Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reframing Work

I was chosen as a guest contributor for recently! You can read my post here. Allegedly, at the time this was posted, 51 people liked it on facebook.

I've also copied and pasted it for this blog, which I'm reconsidering.

In my student affairs office, we pass the duty phone from one administrator from week to week, and this week it is mine. While you’re on duty, you respond to a number of student concerns – from breaking up parties to dealing with students with serious psychological concerns. While I love my job, I never look forward to duty. It means you’re working late hours and generally dealing with unpleasant after hours scenarios, often involving the police.

At lunch the other day, one of my coworkers in another department asked me how my week on call has been going. She used to work in my office, and so when I responded that it had been “a pretty normal weekend”, I expected that she’d get the gist. A few calls, but nothing life-shattering. She instead responded with “Oh, I wouldn’t know about normal. I had the curse when I worked there”, meaning that she always responded to tough and involved situations when she was on call.

I totally understand where she’s coming from – when I get a call on my duty phone, my heart starts to beat a little harder. Could this be a student death? Suicide attempt? A fight? Drug bust? Angry parent? When she says “cursed”, I know what she means. Most times, I don’t like responding to these events; I’d rather be in bed. Something about calling it a curse struck a note with me that day, though.

The people I work with generally entered this field because we were interested in helping others. This is a way to share our expertise and caring in a way that can positively shape the experience of our students. We’re here because we want to help. Why does she (and I will admit, me too) frame our work in the context of the curse? In each situation to which we respond, there is an opportunity for an educational experience for our students and a way for us to make a positive impact on their collegiate experience. I can provide some light to each student, whether its a ray of hope, a light to guide the way, or illuminating the error of their ways. Ultimately, the goal of our work it to make our student’s lives a little better through our intervention. Is it a curse to have to do good for others? Or is it exactly what we wanted all along?

I’ve got a big day of work tomorrow, and part of me isn’t looking forward to it… and then I realize that what I do, while it can be stressful and jarring, ultimately serves the purpose of making things better for my students. It may not feel great all the time, and I may get run down and disenchanted. To be doing work that makes me feel like I’m changing the world – that’s a blessing. It’s certainly not a curse.

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