Our Students’ Call
Do we talk to them about it enough?
Last week, I wrote about the concept of feeling “called” to the work of teaching. I suggested that many people, in many jobs, feel called to the work they do, even if they do not use that terminology. Admittedly, the term “call” is often used in religious contexts, and so I think some people are uncomfortable with that, and shy away from it.
But I would argue they should not be uncomfortable with it. I believe that feeling deeply connected, if you will, to your work is almost always a good thing. It helps with motivation, but more importantly, it helps with how you present yourself in your work. Last week, Lisa Caldwell reminded us that many teachers use their own money to give their students what they believe they need, and indeed this is true (I am doing it myself next week!). Teachers do such things because they do not perceive what they do as a “job” but rather something they are more deeply motivated and connected to than just a job. Sure, they want to be treated fairly and properly compensated for what they do - of course - but the money is rarely what motivates a teacher to be a teacher.
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The next question, which I posed last week and will try to address this week is: well, if we feel called to the work we do, how do we help our students to feel called to the work they will do?
Some people were freakishly clear from an early age on what they felt called to do with their lives. My (other) uncle always knew he wanted to be a priest, like his father. A concert pianist will often tell you that they always knew that is what they wanted to be. In kindergarten (yes, I taught kindergarten once), children are of the age where they are beginning to understand the concept of different jobs, and are often asked what “they want to be when they grow up.” It’s a silly question that is often asked by adults who don’t know what else to say to a young person. But that early, children will have usually have an answer: “A Fireman,” “A Policewoman,” “A pilot,” etc.
The thing is, call to certain work comes at different times in one’s life, and in different ways. But that just makes it harder - but not impossible - to help our students find where “their deep gladness, and the world’s deep need, meet.”
If it happens in different ways at different times in one’s life, well, then it stands to reason that it should be “taught” in different ways for different ages and grades of students. Perhaps that is why kindergarten teachers help their young charges to learn about different jobs - they feel that is an appropriate time for them to begin considering what they feel motivated to do. Later in schooling, obviously it takes different forms. In high school, parents are often asked to come in and speak about what they do to an assembly. I guess the assumption is that students will hear those parents, and feel a call to that work. Or perhaps what they do *not* want to do.
By the time a student is in University, they should probably be getting better help and support around these questions. Many schools have a “Career Services Center” but are not those mostly glorified job boards? Yes, they have counselors who meet with students, but how many students come in and say: “I have no idea, can you help me?” And if they do that, are the career services counselors ready to help in a way that will help students find their call?
The bottom line for me is that I do not think we talk about this enough. It should be a regular and accepted part of the pedagogy of each year of schooling (and graduate school). But I also do not think we have enough tools and developed pedagogy around this subject either. But we should.
Letters of Recommendation
Today’s letter of recommendation, in concert with the theme this week, is a book by Nicolas Pearce, The Purpose Path, A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life’s Work, which should be helpful to us as educators to help our students with these kinds of questions.
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from Oprah Winfrey:
I believe there's a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.