As I listen to friends and family of mine talk about their work, I’m consistently reminded of how lucky I am to do what I do. Not because of the summer and holidays off, or because of the highly coveted schedule (because doesn’t everyone love to answer 5,000 questions before 8:00 am?!). Not because of the often hilarious, unique-to-working-with-middle-schoolers stories. Not even because of the truly life-changing salaries we make. I’m lucky because teaching is not just a job. To be honest, I don’t even really consider it a career. Teaching is a calling. It’s a vocation. It’s something that most people choose to do because they truly believe in the work they are doing.
I’ve spoken with several people over the past few years who have struggled to find work after graduation, or who have struggled to figure out what they’ve even wanted to do with their futures. While I do my best to be supportive and kind, I always have trouble offering counsel because in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking or feeling in that moment. I could not even begin to understand what they are going through. I am incredibly fortunate to have discovered a career that encompasses my passion and that I absolutely love waking up to do in the morning.
That’s not to say that every second is fabulous. Setting up my classroom in a school with the air-conditioning off for the summer is certainly not glamorous. Justifying the amount of money spent on books and supplies is not fun, especially considering the aforementioned giant salary. Taking home the weight of the problems my students’ experiences in their daily lives and trying to come up with ways to support them can be emotionally draining. But the fact of the matter is this: I believe in the power of what I do. I stand behind it fully. I enjoy every day. Even the hard ones. I have never felt lost when it came to my career and my passion. For me, they have always been one in the same.
I think back to when my husband and I had to go through the pre-marriage mentoring through the church where we got married. During one of the sessions, they reviewed our answers to a questionnaire, then had us ‘resolve’ the areas where we were mismatched and consider how these elements would impact our future. One of the areas that we were supposed to answer no (because apparently there were right answers-who knew!) was regarding whether our job was a vocation. I, for all the reasons mentioned above, put yes. When invited to explain why I refused to change my belief on the matter, I began to describe how teaching is not like other careers that people choose. At the end of the conversation, all three other people at the table were staring at me in confusion. As you can probably guess, none of them are educators. It was in that moment that I realized this ‘job’, this ‘career’, is not one that can be easily understood or compared to others. Most people will not view it the same way as those of us ‘in the trenches’ do. To many, it is a nice job with great hours and awesome vacation time.
What they don’t realize is how after a few months of summer, a lot of us are missing the excitement (and hilarity) of facilitating the learning of our students all day long. They don’t realize that we consider the First Day of School a holiday, and that as it creeps closer we get more and more excited. They don’t see the jitters and the nervous excitement that occurs in the hallway right before the kids walk in for the first time in August. They don’t see the students of years past light up when they come visit during Homecoming. It’s unique to our vocation, and these are only some of the reasons why it is so incredibly special.
I am so lucky.
Some days I need a reminder of this (if you ask my team, yesterday was one of those days). My job is so much more than just the place I go and count down the hours until I get to leave. In my classroom, amazing things happen. Every. Single. Day. Through all the difficulty, anxiety, and stress, that fact remains true. Students learn to express themselves and find their voices, and I get to be a part of that. My classes find solace and adventure through reading, and I get to see that happen. Education is powerful. The most powerful tool a person can have. Teachers are directly responsible for igniting a flame within our students and inspiring them to rise to their potential, exceed their own expectations, and pursue their own passion. If that’s not a vocation, I don’t know what is.