28 May 2017

Year in Review: The Job vs The Work

A week or so ago, I received my annual evaluation from my supervisor. I completed the expected tasks with the expected work ethic and to the expected standards. All is well and I am employable for another year.

Reading through the narrative made me realize that there is a difference in how I see my accomplishments and how others view them. Both are valid in their own ways. My supervisor writes about the job I do, but in my own mind, I am always thinking about the work.

I had a new support staff person this year. It is my job to supervise her. But my work has been to ensure that she develops enough skills that she never has to worry about depending on anyone again...that if she were ever again faced with having to walk out of her home with nothing but the clothes on her back, that she could have a marketable resume and secure income. It's true that she is the one who has made all the effort to learn a very broad range of new skills. My role has been to try and be a good role model and cheerleader...to provide all the opportunities for her that I can.

There were a couple of people who told me this year how much my Twitter presence has meant to them. An odd thing, in a way...and certainly not in my job description. I see it as my work, however, to connect and communicate, as well as to create and lift others. To be sure, there is nothing special about the account---it's just me: an odd mix of data viz, old movies, and personal observations. Somehow, it helps others figure out how to move into their online presence and that pleases me.

My work this year has been to change conversations about data. And yes, my job is to support district data efforts. But there is nothing in the description about helping schools create narratives. While I might be terribly behind in my data stories project, my tiny Grinch heart grows three sizes every time I hear a school board member state their preference for a data story vs. raw numbers or have a principal who mentions that they are starting with inquiry (vs. data) to develop next steps for their building. I am starting to be recognized "someone who can synthesize a story," and I find this exciting.


It is in my job description that I should collaborate with others. It is my work to help my colleagues craft their vision, encourage them to stretch their expectations for themselves, and reflect on what it is they really want to accomplish. My ever open door brings in people who need advice or encouragement or another opinion. I do my best to be both honest and encouraging. I like seeing others succeed.

The 2017 school year will finish in three weeks. I am planning the things I need to complete over the summer, as well as setting goals and projects for next year. I keep thinking about this tension between the job and the work...two things which should be the same, but aren't. As long as I fulfill the requirements of the job, I will continue to meet some of what others believe I should be. When I do the work, I have the chance to be the sort of educator I believe I should be. I worry what might be lost during these unspoken negotiations between how my employer describes what I do and how things look from my end, but I am hopeful that I can bring them closer together.

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