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I Think I Picked the Right Job

Updated on December 12, 2012

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.

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    • StegToDiffer profile image

      Spunk Nellie 

      5 years ago from New York, NY

      As a young person trying to select a college major, it can be difficult trying to decide to do something you like doing or something that provides a stable income. Nice to see someone doing something they actually like. Great Hub!

    • Freeway Flyer profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Swendson 

      5 years ago

      Thank you mootles. At least I know that God is OK with my grammar.

      Jen, apparently you have also picked the right job.

    • Jen Pearson profile image

      Jen Pearson 

      5 years ago from Alabama

      You've hit on how teaching is different from many other professions. You really need to be "ON" the entire time. As someone with energy problems, that's a challenge for me. However, on days that I'm dragging, interacting with my students usually brings me up a notch (I teach adults who are coming because they want to learn--much different than teaching a required subject). Thanks for this affirming hub.

    • profile image

      mootles 

      5 years ago

      Don't sweat the conjunctions.

      Just a note on conjunctions: David Crystal points out all but two sentences in the first book of Genesis, King James Version, begin with "and". So you start off any debate about starting sentences with conjunctions with King James and David Crystal (to avoid appealing to a yet higher authority) on the "it's ok" side...

    • Freeway Flyer profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Swendson 

      5 years ago

      Like any profession, we teachers are a mix of good and bad. And part of the problem - sorry for the conjunction Arthur, but based on what I read every day, I thought it was more a recommendation than a rule - is that academic institutions can often be credential processing centers rather than centers of learning. Students jump through the hoops, and many working at the institutions are happy to process them. Students are happier, after all, when they are not held accountable, and if you fail too many people, then there won't be enough room for the next crop.

    • Dr. Arthur Ide profile image

      Dr. Arthur Ide 

      5 years ago from Iowa

      Unfortunately, many enter the world of education and teaching looking forward to extended vacation time, and assume that repeating weathered notes on yellowed paper is tantamount to presenting information. I have yet to work less than three hours for each classroom hour, and at least another three hours on papers for each student who accepts the responsibility to write.

      While I realize you are not an English teacher, as seen in your composition (you cannot start a sentence with a conjunction, etc), your words express the rubric of learning: enthusiasm for the art and knowledge of the subject. Unfortunately, in Peru where I teach, the teachers are as incompetent as the students, teach only for the money, and give grades to keep their jobs. Ignorance is high and those who do the worse academic work and spend most of their waking time at discotheques, are those who go out to teach future generations who are even more ignorant than the teachers. Schools of education are at best a joke, preaching about methologies, pedagogies, didactions, and similar nonsence without devoting a minute to subject matter or content.

      Privately, I wish that most teachers would be fired, but only in Ecuador did South America have a president that wanted quality rather than quantity and closed down 14 of the most reprehensible universities in the nation that were at best garages for a gaggle of goons, or party-places for the pathetic who would not open a book. It is essential that teachers are subject matter experts, and when they have mastered their fields can go on to learning teaching strategies, not using strategies as if they were the subject itself. Education, that is dying daily and is nearly as meaningless as it was in ancient sciptorium in the Middle Ages, must experience a renaissance. This rebr=irth will only come when there are professional educators willing to study beyond their degree, who research and publish in peer-reviewed journals, and require excellence and reject mediocrity in compositions, discourse and dialogue.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Freeway - Truer words about teaching were never spoken. There are hours and hours of preparation time and grading each week and it does get very old, but like you I am so thankful that I get to do something I love and am pretty damn good at in order to pay my bills.

      Because no matter how the day is going or tired I feel, when I walk into the room, I too, am suddenly "ON" (they deserve no less) and within ten minutes I am having a great and engaging lesson with them as we disentangle Modern European history.

      Very well written and I am so glad you are out there teaching this generation and demonstrating the kind of enthusiasm that does make lifelong learners of people. Great Hub. :) Sharing. Merry Christmas.

    • hockey8mn profile image

      hockey8mn 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      After spending many hours with some of my professors in labs looking at rocks and talking about current events and life in general, I have a new found respect for teachers. I always tell my professors, "I have no idea how you put up with me for so many hours." They always laugh and say I am not that bad. However, you see how much work goes into creating a schedule, assignments, and daily classes, it is mind boggling. They have given me tremendous opportunities for which I will always be grateful. Their long hours and enthusiasm for anthropology/archaeology made my college career. So to you, I say thank you. Voted up, awesome, useful, and interesting.

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