In her book, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow, Marsha Sinetar argues that you will probably be happiest and do best in your career if you follow your passions. I couldn’t agree more.
But there’s another major variable in there. Following your bliss needs to be with the right colleagues and bosses, or things will not go well.
Take my younger son, for example. He wrote in his high school yearbook that his goal was to “teach at an inner city high school.” One bachelor’s degree plus a master’s in teaching later, he got what he thought was his dream teaching job.
The students responded to his dedication and genuine interest in them. But the administration? Not so much. It seemed to be hate at first sight for the chair of his department who was in charge of evaluating him. When he dared to open his mouth at faculty meetings, her usual response was, “What a stupid idea! What in the world are they teaching you at the university?” She had a rep for feasting on insecure first year teachers, but she seemed to take special delight in going after my son.
Then there was the principal who announced at the first faculty meeting, “If the students’ lips are moving, they’re lying,” and who refused to allow an after-school poetry club to form because, “We need to get these kids out of the building as soon as possible.”
Within two weeks, my son had serious doubts he was in the right place. By the end of the year, his department chair had not only given him failing marks in his evaluation (despite his students’ improved test scores), but she had succeeded in totally demoralizing him and making him question whether he ever wanted to teach again.
Fast forward a few years, and my son realized he missed teaching. He wanted to try again. Unable to get anyone in his home state (where he’d “failed” as a first year teacher) to take a chance on him, he found a job at a progressive inner city high school out West.
All I can say is, what a difference supportive colleagues and administrators make! He felt so affirmed and encouraged when his new principal told him, “We didn’t even have to discuss whether or not to hire you after your interview. We knew you were our guy.”
Sure, my son’s overwhelmed and exhausted like any first year teacher in a new school. But he’s also energized, excited, and thrilled to be back in the classroom. He can’t believe how supportive his mentor teacher has been: “When I make a dumb suggestion, she says, ‘Good idea, but let’s think about how that aligns with our content guidelines.’ She never puts me down.”
Meantime, his fellow teachers have been generous with their time and assistance. He really likes them, and they seem to like him too, even inviting him to go hiking with them.
It’s too soon to say whether my son’s career story is going to have a long term happy ending. But the signs are good. He’s not only doing what he loves, but he’s working with genuine educators.
Sometimes you just have to find your peeps.