I have been listening to you for several months now and I have greatly appreciated the wisdom you share. However, I am currently struggling to apply some of it to my profession because I work at a public school.
Yes, I teach high school music in a GIC and thus am paid by the tax payers of my school district. As such, I do not have a ‘customer’ whom I serve in any direct manner. Additionally, my salary advancement is dependent upon taking more graduate and continuing education courses rather than my job performance.
That said, I try very hard to be conscientious in my work and diligent to serve my students and the community which is paying my salary. However, even I have found it difficult to be motivated at times to do my best work when I know it will make no difference in my paycheck.
I should note that I am a Christian who really believes God called me into this position five years ago, but I am not certain I should stay long term. Based on ancient Jewish wisdom, what would you recommend to someone in my situation? Should I stay in the teaching profession and attempt to counteract the ‘government indoctrination’ of which you speak? Or is my young family best served by me pursuing a different line of work?
Thank you for taking the time to consider my question!
We’re delighted that you have been finding value in the weekly podcast. You may have heard me (RDL) say that my job is not to massage listeners with warm butter but to tell them the truth. Since you asked this question about your professional life, we are going to show you respect by answering it honestly and directly without any sugarcoating.
You are most likely filling an important function at the GIC (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools) where you teach. Not only are you exposing your students to music but you are also, we are confident, exposing them to an excellent example of a Christian man.
However, while you are doing your students some good, as the years go by you will probably not be doing the same for yourself or your family. There are a number of reasons why this is so and you have articulated one of them. (We are going to be incredibly non-politically-correct now and note that we are writing this answer for you as a man, husband and father. We would give a different answer to a woman, wife and mother.) When increasing your salary has nothing to do with how you perform your job, you will be very susceptible to gradual and incremental loss of self respect. As an honorable man you will strive to give your best at your job, but already you are beginning to feel the lack of motivation. As your family responsibilities grow along with your economic needs, you can already see the writing on the wall that will relegate your teaching to what energy you have left over. After all, your paycheck won’t change.
In addition, you will almost inexorably find yourself drawn to political positions that will selfishly serve you even if they hurt the community, such as increased taxation for teacher pensions and anti-charter school activity. As you claim more benefits through your job it will sometimes be at the cost of hurting the students and their families. Please understand, we never blame anyone for acting in their best economic interests as long as they act morally and honestly. But we are questioning whether placing yourself in such a situation for the long term is in your best interests.
There is another problem that you didn’t mention. Your livelihood is not secure. Should budget cuts be necessary and the system cuts back on arts education you will be left high and dry. You are relying on others to ensure that you are employed rather than taking control of your future. Additionally, at the moment, you are basically being paid a wage dependent on your being in a certain place at a certain time. There is no way to grow that algorithm by having others work for you or by earning money when you aren’t on call. We believe every man should try and adjust his circumstances to be in business rather than being merely an employee. In your case, we aren’t sure whether that might mean starting to develop a private music instruction business on the side or something else quite different. But we encourage everyone, even the person pouring your coffee at the corner coffee shop, to consider himself to be an entrepreneur in the beverage business even though he currently might have only one “customer” for his services, namely his employer.
Lastly, have you considered what you will do if the GIC demand that you teach in a way that conflicts with your values? We can think of any number of events that the administration might want to celebrate with music that would run counter to your own ethics.
David, as you probably already know, we are ardent supporters of using some of one’s money, skills and time for volunteerism and charity. We recommend that you channel your desire to help youth into those activities.
Meanwhile, we do think you should be pursuing something (that may or may not be music related) that is more of a business rather than a position. Growing a marriage and raising a family is ever so much easier when financial stability is part of the picture and when you respect the man in the mirror.
Keep making music,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin