It happens almost every week. I stand in front of my class of doe-eyed students and I ask, “Remind me why I’m here…. what’s my job?” The first time I asked that question, I got an enthusiastic student who blurted out, “You’re here to teach us something…”
Nope. That’s not my job.
I mean, technically, if I had a business card from the university, it would likely say “teacher” or, more likely, “instructor” or even “adjunct.” If I had a business card from the university, I would hope it would have subtle coloring – the card: bone, subtly off white; the font: black, Silian Grail; the thickness: tasteful… Oh, my God. It’d even have a watermark…
But I don’t have a business card from the university, so…. Nope. That’s not my job.
My job, as I described to the students, is to provide them information. Their job is to learn.
You see, if I was to accept that my JOB is to teach them something, I’d have to cram it down their throats. I’d have to stay up at nights coming up with Mnemonic Devices to help them remember the elements of design (texture, form, color, shape, space, value, line), you know… The Fat Cat Sang Songs Very Loudly… everyone knows THAT. Or structure tests, tests that gauge their ability to regurgitate the top nine bullet-points of my last 2-hour lecture – top nine points, arbitrarily chosen by me then placed in random order with some level of trickery to try to catch them off guard.
Nah. That’s not me. That’s not my job. My job, as I detailed to my little urchins of education, is to help them get jobs, to provide them with relevant information in chunks they can digest and savor. So that one day, soon hopefully, they will become productive members of society. Gainfully employed – with a job they love.
My job is to help guide them to knowledge that they can consume to become the best versions of themselves. To become versions of themselves that I would like to employ. Their job, then, is to show up, to listen to the knowledge I’m imparting, to ask relevant questions, and to do the work. Then, to fall in love with their career and tolerate the jobs they get until they’re qualified to vie for their dream job… and to earn it and kill it in that role.
My job is to get them jobs.
Let’s be real: no student is showing up at school because they want to spend money. They show up, spending money, in hopes to make money. To get a job… in the field of study they’ve chosen. That’s their goal. In turn, my goal should be to assist them in their quest.
I cannot make them learn something, but I can provide them information and resources and share from my knowledge and experiences. And, honestly, sometimes – maybe even often – I’m the one learning from them.
We’re learning together. We’re having a conversation. I’d I’m having a damn good time doing it.
If you’re an employer reading this, I guess you could say my job isn’t to teach my current students, but is to work with your future employees.