Friday, July 27, 2007

An Eye On Work Ethic

Dr. Dave has tagged me. I avoid spam like the plague unless it comes in it's true canned form, and I really don't do the text chain or letter chain thing. At first, I didn't like getting tagged, but I am starting to appreciate, like a good writing assignment, how it spurs me into thought. Back to the subject, Dr. Dave has offered a new challenge:

...write about your first job experiences and what you learned from them and then tag six other people
I had already been thinking about this because Deece posed a similar prompt, so it will be used to streamline my thoughts even though I have already been droning on without starting. It's a preface everyone, I promise, I will eventually get to the point.

The way I see it, I've had two "first" jobs during two very important social development phases in my life. The first job I ever got was at the local farmer's market when I was only 13. My father thought it was time to learn some work ethic and I agreed with him. I'm grateful that he didn't try to find me a job that would take care of his little girl. I was to mop and sweep the floors in the morning. There were three other teenage boys who worked with me who were tasked to carry the heavy boxes of produce and replenish the displays. It was my job to make sure fresh vegetables were in the displays. This meant having to sift through rotting produce and sometimes, cleaning up the maggots and other organic waste in the bins. I also bagged lots of string beans and other greens, but what I remember most was being one of the guys.

It was made clear to me by my father, the owners of the establishment and my co-workers that there was to be no whining, no refusing to do even the most menial tasks and no slacking whatsoever. I got punched in the shoulder when the jokes got really good and I was never ommitted from dirty work. I don't even remember how much I was paid because I was lucky. The money was not the reason I worked. I worked because it was something I could do to contribute, mostly to my own self-reliance. I think the paychecks went to my parents, but I can't remember. I only remember being so excited to get up for work and the way my arms ached when I had to unwind and re-wind that dang heavy hose they used to clean the place with!

My 2nd "first" job was as a teacher's aide making about 11 grand a year at Garapan Elementary School in 1993. I was 21 years old. Tony and I got married a few months before and he was to be stationed in Okinawa for his last unaccompanied tour of duty with the Marine Corps. When we asked in San Diego if they would consider sending little Tony Jr. and me along, they frankly replied, "if the Corps wanted you to have a wife son, we would have issued you one." So with that, the baby and I waited in Saipan.

Before our move to Saipan, I enrolled in San Diego's Regional Occupational Program and completed a 9 month certification program in three months. I took little Tony with me to ROP as a student and learned how to be a child care provider. The program served women who were down and out and some who had been given court orders to spend more time with their children and get some parenting skills. I made a lot of friends there while beginning what would one day become a teaching career. It was at ROP that I realized I wanted to teach. It was at ROP that I committed to serving the public and those who had limited options in life. I figured that I had a pretty privelidged life up until then and that there was some kid out there who would appreciate someone giving them as much attention and guidance as I was given in private school and in my family.

In Saipan, I quickly registered for the School of Education and any job that would get me into the Public School System. I got offers for GCA and thought about going back to Mt. Carmel like Galvin had, to give back, but I was convinced that I was needed more at places like PSS where they sometimes ran short of support for parents and kids. I knew that I would be put to task, meaningful work and that I would be challenged to give more than I was used to.

I hated being a teacher's aide, it was more like being a teacher's maid back then. I never knew what I was going to be doing from day to day, used as a substitute teacher, cleaning up after a certified teacher or running out to buy donuts for the visiting accreditation team. I learned, through observation and perspiration, that the only worthwhile way I could use my energy was to focus on the students. I begged, borrowed and stole from the dynamic teachers I had the privelidge to work under. I created a mind's list of what never to do from some that in my mind, should have never been teachers in the first place. And, I watched, watched and watched all around me. I watched everything from the politics to the playground.

What I learned. I learned that you should only do what you love. I learned that when what you love starts to make you feel hopeless, it is time to sluff off the dead skin and relax while waiting for the new. I learned that a system is complicated, highly politically charged, sometimes loses it's vision, but that it serves real people.

I got a job offer yesterday that I was tempted to accept because of the recent happenings in my life. Last night, while contemplating the benefits of a "fresh start" away from my miserable situation, I thought of Deece's sign. Deece: this is really the only thing that I would ever consider volunteering to do in my life.

This afternoon, four Americorps tutors and I will be engaged in training new troops who will one day be teachers in our schools. I am volunteering today to duplicate the talents of many wonderful teachers I learned from and myself so that tomorrow's citizens will at least have had the chance to say they knew someone cared for them at their school and wanted what was best for them educationally. Look out for this up and coming teachers.

I may still keep my options open, but along with them, I will never close my mind to my first love, my first job!

No comments: