Why Bother Considering Our Labor?
It is the beginning of a new work week and nearing the end of a school year and sometimes I wonder. I wonder if my personal investment of time, energy, and focused hard work leaves much of an impression on my students. Do they know how much I care? Has my influence in their lives as their teacher left them with a little more zeal for learning? Do they see the value of putting forth an effort? Do they understand that their hard work pays off? Have I impressed upon them that they are more responsible for their learning than I am? Have I been caring enough about their personal lives? In other words, has my labor been in vain or can I count my labor as being successful?
Measuring Our Labor
As a teacher, I have my students 180 days of the year for about seven hours a day. I do not control the amount of parental support they get, the number of hours they sleep or if the type of food they eat. I can only make suggestions—don’t forget your homework, don’t stay up too late and be sure you eat breakfast before coming to class tomorrow.
Still, my success as their teacher is measured every year. First, it is gauged by each student’s outcome. State tests are given at the end of each year and the results tell everyone, including the general public, whether my students are proficient, above grade level or below grade level with fourth grade skills in math, reading, and writing.
I work hard so that each of my students succeed on these tests, but I already know the outcome before the state does. Not everyone will succeed. Not everyone of my students will score as a proficient fourth grader. They simply can’t. Too many absences, too many times relocating to different schools and being too far behind to begin with prohibit them from reaching proficiency level.
Secondly, my labor is measured by my principal’s evaluation. Soon, he will sit down with me and together, we will evaluate my work over the past school year. He will grade me, so to speak, on how well I accomplished those goals I set for myself back in September. It will be a time of reflection with a dose of humility along with an opportunity to consider what I can do differently next year. Every teacher knows that there is always room for improvement.
But there is a third way my labor is measured. It is personal to me, unrecognized by the state and not always mentioned to my principal. It is teacher appreciation week and today, I received a card from one of my students that gave me great joy. Reading his card gave me the evidence that I have left an impression on this young man. His wonderful handwritten note reminded me that my labor, as a teacher, was not in vain. His words, “I appreciate you lots,” is all I need to assure me that I’ve made a difference in his life.
Why bother considering our labor? It is worth considering our labor and whether or not it is in vain or productive. We just have to be careful what we use to measure our sense of worth.