In the world of agriculture, no-till is a big deal. It is a soil conservation practice that keeps crop residue in the field to protect the soil from runoff and helps preserve soil structure. Keeping residue on crop fields faced a lot of resistance from farmers initially. Yet, when farmers who stuck with it started seeing the results season to season that’s when the practice really took off!
Before leaving for Thanksgiving our school held a school-wide career day! It was during one of the career panel rotations that it felt that we were in the midst of a philosophy seminar. The panelists included a graphic designer and a draftsmen. They spoke briefly about the work they currently did, but spoke more about the journey that took them there and that was even more fascinating!!
It was when the graphic designer, Tony Ridder, shared the following, that I had to start scribbling:
“Nothing ever truly leaves us, our lives accumulate the residue of our past experiences. They shape and inform our present in relation to our continued lived existence.”
He went on to share a powerful story of how during a particularly stressful project with a fast approaching deadline he was able to manage the intense stress which endeared him to his teammates. When asked by his awed teammates how he managed to keep cool under the pressure of the never ending mountain of deadlines he shared his perspective:
“I used to be an ambulance paramedic…when I had a young boy who quit breathing I only had eight minutes to get him back again. I learned how to work under pressure, I know pressure…this is easy.”
He circled back in our seminar to that story, he never would have realized that the experiences he had as an ambulance paramedic would help him as a graphic designer. The residues of that past experience/job had not only stuck with him, but they offered continued perspective in his current role. We are shaped by our past experiences it is not inherently for good or worst…how we choose to allow those past experiences to manifest in our lives is the key difference.
Hearing this had me think to my previous roles/jobs prior to teaching and a key aspect of how the experiences manifest themselves today:
- Working at Rays Apple Market:
It was supposed to be simply a high school part-time job that morphed into a full-time position at the location in the town I attended college. I was a closing/opening manager, responsible from 4pm – 10pm at night supervising up to ten employees who ran the gamut in age from high school teenagers to a sixty year old man. Then, I’d turn around on truck delivery mornings (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays) arriving at 4:30am to sort out truck deliveries with our grizzled morning crew.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Relating to a wide diverse of employees and learning how to motivate towards excellence. In the classroom, I’ve got to figure out what makes my students tick and then capitalize on that towards building their capacity as learners. Lots of strategies I used at Rays, I’m still using in the classroom!
- Clay County Historical Society Document Scanner:
I scanned newspaper reels for online searching for six – eight hours a day during the summer of my freshman year in college. It may not sound thrilling and honestly the technical aspect of the job was horrendously boring, but what kept me coming back was our museum director, Kathy. Anytime I was there she would come by at least twice during the day to share a unique photo or a story she had remembered from her childhood gleaned from one of the “old timers”. Her story-telling skills were tremendous and I learned quickly to ask lots of questions. She was a walking encyclopedia on all things Clay County history.
KEY TAKEAWAY: All places and all people have stories to share. It is up to us to seek them out!! As a classroom teacher I’ve learned to ask parents/students about their stories, creating a connection and honestly seeing them as unique individuals who share passions and desires beyond the confines of our school building.
- Summer Maintenance Worker at Living Water Ranch:
Gosh this job stretched me in more ways than one. Got to help repair a significant (and smelly) plumbing situation, mowed and mowed and mowed, painted (lots of painting), and developed an independent self. You see this was a job I got by pure random circumstance during my summer of my Senior year in high school. I had never been truly away from my family on my own and this was eight weeks almost all by myself five hours away.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Almost all the days I worked it was by myself, me my thoughts, and breathtaking scenery. During my time out there I read the entire bible in the evening and did extensive journaling much of which I still return back too for further reflection today! I learned more about myself in those eight weeks than at almost anytime in my life thus far. I trained my brain in noticing the little things around me and what they could teach me. There are still lessons today that I’m processing from that experience and that was almost ten years ago!
- Summer Bus Mechanic:
Okay can I be honest, this job was just fun! I never realized how much I loved to get dirty until I crawled underneath the busses and was taking oil drain plugs off. I’d crawl back out looking like a greasy raccoon! Hardest part of the job was putting on and off the bus tires. These things were massive and weighed a ton. I’d watch the other two bus mechanics (one of them was our school counselor) just manhandle the tires, wrestling them on the wheel hub. I had to always be creative if they were’t around, but I got it done!!
