Friday, May 22, 2009

Love Your Job

(News-Herald, May 21) When did it become embarrassing to admit that you like your job.
I ask because it is that time of year when schoolteachers are routinely asked, “Hey, are you ready for summer” in a tone of voice that clearly means, “Hey, are you just dying to get away from your horrible students and your miserable job.”
Some days I’ll admit that I resent this no-win question just a bit. One possible answer is “No, I’m not looking forward to summer vacation.” This is both silly and ungrateful. My summer provides me with great opportunities and not appreciating it would be like refusing to appreciate my paycheck.
But it seems the only other answer is, “Yeah, I’m so looking forward to getting away from my students and my job.”
Of course, that’s what lots of people assume is the truth, when in fact, I really like my job. Honestly. And yet I feel as I type that that it’s one of the more outrageous things I’ve ever written here.
Nobody says they like their job. Nobody tosses into a conversation that they really enjoy the work they do. Nobody goes on tv and declares, “I hope I never have to retire. I’d love to do this forever.”
Well, almost nobody. One of the beautiful things about the tv show Dirty Jobs is the people who really love what they do and aren’t afraid to show it. But the fact that this show is unique tells us something about our culture. I know people who love their jobs, but most are careful not to be too vocal about it.
It’s not like I’m blind to the annoyances of the workplace (and to be clear, sometimes a “workplace” is the home). Even great jobs come with an assortment of extraneous junk that interferes with the really best parts. Bureaucracy, paperwork, support departments that don’t, leadership that doesn’t—all work is loaded with these things. No workplace is a paradise.
But very few workplaces are located on the seventh level of hell, either.
We train our children early on. While people are prodding me to declare how much I can’t wait to escape my job, they are also asking schoolchildren, “Are you getting anxious for summer vacation” or “Aren’t you just so ready to be done with school?” We encourage young people to declare how much they want to get away from school, and then we’re surprised that so many young Americans don’t get excited about education.
Imagine if every “I bet you can’t wait to get out of there” were replaced with “I bet you learned a lot this year.”
Right. A bunch of you read that last sentence and laughed. Because these days it’s the height of ridiculousness to suggest that people should be excited about what they do for a living. We are way too cool to get up in the morning looking forward to how we’ll spend the workday.
I have certainly known people who apparently had to drag themselves, whining and complaining, to work day after day. That must feel awful. Life is too short. If your job is a terrible chore, you need a different job.
I like my job; I always have. I’m not merely lucky; I spent a lot of time and effort to get here, and while that time was sometimes unpleasant, I slogged through so that I could get to do what I do today. If I won a gazillion dollars tomorrow, I would not retire (I would, however, get a much nicer car).
And yet, I know it’s far more likely that I will be teased for writing this than will some guy who complains about his crappy job and how much he wants to retire.
I have an uncle in Connecticut who is still teaching high school history. He’s 75 years old. He’s one of my teaching heroes.
I think everyone should get that for themselves—work that they enjoy and value and look forward to doing so much that they feel a little sad when it comes time to retire.
And I don’t mean to be rude, but while I am grateful for summer vacation, but I will be sorry to be done teaching for a few months, and I am already looking forward to next September and the chance to do this teaching thing all over again. And if you are another one of us, the folks who actually love their work, be brave and bold and say so to someone today.

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