Monday, January 28, 2019

Work Ethics?

My brilliant friend, Shannon Okay, posted this article today. It sparked many thoughts and feelings from me.


It's called that for a reason. It's not supposed to be joyful all the time and if you think it is, there's something wrong. The article refers to and quotes Elon Musk often. It conveys the message that if you work a 40-hour work week, you're not cutting it. It also points out that he earns an obscene amount of money on the backs of others (see below to learn the truth). The article implies it's his business to push those "others" to work until they drop. Hmmmm..... I teach the works of Dickens and Gaskell from time to time and that message sounds oddly familiar. The big difference is that this is self-imposed endless labor and not the employer, starvation life imposed during early industrialization of the 1800s. 

I got my professional chops in a medical publishing company then with AT&T and the phrase of the time was "Work Smarter, Not Harder." I hold to that philosophy. I was sent to Stephen Covey Time Management seminars and provided with the, then hard copy, planner to implement his theories. I now use my apple products with the same intention: Handle things once, do it now, note it for later to free up your mind, and double dip when possible. I was a publisher, support/corporate trainer, at-home mom/homemaker, and now am a public educator. I have four endorsements in unlikely areas: k-6, Science, English, and Consumer Science.  None of my former professions and my current profession came without those tasks no one wants to do. You JUST DO THEM because it makes the enjoyable part happen and makes you good at what you're doing. It's not supposed to be all fulfilling and joy inspiring, it's supposed to be "okay" and bring home enough money to pay your bills and fund your future.

My dad came to hate his job in corporate oil. He initially liked the social aspect and local travel during early years but any kind of advancement or raise meant a different role. He provided for his family, and that big oil company offered excellent benefits and retirement options. He found his joy in his hobbies. He poured himself into them whether it was bicycle road racing, photography with antique cameras, metal working, wood working, or sharp shooting. That's where he found his joy, not his job. 

My own husband is in much the same position. He served straight out of high school, went to school on the GI Bill, then has served for over 30 years at our local VA Hospital. He's done like dinner, but is too young to retire. He'll get through these last few years because the benefits outweigh the cost. Like my dad, he works for the practical reasons, not the fulfillment. He also, like my dad, realizes he needs to put in the required work but no more, then come home to where he finds joy.

Both of those situations are perfectly okay.

I, however, am a different story. You saw above that I've done a few different things. Some of those were when I was on my own or mostly sole parent to my two daughters. I managed but I always balanced home and work, even if it meant being very frugal. My mom taught piano from our home. I didn't get much of her time as it pretty much all went to her students. When I was a teen, I remember her saying she had over 60 students. That may not seem like a lot to a classroom teacher but remember, these students were one-on-one and had a minimum of 30 minutes of her time each lesson and weekends were devoted to class lessons. She also participated in professional organizations, went to professional conventions, supported her students in competitions and forward into higher education or musical careers. She may have been in the living room but I was forbidden to interrupt and left to my own devices or at my older sisters' mercy. 

I was determined to be a provider and a very present parent. I took that time management training to a new level and made life decisions, not just financial decisions. When my husband, dad to my girls but not their biological father, and I met, I stressed about that balance because I was used to being responsible for getting bills paid for my girls and myself. When the three of us moved into his modest home, I encountered what so many teachers have - reduction in building. Mill Levys and Bonds didn't pass in my district and teachers lost their jobs. It was "last on, first off" and not connected to any performance measures, so I was one of three teachers to leave my building. There were cuts in every school, so there weren't any openings, either. I was so grateful when my husband said, "You're not a single mom anymore. I make plenty of money if we're careful. Your girls are graduating from high school in the couple years, so why don't you just sub for a couple years and try out the schools closer to home?" He was and still is my soulmate, my support, and the love of my life. 

I did just that: tried out many schools until there were just two that I would spend all my time in, and became theater and band mom. I took trips with my daughter for band performances which would include continental and European travel. I was able to be completely supportive to my teens as they encountered difficulties. I wouldn't trade it for any six-figure income!

By the time my youngest graduated, I landed in my current teaching position purely by serendipity. Now, I'm coming to my point. This is my dream job. It feeds my soul. I actually DO look forward to every day I get to be there with my incredible students. Are there bumps? Absolutely. Is there routine, mundane work? Some, although not as much as in previous schools (I think that's a whole post right there). I can truly say I love my work and am fulfilled by 56 years old and after two other professions, experience, and let's not forget to mention a butt-ton of graduate study to be better at my work. It's also important to note that, as a public educator, I could not live independently from my income. It's only due to my husband's job that he doesn't love at all, that we get by and will have enough to retire when the time comes. Although, "retire" isn't in my vocabulary. I'll always do something and, as long as we live here, they'll have to drag me from my school, kicking and screaming.

I'm not sure what Elon Musk, who was quoted so freely in the article which inspired this post, makes. (Switches tabs to Google that....) According to the not always trustworthy interwebs, Mr. Musk's net worth is 20.8 billion, and, to his credit, he receives only $37,000 annual income from his employment at Tesla. That's more money than anyone needs. Personally, I would hope if someone makes that much, a good part of it is spread around. However, everything I've seen and read about Mr. Musk, albeit eccentric, is positive and focuses on following creativity, taking risks. The general consensus I've heard is that working for SpaceX as an engineer is a lot like working at Microsoft when it was the "big thing" for programmers; interesting work, nice perks but lots of stress and hours.

Work is a fact of life and it's not always, and sometimes never, enjoyable BUT it's okay to demand what you deserve which includes fair wages/salary and balance in your life.

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