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What Defines You? (Thoughts from My Walk Today.)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

As I was walking today, I found myself thinking about how I can improve my middle school Music Appreciation class. This is not because it's not going well. It's going wonderfully. However, teachers are always looking for different ways to engage students because not everyone learns the same way, and variety in instructional delivery helps, in general, to keep things interesting.

Then I thought to myself, "Why am I thinking about work? I left work over an hour ago. I have a life outside of work. I should think about that." The phrase "What defines you?" came to my mind as I tried to decide what to think about.

I once participated in a day-long Cultural Sensitivity workshop (back when I worked for a church). One thing I have always remembered from that day is how Americans tend to define themselves by their jobs. Think about it... when you first meet someone, what's the first thing you usually ask them?

"What do you do?"

People from other cultures don't generally do that. They will ask about your family or your personal interests. I remember one of my European friends saying that Americans live to work... other cultures work to live. There does seem to be some truth to that, as many of us take our jobs with us everywhere we go, especially now that we're connected 24/7 with our personal devices.

I'm still performing as an amateur concert pianist in competitions and recitals.

I'm trying to revive my exercise regimen. I like to be fit.

I enjoy taking care of my house.

I enjoy being outside in nature.

I'm a fan of Downton Abbey, Star Trek, and (ok...) Judge Judy.

I enjoy reading, especially juvenile fiction (love my old Nancy Drew books.)

All these are things I could spend my personal time doing or thinking about. So why do I think about my job so much of the time outside of work? I'm proud of the work I do as a teacher and I love my students, but teaching is not the only thing that defines who I am.

Hopefully we can all learn to leave the job behind at the end of every workday and focus on the other things that define who we are.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Interesting that your experience of other cultures is that they don't ask (or, presumably, think) first about work. My own experience is admittedly limited, but when I was visiting a friend in Germany a year and a half ago, every one of his friends I was introduced to led off with, "What do you do?" just as Americans would.

    And it's not a question I enjoy answering, because I haven't had a 'career' kind of a job since 1990. I have been an at-home mom, and more recently a caregiver mom, but not a career woman.
    350 days ago
    373 days ago
    Age is one of those things, too. Pigeonhole-ing a person for their experiences, knowledge, and what they have to offer. I avoid ask the job and age question. Makes for good conversation. Thanks for sharing.
    373 days ago
    374 days ago
  • NANCY-
    I guess we should ask, "Who are you?" not "What do you do?"
    I am an adventurer, an instigator, researcher for my adventures(day trips). Enjoy most of PBS. A paying job never defined me. Who I am, even defined me as a mother.
    374 days ago
  • no profile photo SILVERNANCY
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    374 days ago
    I'm a retired teacher, and I still miss the contact with students. And yes, on my afternoon walks I would often think about unit plans and lessons and how to best reach all students.

    For teachers, our job is also part of our personality. We became teachers because we care about other people, and we care about our subject area. We want others to care as much about that subject, and to express their own talent and creativity through that subject.

    Being musically talented is part of who YOU are - with or without being a teacher. Being artistically talented is part of who I am, whether or not I'm still teaching.

    So while the TEACHER role is your job title, the music, the caring, the joy in teaching is all part of YOU. It's in your soul.

    375 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    I’m a teacher too but very conscious of retirement in two years and the need to nurture the other parts of my life because those are the ones which will sustain me in the next phase of my life. A very important topic.
    375 days ago
    Well said! Great thoughts. Gives one pause for thought and a different perspective!
    375 days ago
    I make a conscious effort to not think of work outside working hours.
    and I encourage my co-workers to do so too, reminding them there are 168 hours in a week,
    and we are supposed to give work all we have in the 40 working hours - and go do something else in the remaining 128!

    The only exception is when there is a storm of creative ideas in my head, then I take a few minutes and write them down : )
    375 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/30/2019 3:05:06 PM
    We all need to stop labeling ourselves in so many ways. You never realize the difference until you get on the other side. I am Me. That is all I am, just plain simple Me. emoticon
    375 days ago
    Great blog!! We define ourselves in so many different and shifting and kaleidoscopic ways . . . NOT fixed and static, ever-changing and always beautiful.
    375 days ago
    Jane of all trades. Master of none. emoticon
    376 days ago
    A very insightful blog. As we return from our 2nd trip abroad this year, I totally agree.

