Saturday, August 14, 2010

7 Things I Love About My Job (100 Loves Post #3)

School starts Monday, people!

What better way to keep things positive than to do a post about 7 things I love about my job.  I know that I fall into the trap of focusing on the negative when it comes to work, but there are so many things about my job that a are a blessing.  Each year as school starts again I have the chance to reflect about why it is I chose this profession.  I can't wait to read yours and learn a little about why you like your job too.


Cheerful McSunshinepants

Okay, maybe the name's a bit much.  Let's dive right in:

1) Academic Freedom

I'm lucky in that I work for a department and school where what I teach is pretty much left up to me as a trusted professional.  We have a set of state standards for each grade (basically a list of what each student needs to accomplish by the end of each grade level) and I am free to teach those standards however I see fit.  What I like about this is it allows me to teach books, poems, short stories, and films that I like.  I think this makes a huge difference in how engaging a class is for students.  I remember that when I had teachers who were excited about the subject material, it made me excited about it-- no matter what it was.  (That's how I ended up studying so much Norse/Anglo-Saxon myth in college).  We have a list of "core" novels for each grade level that we teach, but beyond that I'm allowed to determine the best way to teach the requisite skills to my classes.  Since the English/ Language Arts standards encompass such a wide range of skills, the combination of lessons I could teach is infinite.  This makes me happy.

2) Tradition

This will be my 10th year teaching at the high school I attended myself.  It has seen many changes over those 14 years, but as the original high school of the district, it is still the heart of the community in many ways.  I feel a sense of responsibility to keep traditions alive when I can, and to share what it was like to be a student at that school myself.  As the coach of various activities on campus, I liked building a sense of this tradition into what we did.  A couple of years ago, I fought to keep our Homecoming Parade alive.  (It has since been downsized and moved anyway. *sadface*)  When I coached the Drill Team and Dance Company, I tried to instill this sense of tradition and to create some new traditions as well.  I wasn't a kid who was connected to my school as a student--I think I fight hard to bring those kind of kids in now because hindsight has allowed me to see how much being a part of something historical can really make a difference.

3) My coworkers

I hate that term, coworkers (it reminds me of cows); what I really mean is my friends.  I'm fortunate to work with so many intelligent, creative, brave, FUNNY people.  I know that what you get a lot of times from my blog is the constant frustration I feel when working with kids.  Even though I love it, it gets hard to be the only adult in the room sometimes.  I know I wouldn't make it without getting a laugh at lunchtime or being able to commiserate over the latest campus drama with people in the same boat.  In recent years I've gotten to know people across all different departments and it makes my life such a blessing.  Teaching can be isolating.  My first two years I don't know how many people talked to me or acknowledged my presence.  But ten years in I can say that there are so many supportive faces each time I venture out of my room.  It strengthens me and it helps me to do the (sometimes) difficult job I have to do in the classroom.

4) The challenge of how to teach

I discovered something in high school as I started to teach dance classes.  The process of how, the lesson planning and breaking down of a skill to its most basic unit, was something I really loved.  I was trained as a dancer using the Cecchetti (or Italian) method, which seeks to teach students by "building up" from the most basic skill to the most advanced.  Each step or movement is worked backward to its simplest level and the process of teaching it over the years is carefully determined.  I know that this informs my teaching now, even though I'm teaching English and not dance.  I love to take a standard or a unit objective and think it backward in terms of how a student would be able to accomplish the end result.  I think I love this piece more than any other piece of the job.  If I could be a professional lesson planner, I'd do it.  Creating curriculum just floats my boat.  I often lose hours and hours wrapped up in the planning of some unit.  It's fun, in a nerdy-English-teacher-way.  As I said in #1, I'm fortunate to work in an environment where I can do that and it's not "scripted." Many teachers don't have that freedom and I'm grateful.

5) Hours

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my schedule.  For someone with kids, teaching is the best career.  Summers off would honestly make the job worth it for me even if I hated everything else about it--the older I get, the more I realize what a luxury that is in a parent's world.  Of course I get completely PISSED OFF when people act like it's an extravagance--it would not be possible to do what I do for 12 months in a row with no break, and the amount of work I bring home with me is certainly equal to or greater than the summer I get off--but I am nonetheless grateful for the arrangement of time as it is so I can focus on my kids for a couple of months in the summer.  I thankfully trade the work I bring home and the (occasional) heartache and frustration of my job for a few months of peace and rejuvenation.  On a related note, I had to learn to say no to things that happen during the summer because I used to work through them when I was coaching.  Now I'm so protective about that time because I realize how much I need it.

As for the daily hours of my job, they are pretty wonderful too.  I think the one thing I don't like about them is that they're so rigid--which can be hard if an emergency comes up--but overall their predictability and consistency is nice.  I know that I can leave when school's done each day, even if I need to keep working.  I just bring it home with me.  But I can be home.

6) Teaching Writing

Nerd alert!  One of the biggest reasons I went into teaching was a fascination with teaching writing.  For as long as I can remember, I enjoyed in-class peer-editing days.  I would read my peers' essays with a little too much glee in my heart.  I started thinking about how to teach writing long ago, and I can say it's a favorite topic for me now.  Reading is fun for me to teach too, if only because it goes hand in hand with instruction on writing.  I love to dissect a piece and theorize the reasons for its structure.  If I can get students to feel only one iota of what I feel for the written word, then I've done my job.  If they sit down to write an essay in college and give a moment of pause to its organization, then my job was worth it.  If they use one strategy that I placed in their mental toolbox during class, cool.  When they get it, it just melts my little nerd heart.

7) Making a difference

I know, blah blah after school special blah.  But I do make a difference.  I am a part of what kids will remember about one of the most tumultuous, challenging, awkward times of their life.  High school is imprinted upon all of our hearts (for good or for bad) and I get to be a part of that.  Sometimes I get down about the job because I don't necessarily see results in the time I teach kids (or hear thank you) but in the years after they leave, sometimes I get an email or a facebook message that says they've done something with themselves, and they're grateful for what I did.  I can't express to you what that means.  And not every year, but some years there's a kid who decides that I'm okay for one reason or another and we develop a real friendship.  Those aren't something I can expect or count on to happen, they just do.  Some of the kids who I've been close to over the years are people I am just still so happy that I have in my life.  It's a privilege to get to know some of them as young adults and to witness their growth.  I like having a job that makes a difference.  I might not always see the results, but every day is an attempt to do good in the world and I think that's probably good for me as well.

This fall I'm writing about 100 Things I Love, a little bit at a time. Join in on the fun by commenting here with your own loves, tweeting with #100Loves, or by posting on your blog and linking up.

What are 7 things you love about your job?

1 comment:

  1. i participated, but i'm a day late. my apologies.
    and your linky thing never seems to work for me....what could i be doing wrong?