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Why Do You Keep Working This Job?
It was a hot Texas summer at camp in Central Texas. A white iPhone 5s rang in a young man’s pocket right before lunch. But the vibrations in the pocket of this hopeful young man would reverberate decades beyond this moment. It was the anticipated phone call of opportunity, stability, and independence.
“Hello,” the young man answered.
“Hi, this is Coach,” the deep, burly, and country-twangy voice asked on the other end.
What ensued on that phone call was an invitation to impact lives—to join the ranks of educators and coaches who pour heartfelt effort into everything they do for the betterment of generations beyond the horizon of what they’ll ever get to experience.
“When’s the earliest you can come interview,” asked the burly voice.
“I can come anytime this week,” the young man replied. “Great, I’ll let our administrators know you’ll be up this way and I can show you around and everything so we can get the ball rolling in the hiring process,” said the deep-voiced man.
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From the moment the call ended, the trajectory of many lives would change forever. For the young man, he’d witnessed multiple changes in himself and others. He’d transition from romantic to realistic to cynical. His dispositions would change from joyous, cheerful, and grateful to frustrated, furious, and discontent.
New habits would form. Friendships would blossom and die. Colleagues, bosses, students, and athletes would come and go.
Rules about how to coach would change.
Laws about what to teach (or not) would change.
Interactions with parents would change.
He would change. Through it all, though, he would remain.
This is my story.
Twelve years ago, this time of year, this is where I started.
I revisit the initial memory of accepting this coaching position at the beginning of each school year. We can all reminisce about the origins of our current occupations and consider how grateful, joyous, and happy we were to start a new endeavor. The trick is holding on to that feeling for as long as possible. I have not mastered this trick. The further away we get from the beginning, the harder it is to remember and remain grateful for having a job.
Initially, no matter our occupation, we highly value the institution’s value and worth. Over time we begin to question our worth in the job. Sometimes we outgrow our value to the institution. Both are important if we consider the ultimate goal of how we want to provide for our families and impact the world.
For teachers and coaches specifically, when we vent about the frustrations, conditions, and obstacles that seem impossible, we’re fed (or we feed ourselves) the same classic lines about making a difference in a child’s life. While this is true, we must be honest with ourselves. What if we need to make a difference in our own lives? The change may be as small as taking more time off or as grand as switching careers altogether. Regardless, it’s worth exploring if we hope to recapture that initial feeling of beginning.
So whether you’re dreading returning to school or just returning to work this Monday, go back to your beginning. Go to the mirror. Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself why you’re still here. Is it time for a change?
An opportunity might be one phone call away for you.
For me, the effects of that white iPhone 5s ringing in my pocket 12 years ago are still making ripples in every student-athlete I was privileged to coach, every colleague I got to know, every friend I’ve made, and every lesson I’ve taught and learned in this profession.
And when I say goodbye to the job, I’m confident the vibrations will continue to manifest long after my absence. But for now, I’m ready to make new waves.
So to all my fellow teachers, coaches, and administrators starting school soon, I wish you all well this year. For everyone else simply beginning a new week—here’s to making new waves.