Friday, January 28, 2011

Job or Vocation?

            Job satisfaction as an educator in California is more like an oxymoron than something that can be pinpointed in a reflective blog.  Despite being underpaid, overworked and wearing more hats simultaneously than a lunch time hat rack in January at a Chicago Numero Uno, I love what I do!

            Job satisfaction comes very simply from knowing that each and everyday I make a difference in someone’s life. But if I had to pinpoint five factors that are critical to my own job satisfaction I would  rank them as follows:
1.       Vocation
2.       Mission
3.       Students
4.       Colleagues
5.       Ah Ha! Moments

Vocation is clearly the top in the list because I have chosen education as my vocation.  Teaching is both who I am and what I do. I have come to this realization through a twenty year transition from coach who taught, to teacher and coach, to teacher who also coached, to teacher, and finally to educator as my vocation. Knowing the value of an education to those I have taught in the past and to the students who currently share my educational realm, I know that what I do is invaluable to each and every individual who I am fortunate to mentor, guide, inspire and educate.   

Mission is next because I am a Lasallian educator and both live and believe in the Lasallian Mission.  The tradition of Lasallian education is one guided by five principles: Faith in the Presence of God, Quality Education, Inclusive Community, Respect for All Persons, Concern for the Poor and Social Justice. In this tradition each student is valued for their unique set of talents and abilities. Students are encouraged to value education as a means to follow a simple idea of “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve. It is in this living this mission that I find job satisfaction knowing that the students I teach will be making positive contributions to the world we share.

Students are the fuel for my educational engine.  I absorb their enthusiasm and energy and use that as a means of driving myself each day. Who would I be as an educator if it weren’t for students. 

As the Science Department Chair, I am very fortunate to have a tremendous group of educators to work with.  These people are not only colleagues but friends. We have developed a symbiotic mutualism as we work to make the educational process effective for ourselves but for the students entrusted to our care.  It is the respect we have for each other as educators that allow us to set aside ego and share the menial tasks of copying, filing, grading to make for a very efficient working model. But what I enjoy most is the sharing of ideas. We talk about everything.  Conversations in our common prep rooms can include classroom planning and management, Moodle (online education hub) development, lab preparation, or kid's soccer game, the mechinics of pitching, or excitement at the most recent science outreach, or last night’s family dinner.  I am blessed to have colleagues whom I can share my vocation.

Ah Ha! Moments are what all teachers live for.  That flipping of the switch when the light bulb goes on.  When the student who is just about to pack it in sees the light and I know that I was a conduit in that circuit. But for me, the best ah ha! Moments are those I get from voices from the past. When I run into a former student or get that phone call or email that let’s me know that I had some effect on their life.
They don’t come as often as I would like but just one is usually good for a year or two of inspiration to continue valuing the job I do.

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