This morning when I arrived at my job as the Director of Learning Centers for the college where I teach, the following directive was waiting in my inbox: “Join us for a celebration of service as We Give Back!” My first thought was, “Give what back? Did we borrow something?” I certainly don’t remember taking anything that doesn’t belong to me. Well, I did take a pencil home once. I suppose I could give that back. But I don’t see any reason to celebrate its return with a bunch of hoopla and publicity.
The point is, I’m tired about all this “let’s give back” rhetoric. If my college is really concerned about “giving,” how about “Let’s Give Teachers Enough!” Most of the teachers I know work second jobs and take on extra courses in order to supplement their meager incomes. We do all the teaching, and we get paid half what the administrators earn. If that. No wonder they feel guilty.
Moreover, we have our own service projects, thank you very much. I happily do things for my church, my family, and my friends. I consider teaching itself to be a community service project of sorts. But I don’t keep score. I’m not “giving back.” I do it because I want to. I don’t need to get involved in some do-good project at the school where I work, just so they can publicize it and make themselves look good. If they think they’ve taken too much from someone, they can give it back themselves.
Come to think of it, I use my own pens, pencils, and paper supplies at school so often that I don’t really need to feel guilty about taking that pilfered pencil home. In fact, I think I used it to grade papers. On my own unpaid time. Now who’s going to give that back?