Maybe all work that is satisfying offers this gift. I wouldn’t know, because teaching is the only work I’ve ever done that feels right.
It’s not that I haven’t done other work: a short stint as a copy editor, a short stint as grant researcher, but admittedly, I’ve never done other professional work. I’ve never had to manage people (if you don’t include classroom management); I’ve never worn scrubs in a hospital or been a part of a marketing team — all of which I may have liked very much. But the way life works, at least for many of us, is that we choose a profession at a pretty young age, and we follow the path of that profession straight to where it leads us.
Of course there are detours, even disasters sometimes, along the way. In my case, the detours were three babies I chose to have, but then somehow unwittingly lost my heart to. Teaching, good teaching, requires a lot of heart. And I found there just wasn’t enough space in my heart for passionate teaching and passionate child-rearing all at the same time. So I detoured for a decade. I blame it on my susceptibility to devotion.
Before this detour I had the privilege of teaching in the Writing Program as a Collateral Instructor at Syracuse University. I had a full time job with benefits, a secure, renewable five year contract, and an opportunity to earn raises based on merit. I loved my work there, my students and my colleagues. For years, dead in the middle of my decade-long detour, I believed that I’d never find a home like the Syracuse University Writing Program.
But a man named Joe Morolla envisioned University College at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he hired me and about 40 other instructors who were passionate about teaching, and invited us to design and teach a two-sequence first year course that has been enormously successful. And years later, Gardner Campbell became the Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success at VCU, and he invited me to teach in his visionary cMooc pilot course this past summer, And here I am, immersed and wildly devoted to a profession I have always loved.
Why do I teach? This profession supports and even celebrates my curiosity; it encourages me to constantly research and learn; it allows me to creatively collaborate with people I genuinely like; it nags at me to try new things in the classroom; it demands that I be my best self every day.
Maybe these are the offerings of other professions, too. Or maybe my bounty is about the best anyone can ask for.