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Monday, August 05, 2013

Comparing Business to Teaching: A Wake up Call to the World



Of all of the jobs I’ve had in my life, teaching takes the most energy and patience and is by far the hardest of what I’ve done.

When I was a businesswoman

When I was a businesswoman - I could fire employees who didn’t do their job – now, I have to work to motivate and teach every student even those who don’t want to be there.

When I was a businesswoman - I could even fire customers if they caused a constant drain upon resources with complaining or wasted tasks; – as a teacher I work with all who come.

When I was a businesswoman - I had great autonomy - the buck stopped with me in terms of customer satisfaction - as a teacher there are so many things in the life of a child at my school from the lunchroom to the playground to the team and other teachers - all of these combine to make their experience - I only have control over my own classroom.

When I was a businesswoman the world was a more forgiving place when I messed up. I could make mistakes in grammar or spelling without everyone pointing at me, accusing me of falling short. I could forget a date in history. Now, for some reason because I’m a teacher, I’m supposed to be perfect in knowledge – but I’m not.

When I was a businesswoman, I had far less customer service to do. As a teacher, I’m getting a barrage of questions from parents and students and board members to handle with far less time to respond. I live “customer service” every moment because all I do is answer questions and serve.

When I was a businesswoman, I could actually close my door. I could be alone for more than 50 minutes at a time. I could plan my day and work my plan. If I had a big project I could get some quiet to do that. As a teacher, I have to do my big projects as I work with students or after school. I will be in the midst of something and a parent drops by for a chat and I’m stuck staying till 9pm. It is how it goes. People somehow think that teachers are here without schedules and that we work less time than the real world but I can attest to the fact that the hours are longer and people respect your time far less when you teach.

When I was a businesswoman, I could leave work at the office and come home. I could go on vacation and leave someone in charge and expect not to receive many phone calls. (I was general manager for cellular one - so even back in 1994 I had a cell phone.) Now, as a teacher, except in the summer, my students still contact me. Not to bother me, but because I’m a 24/7 teacher. I’m always on the ball.

When I was a businesswoman, I could go out for lunch. Wow, I got an hour for lunch. Now, sometimes I’m lucky to get 5 minutes – if I have lunch duty. People who think teachers have shortened hours need to realize that we are pretty much on duty every moment of every day and that includes lunch.

When I was a businesswoman, I could be a member of the Rotary club and president of the Chamber of Commerce. I could go to meetings where I learned about current events and had time to read the newspaper. I got to be around other adults and make a difference in the community. As a teacher, the school is my world. I have to dive into my online PLN for daily learning and open up a video to see current events. I have to master tricks to allow me to stay abreast of the world in minutes because my time to read the newspaper is gone.

When I was a businesswoman, I worked with numbers and was paid by the numbers. As a very good businesswoman, I was able to earn whopping commissions for my sales. As a teacher, what I do is not quantifiable. While some say a test score could quantify what I do - I work with people. J Edwards Deming said that ‘the most important things are not measured and unmeasurable.’ and I agree. You can’t measure what I do except see what happens after time. People think you can actually measure all of learning in a number don’t know kids and don’t know learning. Many of them have test anxiety (like their parents) and a number on a piece of paper can’t summarize a kid even more than my weight can summarize my overall health. It can give you trends but not the full picture.

When I was a businesswoman, if I did a good job long enough at my current job, I could get promoted - usually with a significant raise. As a teacher, there is no promotion - unless you want to move into administration and move away from kids. There is no merit increase- pretty much all teachers get the same % increase - even the sorry ones. About the only way I could get a big increase is to be a good coach and that certainly isn’t my calling. This is probably the hardest thing for me - in my years of business I was promoted every year or two consistently. Now, I have to reinvent myself every year. My promotions come in the form work I do on the side and with my students. My promotions are made when I level up my teaching and get more out of my students.

When I was a businesswoman, there were awards you could win. When I was part of a team that implemented something new, we received notice for it or a commendation. Certificates were handed out for many things because people knew that building a resume is important and that excellence needs to be quantified. As a teacher, pretty much the only awards that are won are by the students - while this is fine - if you’re driven (like me) you miss having those things to shoot for. My reward comes in the thank you letter or note from parents. It comes in the pack of post it notes and pens that someone left me. I’m happy with a kind word at the store. No wonder teachers are desperate for attention. The only award for teachers at our school is STAR teacher and that is picked by a senior – since I teach up to 10th grade - I doubt that will happen. Plus, that is just by one student. I never knew until I became a teacher just how hard it is because of the silence of recognition opportunities. The silence about what good teachers do is deafening and it is something that society needs to address and every school should address if you want to keep the best teachers teaching.

