Emotional labor is an invisible but powerful force that is felt but unseen to the inexperienced eye. It’s why moms are so good at making you feel better without applying medicine, and why it doesn’t bother you that you scraped your knee with dad, because you had such a great time (which mom cleaned and put a bandaid on, and dad just rinsed with water)
More often that not, emotional labor at home and at work is done by women.
That is, the labor that most men do not think about; keeping the peace at home, making sure the kids don’t get upset because there’s no more ice cream, calling to get multiple quotes, planning the office holiday party, baby shower, and remembering everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, food allergies, previous report card grades, resolving conflict, and why you shouldn’t talk about dogs in front of your neighbor, who just lost his puppy.
But when it comes to the classroom… Teachers, Coaches, Admin, Support Staff, Male and Female… We all perform Emotional Labor
As a Teacher, Emotional Labor is the majority of the work we actually perform in the classroom. It’s the silent lifting of spirits, when our students feel down. It is the pushing of pencils, when the little hands wrapped around them do not move.
Its the exhausting last minute push,
the pat on the back that you don’t want to give but you can’t not give,
and you know you need to give,
because that one child has not had enough pats, to motivate him or herself, forward.
This is not to negate, or ignore, that our students, our kids, emotionally labor intensive work, because they do! However, if we are to look at our students as Emotional Labor-ers… as in, those who are ready to perform this type of work; we have a serious staffing problem.
Uninspired, unmotivated, depressed, hungry, tired and afraid is what sometimes walks into our classrooms and sits down in our prearranged chairs. This happens daily, to many of our students. Not because of what happens at home or in their personal life, but because of the Labor that a teacher did NOT perform, in preparation for their students.
The Emotional Labor we put into our classrooms begins before the first bell has rung; it is our motivation for teaching, our emotional and psychological fitness that we walk into with every morning. It is a fitness that we need to maintain consistently, especially when our students become emotionally “heavy”.
This is the framework required for student success; the one that the teacher works at, every minute, of every day.
It is the smile our students see in the morning, and the smile they see when they leave our presence; the smile that seals the positive experience we shared together.
It is the repetitive “lifting” of our students spirits when they seem lost and confused. Of psychologically holding their hand through a dangerous equation or a fear inducing stanza. Removing the fog of confusion as to why a word is spelled that way, and clearing the cluttered mess in the minds of those, who’s past experiences have such a tight grip on their psyche, that is prevents them from moving forward.
It is the understanding that instead of being another stumbling block, another barrier; you are there to serve your students; serve their mind and help them grow into the people that they wish to become.
Which leads to expectations of our students.
We want from our students…
We see compliance and “listening” as an expectation. We want them to listen to us! We want them to comply, to remember… to give us our own form or version of a “reward”
We feel that it is sometimes a reflection upon us! When in reality, their response to us is just that; their response. They are human beings, creatures with a heart and a mind and a unique soul. There is no nine month assembly line that people pop out of and are “wired” to perform or act in a specific way. If humans are not created like that, then our expectations of our students should be the same. As a teacher, the only expectation we should have of our students, is to learn, and to grow.
Teaching is a selfless act; it is one of the truest acts of love one can ever bestow. It is selfless because you leave the other person better than when you have left them. It is purposeful, and it does not require the other person to give back to you, not right then, not now, not in the future, not ever.
There should not be an expectation from our students. The only expectation from our students is that they learn, that they grow, and that during that valuable time in which we spend with each other, that we both walk away better, more enlightened, more enriched, because we added value to each others lives. That the experience was meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling.
The person we should have the highest expectations of; ourselves.
The person we should consistently check, recheck, and evaluate; ourselves.
The person who is (literally) creating neural pathways of cognitive, emotional, and psychological growth in our children, through a safe and nurturing framework (classroom experience), where the brains of the next generation are being built; us
We, the Teachers, are Brain Builders
And in building these brains, we are creating the emotional, psychological, and cognitive framework of our society, and of our world.
This is not work that should be left to the idle hand, to the uninspired, or to the uncaring. This is not the work of someone who “likes summer off”. This is a labor of love. A selfless love.
And that is why Teachers should make 90,000 a year; because you wouldn’t let your child’s leg be operated on, by someone who has not devoted their life to serving others and was compensated adequately for their labor.
Someone who was able to live free of economic hardship, unburdened, and was thus able to provide the best care possible.
Why should your child’s heart, mind, and soul, be any cheaper?