My last semester in college, I was excited to get a job teaching junior high in our local Catholic school. When I told Sister Marian about it, she looked at me very seriously and said, “I just have one piece of advice for you. If you want to be loved, get a kitten. Don’t go into teaching.”
Now Sister Marian may not have ranked high on the touchy-feely interpersonal skills, but she was right. Those who go into a “people” field hoping to find love and validation they didn’t get as children or in their love relationships are doomed to a lot of unhappiness. Teaching brings many rewards, and the best teachers may be loved, but they don’t peg their worth as people on it.
I think about that a lot in the library. In many cases, we do get to be the saviors. We’re the ones who help students find articles when they despair of ever doing so. We help them put shape to a paper. We help them look up citations. We’re even there to pass out a tissue when things get rough. It feels good. And students are usually grateful for the help.
But, occasionally, they’re not. And it’s funny to see how disconcerted the staff can become. Recently, a student was texting while a staff member explained a database to her. “I couldn’t believe how disrespectful she was,” my colleague exclaimed. Another was hurt when a student made a comment about how “un-student friendly” we were because he had to go in the Learning Center since our computers were down after a water sprinkler burst. “It just really hurt my feelings,” she said.
Probably neither student meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. And if so, life goes on. But it goes to show that when you’ve cast yourself as the helper/savior, it can be hard to bear when the people you’re “helping” just see you as another person doing or not doing your job.
It’s nice to be liked, but our duty is to do our jobs whether we’re liked or not. And Sister Marian was right, don’t go into helping professions hoping to be loved. Get a pet, although you might have better shot at long-term love if you make it a puppy instead of a kitten.