How I got from Sunday Jerk to Monday Fanatic
The short answer? Being married.
The long answer? Don’t get my wrong, I love my job. Sometimes. Sorta. Some days I downright hated my job.
Before I got married, there were plenty of things about my job that I did not enjoy. Some days it was a boss. Some days it was a parent. Some days it was a student. Some days it was the politics of education, so recently put into the spotlight by conservative legislatures across the country.
Friday would arrive, and I was free. I would spend the weekend with my fiance and our dogs, do homework, read, spend time with our parents, all of the fun things a weekend is for.
Then Sunday would arrive. As Jon Acuff might say, I was a sunday jerk. All day I would stew, dreading my fiance’s return to school (two hours away) and my return back to work.
I would begrudgingly return to my “real” life, where my evil alarm clock was waiting. (one of my first tweets ever was something along the lines of, “whatever advertiser decided to use an alarm clock in this ad ought to be shot.” I seriously had a problem with my alarm clock!)
Why does it have to be this way?
I was determined to find out.
What does a master’s student that is engaged to a PhD student do to find information? Research. This past fall I began to pour over research regarding teacher morale. My problem with my job had to be external, all the research said so. In fact, the scholarly research on teacher morale all concluded that teacher morale is influenced by leadership at the building, district and state levels. The effect size of individual teacher actions on teacher morale within the building was near zero.
Zero. Research has found that one teacher cannot have an impact on the morale of other teachers in the building. Not only was there nothing I could do, but I was given an excuse to blame my bosses for what I thought was a poor work environment.
My wife and I had countless conversations about searching for a new job, or pursuing another degree just to avoid going to work. It was crazy. Who on earth does a literature review for permission to hate their job?
Me. And I got worse.
I spoke to colleagues in all levels of education, from all around the country. At conferences, at performances, everywhere. Anytime I could get an educator to bring up my job, I would slowly unload on them. I was stealthy enough that no one ever knew I was secretly hoping for the opportunity to brag about how bad my job was. Not only did I convince myself my job was horrible, I set out to convince other people of the same thing. What was wrong with me?
I had no perspective. Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of why I wanted to teach. The reasons I became a teacher started to blur and became obscured by my own self-destructive behavior.
For some reason, it never occurred to me that my problem with work might have been me. That maybe, just maybe, my actions and outlook could impact the morale of at least one teacher. Me.
The transformation I experienced in the first few months of marriage was not clear to me until after listening to Jon Acuff speak at a Dave Ramsey Live Event. Jon spoke about careers, day jobs and dream jobs. I like what he had to say so much I went out and bought his book, Quitter, at the conference so I could have him sign it. I read the book in a day and a half. Contrary to the title, it is not a how to manual on how to quit your job. If anything, it is a guide to loving your day job. As I was reading, I came to realize that I, in fact, love my day job.
My job has incredible benefits. Every day I wake up and go inspire students to make music. I teach work ethic, personal responsibility, and vocal technique. How cool is that? I was doing all of those same things before, but somehow that got lost.
Being married brought my work life back in to focus. If something I disagree with happens at work, oh well. Even if it is not the best for me or my students, I know that when I go home, I go home to my lovely wife. Knowing that I have someone that loves and supports me and what I do for a career was the first step to falling back in love with teaching music.
The second step to loving my job was being a provider. As I have mentioned before, she does not make a lot of money as a GA. I joked about wife tax in my last post, but I did not share how much fulfillment I got when I handed her that first check. Now my work has purpose, personally and professionally. The great influence I can have on students has always been a positive, but when the money I bring home was given a purpose, I was reinvigorated.
Spending money each month with no purpose brought me no happiness or satisfaction at home or at work. However, when I was able to put my money to work towards reaching our shared financial goals, the picture became completely clear. Not only am I in charge of my perceptions of my job, but the more purposeful the work, the better. The more purposeful the spending, the more meaning and satisfaction can come from earning the money.