“I wanted this job, right?”
That’s what I texted to my wife while about halfway through detangling cords on my fourth netbook cart of the day. My back was aching and I had full knowledge that when I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night, all I would see is tangled black power cords with “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt running through my head. This was quite the juxtaposition from the rest of my summer which was spent matching wits and intelligence with some of the finest educators this country has to offer. Rarely, if ever, do we talk about the dirty hands-on, off-the-clock part of the job. Oh sure, we make glancing references to it like, “Just another thing to add to ‘other duties as assigned’” or “we do what we have to do”.
I think of these things as time-suckers. I spent the grand majority of two full workdays doing an inventory and making sure that the number of netbooks in a room matched the number of power cords and was within +/- 1 of current enrollment. Oh yeah, that’s two full working days that I won’t see a dime for, but are absolutely necessary if I want to get any sort of co-planning done during pre-planning. But then I take a step back and ask, how necessary is it?
Will it make life easier on teachers and students that the cords aren’t tangled in the cart, are all properly connected, and the right amount exists? Absolutely. At the same time, though, I believe things like that can get in the way of doing what will REALLY help students and REALLY make a difference in their lives. And I believe many of us recognize that point. But how many of us stop and change directions at that point? How many of us are willing to leave the cords behind in a still-tangled mess and meet with a couple of teachers to help plan a well-thought-out meaningful project?
The job I wanted wasn’t untangling cords. The job I wanted was the one where I’m working with kids and teachers on stuff that matters. It’s not that I don’t see the value of untangling cords. And yes, there are some cord tangles that we simply cannot ignore. But I can’t help but think that a lot of burnout, frustration and stagnation comes from our inability to let the cords go and focus on what really matters. If we truly believe that we’re teachers because we want to help kids make meaningful connections and products, then we need to be sure that truly is our priority and show it through our actions and our words and leave the tangles alone. Besides, they’ll only be tangled again two months from now.