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Vocation versus job: the life of a teacher

There is an awful lot of discussion out there in the ether as to whether teaching is a vocation, a job, a career, or a dark and mysterious, magical art. I am pretty sure at times the main pre-requisite for teaching, particularly of the primary-school persuasion, is the capacity to manipulate runes, willow branches and the forces of nature by the power of Grey Skull.

But that still doesn’t answer whether teaching is a vocation and/or a job.

I think it can be both but it should never be any more than a job if it’s how you make your money. Teaching is something in the blood, and that is for sure. I love to teach and I adore working through tricky concepts and ideas that sometimes befuddle me more than the kids- the other week I had to look up Old Testament men and decide with my student if they were heroes. I am lucky with this element of my work because I’m self-employed and work at the pace the students need, on the task they need it and when. That’s a vocation, and I’m lucky that the vocation I have also is something I can be paid for. I have a lovely job in a loely school for 2 days a week, and I feel the same. The rest of my week is also spent on things I love and am able to make a living from them. I have the privilege that I have a career, job and vocation all in one at the moment. It may change, it may not. But for now, it’s a really good thing

But teaching, full time, day-in-day-out, every day or the week, where you get no respite from a colossal workload can be utterly devastating. If you’re in a school where the kids are fab and your classroom life is great; you have a vocation. But the moment you step out of that room and you’re not supported, you’re not valued, you’re dispensable and it is made very clear that you’re seen as replaceable. When you step outside that classroom, you’ve lost your vocation and you’re just doing a job. Even if you’re in a school where people are lovely (and I am), it is still a job.

We are more than our job.

We are people who may have a vocation in our souls but we can use it outside of a toxic classroom. We can get out of situation that is destroying us, because of policy edits, poor management, workplace bullying and untenable workload. We can be replaced in that situation, because in that setting, employers do not value the individual; they fill a role.

Our vocation gives us skills and we can use those skills elsewhere to build a career if we need it because we are more than our jobs and we need to remember that. Our families, our lives and our wellbeing are more important than a job, whether that job is a vocation, a calling or just our bills.

Teachers are caught in this because we are told to think of the kids, and just do a little of that, or a little of this because… the kids. Or we need to just find a few minutes in our day for this thing that’s really important, or to talk to that person for an hour there, or just buy a few bits and bobs. Or stay a few evenings a week. Because… the kids. But actually, if the system gave a stuff about the kids and the teachers, then teachers wouldn’t have to keep ‘that little thing’ because there would be enough people employed and sufficient resources that the ‘little’ things could be properly undertaken, actual things. And people could have a job that was their vocation because they would be valued and respected.

But we’re quite a long way from that in far too many circles in teaching.

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