accepting work

I was invited back for a second interview which contained a kind of short test to see how well I operated in Word. Mark offered me the job and I accepted. I had decided to accept the job before we talked about the particulars. I was happy and I wanted to work.



It felt wonderful to go in and be treated as part of a team, working on a common job with a common goal, to be rewarded with money and praise, with people who believed in their project. It felt good, a friendly relaxation from feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Perhaps Atlas was tricked or perhaps without the world resting on his shoulders he felt too light, too weightless and without inertia.

But in the same moment it was strange. Here after so long out of the fold of standard work it felt strange that their priorities were all product based. At the school I worked at, my main work experience thus far, we were process oriented. We did not measure our success by grades, tests, overall graduation rate, or anything else. We actually had no objective means of measuring our success at all.

What we did have was goodwill, love, resources and a means to distribute them to kids. Perhaps we did have some standard by which we judged ourselves but I was never aware of it at the time. Our philosophy was very Christian in it’s basis: “go out and do good” and “We come not to destroy the Learning Objectives and the Average Daily Attendance but to uphold it.”

Our standards were more like did our students smile more, did Sarah like math now, or did we have more or fewer things to stamp, sign or photocopy. But these were never objectively measured and we never would have wanted them to be. We shied away all form of measurement, perhaps because our job was more art than science. We were the caretakers of the cracks pushing back those near the edge who were losing their balance.

Perhaps, standing back and looking at the numbers (and by “the numbers” I mean people’s lives and the work and value that they place on those lives) there are patterns that form and perhaps by working harder in one area while focusing less on another we could, perhaps, have done a better job. Perhaps then we could have reduced our art to science, perhaps made it capable of being performed by a computer program while we hurried around doing something else, but there was something that always struck me as intense when I see the resistance that many teachers have towards measuring progress. Perhaps it is in the measuring of lives we place values on those lives.

I have a friend back in Utah working for a large multinational corporation named Honeywell. She needs the job for her baby, who is about 4 months old at the moment. She has a family to support. But Honeywell is a company that does bad things like make parts of bombs. Recently there was a bomb that was marked as food and exploded a lot of people in some far away country. That bomb was partly made by Honeywell. She feels like she does bad things in order to feed her family.

Like many large projects we see only one small piece of the puzzle and will never understand the impact that our work has on the world. Our job is to fill the textbooks, to make them more efficient, so that students can learn the data inside. The company’s goal of providing quality educational resources seems to be pure but I doubt there’s a single employee who thinks much about the students, except as he might feel a twinge at not finishing the last morsels of his plate because of the “starving children in India.”

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