Friday, May 25, 2012

Thing Number Seven | Work

Work is the expenditure of energy
In the service of others
Which brings fulfillment to the worker,
Benefit to the community,
And glory to God.

John RW Stott

I chose my course of study very carefully. Both my parents were teachers, so I knew that I liked the vacation time. Both my parents were teachers, so I knew that I did NOT want to be a classroom teacher. Mom and Dad were excellent, amazing, wonderful teachers; the kind of teachers that students remember throughout their lives. But, wow, teaching is hard work!

I happened upon communication disorders as my major in an odd way. I was an undeclared sophomore who was tending towards a math major. Problem was, I was a mediocre math student. At best. Mediocre math majors can really only go into teaching. I’m not saying that all math teachers were mediocre students but I am saying that mediocre math majors can only go into teaching. Or into some totally unrelated field. I already knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, so that was out.

Along with my math classes, I was clearing as many general ed requirements out of the way as possible, one of which was a “communication” class. I didn’t want to take the intro class. I also didn’t want to take public speaking. Not for the usual reason of reluctance to talk in front of large groups but because I already felt quite comfortable speaking in front of large groups. Then I saw a class called “Introduction to Communication Disorders.” That sounded interesting and different. I thought I might actually learn something.

And I did. I learned that communication disorders are fascinating! Why can’t this 3-year-old pronounce the /r/ sound? Oh, that’s pretty normal? Well then, why can’t this 8-year-old pronounce the /r/ sound? Oh, that’s a problem? Well, how can it be fixed? Why is that poor guy stuttering like that? Oh, no one knows why? Could be genetic? Or not? Well, how can it be fixed? Why is this 80-year-old woman speaking clearly but not making any sense? Oh, she just had a stroke? Probably with damage to the medial temporal lobe? And now she has a fluent aphasia? Well, how can it be fixed?

So I dropped off my math classes (taking just enough to complete a minor) and got my undergraduate degree in communication disorders, followed by my graduate degree in speech-language pathology (an MS or MA in Com Dis or SLP is the entry-level requirement for the field).

And that was that. I had a career. I could’ve chosen to practice in a hospital or a rehab center, or I could’ve gone into a private practice but instead I practice in the public schools. You know I liked my parents’ vacation time? This was a perfect fit. I work in the corner of classroom (shared by the resource specialist program, school psychologist, and reading and ELD coaches) at one school and I have a tiny little office all to myself at the other school. When I’m at preschools, I tote my supplies in a cart and work on the floor in any space the school can give me.

I’m not passionate about my work. I don’t love my job. But I’m interested in it. I know I’m pretty good at it. I still think communication disorders are fascinating. And it fulfills Stott’s definition:  I’m definitely expending energy in the service of others, bringing benefit to the community, and giving glory to God. And I find that all of this is fulfilling.

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