The Writing

22 May, 2017


Yesterday was the very first time, ever, that someone has said to me (and to Nous, who was with me), "Thank you for teaching our kids to write. It's important."

My instinct was to downplay it, because I am toadshit at taking thanks, and because I don't think I deserve gratitude for doing my job. I chose this profession. Besides, in context: We were at Trader Joe's doing the Sunday shopping, and while we were checking out (and bagging our own groceries, because that is how we roll) the checker asked how the quarter was going. Not done yet, I said, and the students are over it, and we are over it, and spring quarter's the worst. And then the checker one lane over laughed, concurred (I assume she's a student?) and it became a 3-way commiseration, oh, spring quarter, the cruelest, the worst, wah.

And into that, our checker says what she says, not ironically, not sarcastically, but sincerely.

We joke, Nous and I, that one does not do this job for the accolades. That one should not do any job for the accolades, except jobs for which accolades are the point, and maybe not even then.* Yeah, we get thanks from our students sometimes, and that's great--but the cards or the cookies or whatever aren't motivation. And clearly it's not the money, either. It's just... what we do. What we're good at. And yes, I do it in part because I think it's important work, teaching students to write, but I don't expect anyone else to notice, much less remark on it.

I am used to being professionally devalued by the public at large--teacher unions are evil, teachers whine, you guys get summers off (no! we are paid 9/12. Big difference). And sometimes there are shithead teachers, of course, just like in any other profession. It's also like we're supposed to do more with less, all the time, and we have to keep justifying our existence and apologizing for the assholes among us and defending our actual expertise (because those who can't, teach, amirite? oh har har). It's like...we have to explain to management why adding 4 students to a class is an actual burden of time, and deserves compensation. Because of course we will grade extra papers, and have extra conferences, and do the work like we do no matter how many kids are in the room. They know that. They count on that. They seem offended when we suggest remuneration for labor. And I can guess why that is, where the roots of assuming we just do this because of our feels, so we don't have a right to comment on our workplaces comes from (cough, patriarchy and traditionally female profession, cough). And Nous and I, we're doubly damned: adjunct instructors, not senate faculty. Same degree, half the salary, no tenure, more students.

So yeah, thanks is not something I'm used to hearing, or expecting to hear.

It was nice that someone noticed. Not gonna lie. But also weird and discomforting. It's not weird when a student says thanks, because they're directly experiencing the teaching, and presumably they reap the benefits. But a total stranger who does not (to my knowledge) have a kid in my class? Just a general, objective hey, what you do matters in the world, thanks?

I don't know what to do with that.

*My Nicomachean Ethics are showing again.