KEY TAKEAWAY: Made me appreciate the shop a ton more in my Ag program. I became a lot more willing to get on the floor (in my dress slacks) and get way dirty (Annelle was not impressed)…made me also a ton more confident in working with students through projects and troubleshooting! I may not know all the answers, but I learned through my mechanic job how we could go about figuring it out.
- Summer Electrician:
I have a huge respect for electricians! This is not an easy job and honestly, it is frighteningly dangerous! Up on a scissor jack, I got zapped so hard with electrical current it left me shaken on the floor of the jack fifty foot in the air. I worked beside some of the hardest working people I know, we are the first-line workers in the building shell, we are helping make the rest of the building get done because the other workers need us to finish wiring for lights, the cooling/heating system; so when all that is done we move to the next building. So, usually the guys are working perpetually in extreme temperatures, most of time working on either a ladder or other dizzyingly high location that is never convenient to get too.
KEY TAKEAWAY: I appreciate others so much more after I did this job! I noticed all the electrical that was hidden in the buildings I’d enter…it takes so many other people in this world to make it function and work; their tireless work goes simply unnoticed and taken completely for granted…gosh I was there too, until I did this job. Nothing we enjoy in this world is possible without the countless others behind the scenes who are daily making it happen!! This job truly opened my eyes to that daily truth!
- Full-Time School Bus Driver:
I’ve had some enjoyable jobs, I cannot think of a more worthy job than this one…it says something when I briefly, but seriously considered quitting being an ag teacher to just be a full-time bus driver, I loved it that much!! I’m still the occasional sub bus driver, but it was nothing like having your own set of kiddos that you knew like they were family. On that bus I realized how much I love young kids (made me also briefly think I should have been an elementary school teacher).
During stops where we had to wait on parents we’d offload and go plant hiking, identifying different plants or picking wildflower bouquets for their moms. We had little kindergarteners learning multiplication and becoming good enough with mental math that they were multiplying simple three digit numbers. We talked about books, the value of saving for retirement, honesty, and how to make the best snowball. Their eagerness and passion for learning was enthralling and pushed me to step up my game every single day…almost every topic under the sun was worthy of exploration and questioning by their fresh and untainted perspective.
KEY TAKEAWAY: I will NEVER underestimate the capacity of our youth to learn, lead, and inspire. Their ability to absorb and so quickly apply is mind boggling!! Our youngest have a drive to lead…our bus established its own mini-government to manage everything from birthday treat allotment to appropriate punishment for misbehavior or sibling conflict. The oldest on our bus during the afternoon trip was in 4th grade to give you a perspective on their level of youth! Finally, I almost never left a day at least a little inspired by their youthful drive and energy. They have such an earnest desire to glean the most out of each day and I was surprised by their line of questioning; at times it would even make me stop and truthfully think. I count daily the blessings I had as their school bus driver for that year and a half, some of the happiest memories I will forever treasure came from those daily trips.
I agree with Tony, the residue of our past experiences, jobs, and interactions never fully leave us; if anything they are just beginning to shape us into the person we are becoming…
If you haven’t done so, take sometime to reflect back on those former jobs and roles you’ve had; ask yourself these questions for reflection:
- What was the main lesson I learned from those individual experiences?
- How have those lessons been applied in my life?
- How has my views of others been changed due to those former roles?
- How does that former job/role still influence me today?
Personal growth occurs in the process of intentional reflection. Take time to do so, it is 100% worth it, we all (myself included) would be better off if we make time for such an important aspect of our development.
Writers Note: Thanks for reading! This Thanksgiving break has been an explosion of inspiration as I’ve been reading and journaling; it is as all about beginning the process of synthesizing my year and pondering of what comes next!! This year has been THE single most pivotal year in my life thus far…it my intention to ensure that each year after this will continue to be so for my growth as a person! Thanks for being on this journey, we’ve got a ways to go, but I couldn’t imagine having better partners/friends along for the ride! Take care, Anthony