I’m tired. My muscles are worn. My face feels weathered. I worked physically harder today than I have for a long time. Yet I feel great. When is work not work? How is it that I can put in a day of hard labor and say thanks at the end of the day for the opportunity to work?
I participated on a Habitat for Humanity building project today. Most of the day we were at the stages of hefting 3/4″ 4’x8′ pieces of plywood up onto the second floor and nailing them in place. They had to be slid up between joists while standing at awkward angles on ladders. Based on the number of times I conked my head, it is a good thing we had to wear bump hats.
It was meaningful work and socially engaging. My work meant something – I was contributing in a small, but real way to battling the problems of affordable housing in our community. I was part of a group of people collaborating on a meaningful cause. I wasn’t teaching today, I didn’t show up at the office. When I got home (early – only 4:30), I felt like I had had a day off. Today, hard labor was not considered work.
Could school be seen this way? Might we engage our students in meaningful, relevant, and socially collaborative work? Might they end the day by saying “Thanks for a good day. I learned a lot.” I think we can, I think we owe it to our students to do so. But it takes work as a teacher to create a learning environment like that. But then, if that work is meaningful, collaborative, and contributes to good things, perhaps it is all worth it. I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.