Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why do I call it Teaching is not a calling?

First of all, don't get the wrong impression. I LOVE teaching. I LOVE having a job where for the most part, I have the power to decide what I am doing day in and day out. Besides the start time of course, and the occasional A.P. "snapshot." Those things aside, I really do love my job. Even if last year, my first year, was Hell on Earth, I do love my job. Ok, I didn't capitalize it there. So be it.

There was a point last year where I went down stairs to drop off some copies. Our riso wasn't working, so I went along with a fellow older teacher. This teacher is regarded as one of the best teachers in our department. He is either loved by students, or hated, but respected all the same. For whatever reason, he was on a rant, either because the copies were taking too long or because it was almost first period and he went on about how "teaching was not a calling. It's a job like anything else. I have a family and I am not putting them behind the kids at this school."

Now...if you were a first year teacher, you might take that the wrong way. Afterall, isn't that what they told us in Graduate School? Imagine flowery designs and heavenly backdrops, "Teaching is a Calling." Ah, yes, I remember those, who doesn't. Tra La La...Yes, yes, we are doing God's work...

It does take a special person to teach, but I'm sure it takes a special person to be a Social Worker too. Or a cop. Or a priest. Or an auto mechanic. Or a clown. Don't know if I'd say it is a calling. I don't remember the angel Gabriel coming to my bedside and telling me how I was "chosen" among the lucky few to work with the youth of this generation, the "future" if you want to use that. Maybe I missed that memo.

Why do people call it a calling? We get paid, and despite how people complain, I think we get paid fairly well. We don't get paid enough, sure, but everyone says that. The guy who picks up the trash certainly doesn't think he is being paid enough, and his job isn't that much different..(pause for laughter). We do get a lot of time off, though it is incorrect to say we get summers off. 8 weeks is more like it, yes it is more than most people, but hey, don't like it? Be a teacher then. That usually shuts them up.

It is almost as if administrators expect you to sacrifice your personal life for this. Which is fine for someone like me who has pretty much no life outside my job. But what about those who are raising a family? Should they tell their son that they will be missing their little league game or their daughter that they will be missing her recital, because they have to spend time at their "calling?" I don't think that's fair.

So, when I hear of schools that force teachers to work till 8pm for no ungodly reason, I feel that one, I am glad I am not in a charter school, and two, there are problems with that. If teachers want to stay that late, more power to them, but forcing people to stay late? Without pay? That's wrong. Even with pay it's wrong. Leisure time is something Americans are slowly losing day by day.

I take every opportunity to point out that teaching is not a calling. It is a job I love. A career I love. I get excited when I think of the cool things I am going to do in class, and how my students will react to them. But it's not a calling. If that rhetoric works for you, have at it. But I won't.


  1. well said!

    I get so tired of people saying it is a calling.

    I want a life outside of work. I deserve it and so do you and every other teacher.

  2. Very well said. And why does everyone expect teachers to have to love the job to be good? I have friends in the corporate world who ridicule their bosses behing their backs and hate the decisions their companies make, but who are excellent at their work. It's a job which requires certain skill sets like any other. Loving the job is not necessary, and I've met teachers who don't love the job who are better than those who do. It's an art, at best, a craft, at least, but some people do it well without it being the work of their soul.

    People generally say teaching is a "calling" as an argument to pay us less, and usually very much less. They want to go back to the era in which most teachers were virtual slaves, priests or nuns.

    If you sacrifice yourself to this job too much there will be nothing left of you to come to work.

  3. I agree also. When you say it's a "calling," you're saying that money doesn't matter. Maybe some working teachers think it's a calling, but if they're smart, they'll keep it to themselves.