Teaching is a tough profession if you are emotionally invested. The institution of education is tremendously competitive, and sometimes vague how it rewards different outcomes.

Like with sport or music, the margins between failure and success can be fine. There exists illusion that effort = success (therefore making this a meritocracy). But like with any endeavour, failure in a competitive field is not only inevitable, but desirable (at least for the system). Huge corporations need to swallow the ambitions of thousands of bright minds to continue the thirsty growth needed for a future, bright or otherwise.

Class determines what you value and how you use language.

The middle class over emphasise achievement. At various points in your life, working more than the recommended 40-50 hours a week is not only expected, but actually helpful, even if only to a career.

Even when I work ‘hard’ (and by that I mean actual focused work via pomodoros), I do not find more than 40 hours a week are actual focused, undistracted work. Other parts of that time are commuting, eating, talking, reading, being etc.

Dedicating time at work interminably is worse than being unideal: it is dangerous. Your nervous system becomes over-fired, your relationships are compromised as work seeps into them, and you cannot even find the route your work pays you to achieve.

While it is possible to overwork consistently and achieve at work, the consequences on health and spirit are formidable.

The big picture of life is happiness. Education has a role to play in that big picture. That word happiness is a difficult word because it is not necessarily an ease of life, and very unlikely to be hedonism. Happiness is not about the absence of challenge or difficulty, but rather about a sense of satisfaction. It is about moderation, including moderation of moderation… It is about brawn as well as brains, of rude vitality as well as sensitive sophistication.

After work I often spend time managing the strong emotions I might feel as I manage people. I might need to experience catharsis, that expunging of negative emotion. However, perhaps a better approach is integration?

That is, rather than expunging the frustrations and failings of even the most inspiring day, I would rather integrate what I see of others into my psyche. I am no doubt annoying to others (at least at times!): to colleagues, parents, students and loved ones, as they might all annoying me at times as well. Rather than expunge those feelings of negativity, how about integrating them?

Integrating into my guts a visual manifestation of them, a mini-me living in my viscera, their body residing in a special room in a marble palace in whatever metaphor might suit to be my mind.

Of course, what resides in me is not them, because they are manifested outside me. Instead, what will be in me is my VERSION of them, my perspective of them, how I perceive them. And that perception of them says more about me than anything else.

Hopefully that perception will give me sympathy for myself, or at least my own perception of myself.

Post 1 in a series of Teaching Literature: The Aesthetic vs the Cerebral.