I Think I Picked the Right Job
Enjoying a Job When I Don't Feel Like Doing It
There are moments when I wonder if I have chosen the right profession. These moments can be particularly common as semesters draw to a close. Anyone who has ever taught a significant number of hours per week for any extended period of time knows how mentally and physically exhausting it can be. Sure, the number of hours I spend in front of a class per week is relatively low in comparison to the standard forty-hour week (or more) endured by others. I also get a lot more vacation time than people in most professions. But during those class hours, I must be completely focused on the task at hand, trying to convey material enthusiastically to a set of people who often do not really want to be there. So when I am on, I have to be on. And if my energy level is not where it needs to be, students pick up on this quickly, leading them to an even deeper state of boredom than is common for the typical community college student. So if you don’t believe that community college teaching can suck up some serious energy, try lecturing for three hours straight on a Thursday night.
Inevitably, there are going to be days when I do not feel up to the task. My normal energy level just isn’t there, I’m a bit sick of being around other people, and I would rather stare at a TV screen or sit on my ass in front of a computer. But strangely enough, it is at those times that I am most convinced that I have chosen the right profession. A funny thing happens, after all, when I embark on one of those Thursday night, three-hour classes in which I am more than ready for the week to be over. From somewhere deep inside, in spite of how I might feel when class starts, that deeply embedded enthusiasm for the topic at hand comes back. And before I know it, I have quickly kicked into performance mode, and I am once again that guy who many years ago discovered that community college teaching is where it’s at. I will, of course, be exhausted when the class is over. But it’s a good kind of tired, similar to how one feels after a good workout, the fatigue that results from doing something worthwhile.
I doubt that there are many people in the world who have chosen a career path that provides them with nothing but perpetual joy. No matter how much of a dream job a person may have landed, there will be moments of boredom, burnout, or outright exhaustion. But it is at those times where we don’t feel like doing something that we truly find out how much we love what we do. Anyone can perform a task when they are feeling good. But it takes the right fit to find yourself enjoying a job at those moments when every fiber of your being tells you to run away and do something else, anything else.
So I guess that I will try to stick around and pass on my fascination with American History to as many future students as I can. I am not under the delusion that everyone who has gone through my classes has had a fantastic time or has learned a great deal. But in the many student evaluations that I have received over the years, there is one category where I have always gotten high marks: enthusiasm for the subject. And If I had to pick one category on that list that would be the best indicator of whether or not I have picked the right profession, “enthusiasm for the topic” would be on the top. Because if the teacher doesn’t like the stuff he or she is talking about, then why on earth would community college students, who are mostly taking these courses to fulfill general education requirements, give a crap? One of the primary goals of college education is to produce lifelong learners, and enthusiasm for learning is the first key step toward getting there. And if I ever lose my enthusiasm for teaching history, I hope that I have the good sense and courage to get out of the way so that someone else can do it better.