It can be hard to find joy and fulfillment in a job that feels meaningless. But when you do what you love for a living and know that you’re making a difference, every day is filled with purpose.
Turlock High School English teacher Jared Jeffries can’t relate to the former, as he knows without a doubt that what he does matters. He’s certainly proved it after being named Stanislaus County Secondary Teacher of the Year.
Over the Veteran’s Day break, Jared visited family in Missouri where he overheard a relative, Uncle Will, tell his 16-year-old niece that nobody loves their job and that we do the things that really matter after work. Jared couldn’t disagree more; in fact, he was compelled to write a speech demonstrating it simply isn’t true, especially for educators. Turlock Unified School District shared his wise words on Facebook for anyone who needs a little inspiration this school year.
Here’s what Jared had to say about his relative’s statement.
“There was so much I could have said:
Students that offered me things out of their lunch when I muttered under my breath that I had forgotten mine. Yearbooks stacked two-dozen high on a desk at the end of the year awaiting signatures. Students who said, ‘Your class changed my life… How you treated me changed my life.’
I’ve often called teaching the ‘impossible job’ — to do it perfectly is to understand the unique needs of about 30 different students in a 45-minute period, to address those individual needs, and somehow quantify that those needs have been addressed by the end of the class. Impossible, right? Of course.
But I think that’s why Uncle Will is so unenchanted — his job is entirely too possible. The goals are too easily attainable, the demarcations of success are too clearly defined, the risks too small and the rewards a reflection.
To enter education is to reconcile that you will never do your job to your full potential. Every new year is an opportunity to reflect and refine – to inch closer to the impossible task of the impossible job to teach every kid, every day – meeting them where they are and moving them forward. With 150 students and 180 school days… In any given year that’s twenty-seven thousand departures and twenty-seven thousand arrivals.
You will want to quit, at times, because your job is impossible. And because your job is impossible, at times, you will never want to quit.
But no teacher has ever, ever told me that their career existed only to furnish their life outside of it. In their own language, every teacher, every teacher, has viewed the profession as an extension of their identity, their character, and their talent.
You can love your job. It can be fun every year. The excitement never has to wear off. The purpose of work is so that you can do things that really matter. And then… come home. And do even more things that really matter. And you will never have to trade one half of your life for another half in return. If you accept the impossible job.”
Jared’s message resonated with hundreds, many of whom are teachers themselves. The consensus was clear: to find meaning in life, we must create it. And that comes from pushing ourselves to achieve the impossible, as Jared would say, because we’ll never stop striving for greatness. Let’s all follow his lead and nurture passion and purpose in every single part of our lives.
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