    I do notice a gender difference in the USA though. So many men as at loose ends after retirement and many die soon after retirement. Without work they just don't know what to do with themselves. Women who had generally had more family responsibilities and social contacts even while working fare better. Of course, not true for everyone, just statistically accurate and dependent on the type of job held and one's personality.

    376 days ago
    Truth! I know my DH sure defines himself by his job. I guess, honestly, when I worked outside the home I did, too. Now I work in the home, and find I define myself by other parmeters.

    Good luck.
    377 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    So wonderful to think about what we are in life, not just what we do! Loved your blog and so glad you started thinking about other things beyond your work. Sometimes it can consume us.
    Have a lovely Spring season!
    377 days ago
  • THOMS1
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    377 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
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    377 days ago
    Interesting! I always say that I’m second generation Polish, but career wise I have had several. My favourite career - mother to my only daughter!
    377 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
    In my opinion, I think you are a very dedicated teacher. It's hard to shut that mode down. You care for your students and that also can't be just shut off, the moment you walk out the door.

    I think I agree with your European friends, we as Americans do live to work. I know by retiring that it took me 2 years just to let it go. And still today, I find myself wondering about it. I must say though, it is getting better for me, as I do truly appreciate life around me. It's a mindset just like anything else.
    377 days ago
    377 days ago
    Greetings from another Star Trek fan (and Judge Judy). Some years ago, I read an article or attended a seminar that addressed a similar issue of self definition. From that day, when people asked, "What do you do?", I respond that I'm a grandfather who relives his childhood through my grandkids. Inevitably, they would ask about my work/job. . . . . Nevertheless, that who I am, a grandfather, and I can't wait until the weekend so that I can go kite flying with my 7-year-old grandson.
    377 days ago
    Excellent point, even when running onto retired folks, I often ask what are they doing to fill the time! Things to ponder and redefine myself!
    377 days ago
    I have to say that watching my great nephew grow since babyhood into a middle schooler now, I have so much appreciation for the music department! When I hear Silas humming a piece of classical music and I ask him where he heard it and he says in music appreciation it makes my heart swell. So thank you for being a teacher! Okay now leave it at work and enjoy your time off!
    377 days ago
    I was very sad when the 'Abby series finished...
    377 days ago
    SO nice to see your post again! I love reading about what you love...and music is one of the very top for you.
    377 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    You speak the truth.
    I too love judge Judy and.other court TV shows. So much simpler it seems than our formal court system, and gets the job done clearly and concisely.
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    377 days ago
  • JAVNMICH1969
    Thank you so much for such an insightful blog about how we are defined. I have been thinking about this a lot because I don't work anymore outside of the home which is really a full time job when I do it right lol like today. I am going to make it a point when I meet someone new to ask about their interests and passions and family as that is how I define myself. Got into gardening today and felt great!
    Our jobs may define our current role but in the end of our life it really is about family and friends and the time we have spent with them.
    I too used to be a teacher and enjoyed the positive role model I was and the feedback I got in shaping lives but it was not to be.
    But so much more to think about really. Thanks for the reminder!:)
    378 days ago
    If you can leave the work behind, that's a good thing, especially if you aspire to one day retire! But depending on what it is one does professionally makes it more or less easy to do just that (leave it behind). I would DREAM programming code. Now that I'm retired, I don't even THINK much about what I used to do.

    And I'm betting you're a smashing teacher, and your mind drifts that way when set free. But I *knew* there were reasons to like you, fellow Trekkie and Downton Abbey fan... juvenile fiction fan (so much simpler than some of the more graphic adult works one finds these days)... and I aspire to take better care of my house, but recognize my limitations (thus, Shasta, who comes to help keep my motivation from flagging).

    Yes, there are many facets that make up a whole human! Good to hear from you! emoticon
    378 days ago
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    378 days ago
    Wonderful :) some thought required for me :)
    378 days ago
    It's good to hear from you. I'm glad the teaching is going well; I'm sure your students love you!
    378 days ago
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