Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just Doing My Job

Last week my family experienced the vacation from hell. We spent several days camping in the mountains near Cherokee, NC. The final two days were spent in Asheville in a hotel and touring the Biltmore Estate. I spent much of the evening in the hotel assisting my wife with her newly sprained foot. At one point I needed to go out and look for some crutches, an ankle brace, etc. to help out with the issue. I asked the desk clerk for directions to several pharmacies. Because we were nearing the end of an exhausting couple of days, I know my face communicated all my feelings. The young man assisting me was quite helpful and very customer service oriented. He sensed my need and went out of his way to print maps and directions, offering any other help he could provide. I was duly impressed and touched by his actions. When I thanked him, he responded by saying, "Just doing my job."

Now I know he meant nothing negative. I'm pretty sure his meaning was, "I'm supposed to do everything I can to help you because you are the customer." I honestly believe he was genuine in his intentions. However, it made me feel less special. It initially made me think he only did it because he had to, despite the other indications that said something else. I immediately thought of myself and all my colleagues who will be returning to work over the next couple of weeks as school resumes. How many times are we guilty of "Just doing my job"?

That phrase can be taken both ways, just as with the hotel clerk. We can be student focused, learning focused, reflective and adaptable because as teachers that's the best way to do our job. Our efforts can be motivated by a sincere concern for the well being of our students. OR we can participate in the principal's latest vision or the superintendent's latest mandate because "it's our job" and we have to. Both ways are correct but one is better.

"Just doing my job" means also seeing my students as people. Yesterday I ran into one of my kids from last year. (I almost never call them "students" - it seems to impersonal for me.) She ran up to me and gave me a big hug. I'm glad that when I did my job for her last year, it meant more than the imparting of mathematical knowledge. I hope that as I do my job this year that a whole 'nother group of kids feel the same way. I firmly believe that the nature of my relationship with my kids has as much influence with their eventual progress as my teaching will. OR we can say, "My job is to be your teacher, not make you like me." Both ways are correct but one is better.

Teachers in my county officially report back to work tomorrow. Let's all go out and do our job.

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