“It’s not my job to teach them how to behave.” Those words stung when I heard them last week and they still do. Have you ever hit a stick or pipe against something hard only to have your hands vibrate and sting? Yea. That’s what those words felt and still feel like.
Get in your time machine and go back with me about a week ago. I was having a discussion with another teacher from another school about strategies to help my kids. I have a large population of kids from very impoverished areas. They lack many social graces and skills the majority of the population values. I was asking this colleague how they teach those skills, cues and expectations to such large groups of kids. “They ought to already know how to behave. It’s not my job to teach them how to behave” was their reply.
I politely ended the conversation, turned to someone else and struck a conversation about something else. I don’t even remember what now.
“It’s not my job….” Then, who’s?
When I went to Montana to attend the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute (DENSI 2012), I was overwhelmed by the technology, the ease people were following using the apps for the Mac (I’m a Window’s user), the way people were networking. I took a step outside and almost broke down. If the people at the convention took the attitude “It’s not my job”, I would not have had my epiphany shift in using Discovery Education in the classroom and the change the way I teach. That one moment because someone made it their job when it was not, made a dynamic impact on my career.
When my teaching style was in the tank, everyone could have said, “It’s not my job to help them.” However, one person made it their job to make sure I succeeded. She spent MANY, MANY, MANY long nights over email reviewing lesson plans, helping refine and streamline, polish, be blunt and correct potential blunders. She could have said “It’s not my job” and I might have eventually found my way out of that hole. But, she made it her job. I’ve learned to love the kids I get. I am learning to love the subject I teach. I am appreciating the daily challenge this career brings me, because someone made it their job.
When I was 14, I earned my Eagle, God and Country, Hornaday Conservation Award and Word Conservation Award in Boy Scouts. It was a very busy year. I thought my scouting career was over. Leaders could have said, “It’s not my job to find something else for him. He’s done.” However, two people made it their job to let me know, Eagle is not the end of scouting careers, it is the beginning of a whole new direction for your scouting career. As a result of those two people making it their job, I have met professional NFL, MLB and NBA stars. I have met three astronauts. I have met authors, mayors, governors, senators, actors, and even a surviving Tuskegee Airman.
Every year, the number of kids in my class that need help learning how to behave in public seems to grow. Big D is one of my new students. He is FILLED with the joy of Euphrosyne (Greek goddess of joy). You can’t be in the same room without feeling his happiness. He loves to laugh, and make others laugh. If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘Dance like no one is watching’, well, that’s Big D. He dances for any reason. His joy is priceless……. to a fault. He does not have the social graces to listen, and contain that joy. It just flows.
I had a discussion with Big D about there is a time and place for that much joy, and there is a time and place to contain it and hold it captive. It’s not my job to teach him those skills. “He ought to know better”, right?
“Hey, Coach Casey. Can you help me fill out a job application?” asked Big D after class. “Big D, I’ll help you fill it out if you agree to let me help you learn how to go for the interview and how you should dress. What do you think?” “No one’s ever showed me how to do that. Would you Coach Casey?” “One additional condition. When we are in class, you call me by my proper name, Coach Case. When we are in the hall, you can call me Coach Casey. Deal?” I get crushed in a bear hug.
It’s not my job. But, when I reach just one more student in each class and show them ‘how to behave’ in different situations, they will succeed in my class.
It may not be my job, but it is my privilege, honor and blessing.