Today’s journal topic in my language class was Tell me about something you’ve done for someone else. I only had two conditions for the response. The first was that it could not be something that someone had asked you to do, it had to be out of the goodness of your heart. The second thing was that it couldn’t be something that you did expecting or hoping for a reward. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s when people do something that seems nice and then it turns out that they want something for it. We give out “blue slips” for good deeds and I always say, “If you ask for a blue slip, no matter what you did, you don’t get one.” So anyway, I got some really cute responses– Kids helping their parents make dinner or do laundry, holding the door for people, helping people who had fallen, and donating clothes and allowance money to charity. Overall, I was very pleased.
So tonight I was out shopping and I overheard a woman in the store talking to a friend (rather loudly). Based on her conversation I could tell that she was a teacher. The conversation with her friend started out something like this.
Woman 1: “How’s work going?”
Woman (Teacher) 2: “Well, you know, it’s very rewarding.”
I suddenly realized how deeply I hate that expression. People always say it to me when they find out what I do. They say it with pity in their voices like, no one could possibly want to do my job unless they got some serious emotional kudos out of it. I always nod politely and smile but the truth is, I don’t consider my job to be “rewarding.” I just don’t think about it that way. I don’t do my job to get something out of it. I mean sure, I get a pay check and all but to go gloating about emotional rewards makes it sound, I don’t know, kind of… conceited.
You will seldom hear me talk about religion especially when it comes to my own faith. You would especially not hear me profess divine inspiration. But when it comes to my job I truly believe I teach because it was what I was meant to do. So no, I don’t do my job because it’s rewarding. I’m sure that if I ever looked at it that light, I’d find it to be very much so. But I do my job because each day I wake up and I know there are things to be taught. I do my job because no matter how much they annoy me to death, I love my students. I do my job because it teaches me, too and it makes me think about things in ways I never thought possible. I do my job because I owe those kids everything I’ve got to offer them. I suppose in that there are infinite rewards but for me they don’t matter. As long as I can get up Monday morning and see what the day holds for my kiddos and me, that’s all I need.