Many people refer to our jobs in teaching as our “calling.” I reckon they think this is a compliment. Usually it’s prefaced or surrounded by such talk as “You’re so good with kids.”; “I could never do what you do.”; or “I can’t even get him to pick up his toys.” Well, those people are right. I am good with kids, you probably can’t (although won’t is more like it) do what I do, and you’ve got a problem if your kid doesn’t follow your directions.
I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE it when people refer to teaching as a calling. Doing so implies some pretty awful things. Consider that a calling is something you’re divinely inspired to do. Save for some mega churches, most clergy aren’t rocking the high-income brackets either. I see this as a way to justify our long hours, lack of real support, public flogging (read the papers for accountability and really think of what that says about those of us in teaching) and poor pay. It’s as if our schools are our mission projects, and, since we’re called to this, we would do it for free. It takes away the hard work, experience, and education it took to get us here.
It also implies that we will accept any job under any circumstances because to teach is what “fills our life cup.” Are you kidding? First, WHITE WOMAN. Second: WHITE WOMAN WITH SOME REALLY WIDE HIPS. Third: UPPITY WHITE WOMAN. I DO NOT LOOK LIKE JESUS.
Sure, I love what I do. I feel that it’s socially important. I can be very good at it. However, my name is not now, nor will it ever be, Saint Suzanne. I am not willing to push this boulder up a hill alone or accept being thwarted, endure hardship and despair, or suffer insults about my teaching all for the “privilege” of being there. I cannot perform miracles. I am one person.
By referring to what teachers do as a calling, it is easy to keep expecting more with less. It is EXPECTED that teachers will step in to do more — with their own money, their own time, and their own energy. There is the expectation that we will sacrifice our lunches, afternoons, evenings, and weekends to do more for the kids and the community. I say this again with great sincerity, I am not Jesus. I have a family. I have other desires. I am not willing to martyr myself for the cause. Furthermore, I am not Anne Sullivan. I cannot be writing water into every Helen Keller’s hand to “make that connection” while 30 other kids run in circles until it’s their turn. It’s IMPOSSIBLE.
By calling it a calling, you assume I can do the impossible. I can’t…
And that kills a small part of me every day. One day I will QUIT because I can’t do everything, or be everything, and I feel guilty for it. Who, then, will take my place? Who then will take on this hair shirt and wear it with pride? Will you?