The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 08 2013

Just A Job?

Day 77: TFA Mass. has some sort of agreement with Harvard, through which interested undergrads can see what it’s like to teach and teachers get some help for a month. Today was my Harvard guy’s first day at school.

First, this guy, who I’ll call Mr. A, seems excellent. He listened attentively, asked great questions, was more than willing to engage with kids, and generally seemed to soak things in well.

Most surprisingly, he saved me time. I was assuming that having him at school would end up a wash. He might help me a little, but I’d have to take time explaining things, or teaching him how to do things. However, by the end of the day, I magically had quizzes graded and trackers created, neither of which I would have been able to accomplish without being up until forever this evening.

What I’ll remember most about today, however, is how sharing my life at school made teaching seem more like a normal job than ever before. Depending on the day, teaching feels like a calling, like the work of saints, or like trench warfare. It almost never feels like a job. The word seems to minimize the emotional, physical and intellectual effort that goes into what I do.

And yet, as I joked with our receptionist, explained where the refrigerator was, had a meeting with my department head, shrugged off a mediocre end to one of my classes, and crafted invitations to an afterschool Science Lab … I was explaining how my job worked. And that job felt, despite its challenges and crazy stories, normal.

On reflection, I think this is a wonderful realization, for two reasons. First, a big part of what’s wrong with education is that people think of teaching as a calling … and use that as an excuse to underpay and ill-support teachers. When teaching is truly a job, that will mean it is a sustainable profession, one that offers teachers both work-life balance and meaningful professional status. Second, if I can feel like teaching is a normal job, that means I’m probably miles happier and more settled than I was this time last year.

With that, time for bed. The job won’t wait for me.

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