But…

When I was a businesswoman, though, as much as I appreciated my employees and enjoyed making my “numbers” every month - there was something missing. My passion was there but not my purpose.

When you hear the Siren song… you can’t turn back…

I didn’t really plan this path for me. It is kind of like the men who would hear Siren’s song and couldn’t for the life of them turn away. Except I’m not sailing towards the rocks, I’m sailing around them daily.

What I didn’t have as a businesswoman.

  • But when I was a businesswoman, I didn’t have all of this life around me.
  • I didn’t laugh as much. I didn’t live as much.
  • I didn’t have customers coming back to thank me years later for what I’d done for them “back when.”
  • I didn’t have the freedom to talk about important things of life and every month I started over at zero with more numbers. I don’t teach numbers - I teach precious human beings. I love them.
  • I love teaching. It is my purpose. It isn’t my destiny it is my calling. When I’m there, I’m all there. Sure, there are drawbacks and things I don’t have. The world gives a whole lot more respect to me as a businesswoman than me as a teacher. But I don’t care.

I choose to teach

I happily choose to be a teacher. This isn’t about receiving the world’s respect or having an easier time of it. It isn’t about having time alone or being able to close your door. It isn’t even about the money - although I have always had to work on the side to support “my teaching habit.” I also have a husband with a very good job and my family can afford to let me teach. Not everyone can afford to do this. Some great teachers are leaving the profession and their calling because they can’t afford to sacrifice their families to teach.

Teaching is about something I must do.

It is more like Jeremiah 20:9 where Jeremiah says:

there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

While he’s talking about holding in God’s name. I’m talking about teaching. I tried to hold back my love of teaching but I could not. It is who I am. It is what I must do. And for all the drawbacks, teaching – good teaching – is just plain old noble. It is.

When you feel the good things in life

There are times when you eat a very nice restaurant or end up in a very nice hotel or are on the prow of a ship with the wind in your hair where you say to yourself “Wow, this is living. This is amazing.”

I do that just about every day in my classroom. There is something supremely noble and important. I feel it in every word I speak and action I inspire. What I do is very important. Every day is important in the life of a child. I just didn’t have that in the business world.

We can all join in and start appreciating good teaching.

While we need good businesswomen and men and some aren’t cut out for teaching – it is time to appreciate and elevate teaching for what it is – a calling, a passion a purpose.

What teachers DO

Good teachers aren’t slackers. They don’t choose not to be part of the community activities you have going. They do care about the community.

I don’t do this job because I get (sigh) summers off or holidays. It takes the whole first week of summer just to feel like a human being again.

I’ve never worked harder but been more fulfilled. Teachers aren’t perfect and we don’t always behave nobly, but good teachers care about kids. Teachers work 98% of time of other professions in 3/4 of the year. Our hours are very long during the week.

What society should DO with good teachers.

Shouldn’t the people that spend more time with kids than their parents be respected members of society?

Do we let one or two employees not doing their job color our entire view of a company? The existence of bad teachers doesn’t diminish the importance of good ones. In fact, I’d argue that it makes good teachers even more important!

I don’t have time to look back from the plow at when I was a business woman. In fact, I usually don’t go down this row because it can make me unhappy with how education organizes itself.

But it is what it is. I pay the price in a major salary cut to do work with purpose. Some would say that doesn’t make me noble - it makes me stupid. I don’t care what you say -

I care about living a life that means something.

I care about doing my God given purpose.

I care about the future of my city and state and world.

I care about kids and helping their parents help them do their best.

I care and thus, I teach.

I care about teaching and the future of kids and thus I write this blog to help others see the truth.

I will pour myself out in service to the noblest of professions.

I sure hope some of my business colleagues will read this post and understand just what teachers do and give up in order to work with kids. You can start doing things to encourage and keep good teachers and it starts with giving respect and thanks to them.

What parents and business people can do.

I hope as the school year starts that parents and others will realize how important saying thank you to the teacher is – it is the ONLY - I repeat the ONLY “way to go” most teachers EVER get - no matter how good they are.

I hope most of all that my students are ready for me. We’ve got special things planned and it all starts Thursday.

I start today!!

I don’t have much time to format this post and make it perfect because I’ve got to run to school. In fact, I’ll go ahead and publish it now and then add the photos later tonight. I hope people will read it anyway without the pretty pictures.

Preplanning starts to day and I can’t wait. I’m ready! I’m psyched. I love this job even with its drawbacks - it is a great profession and I’m honored to be a teacher. I’ll leave the house in 10 short minutes as soon as I press publish!

Watch out students, Mrs. Vicki is coming! I’m your TEACHER and I’m so glad to be right here with you this year!!

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