable moments. I have the courage to continue through reduced funding, poor budgets, and a low salary. I don’t teach for the money, I never have. I teach for the students, young and old. Each week, I have the good fortune of seeing students learn. It doesn’t look like much to the passerby, but to me, it looks like potential. It looks like the future. It looks like a step above poverty. I see the parents of my students once a semester. I hear them thank me, but it’s not me, it’s their child and their foresight to enroll their child in the after-school program I run. Yes, we collect lots of data, it’s federally funded, but we also teach. The students understand that one must happen in order for the money to keep coming. At their young age, they understand what an enormous opportunity they have because so many of their peers don’t have the same opportunity.
I love learning. I love teaching. I’m so fortunate today to have a job that allows me to do both. It makes me sick that funding for educational grants is being cut because our leaders in Washington can’t get out of their own way and do their jobs. My job won’t last forever, the funding will end and I will go elsewhere. But today, I cannot be grateful enough for my professional identity. I invested my career in education over a decade today and in a decade from now, I hope to be engaged with teaching and have the same passion.
What do you love about your professional career? What are you passionate about?