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Do You Love What You Do as a Black Educator in Higher Ed?

I ran into one of my former classmates from Indiana State University a few years back, and it was great running into an old Sycamore alum from the old university yard. I found out we would be colleagues in teaching freshman seminar courses at the college where we both work as adjunct professors.

We both have come a long way from being those young, zealous, African-American, inner-city youth. We were freshman classmates over 15 years ago working together in our English Composition 101 course. I was so happy to see how far we both had come and that we were still on a great track of positive successes in our lives.

She asked me how did I like my job and I told her without hesitation that “I love my job!” She looked at me with a look of total shock on her face and said, “That is something I rarely ever hear. Someone that actually says they love their job.”

It was the complete and honest truth with me saying that I love my job. The flexibility, the benefits, and the ability that I have to help people accomplish their dreams of attaining a higher education degree are truly a blessing and honor in so many ways. I enjoy my career even on the difficult days, because I know that I can be a blessing to someone and give back to my own hometown and community in such a positive way.

So the question is simple, do you love what you do in higher education?

Anyone who is a higher education professional already knows that you do not go into this profession for the money. As Black educators, we are not raised by our parents in many cases to become educators, because even they knew about the harsh realities educators of color face every day.

But think about this, do you wake up every day excited about going to do what you do at your college or university? Yes, the bills may be getting paid by your employer and you’re working for them, but does it have you jumping out of bed saying, “I love my job!” or saying “Dang, I cannot wait until I get off work today!” Is your life about working every day to keep the lights on or working to see students living out their college dreams? If you do not love what you do, what is it going to take for you to get to the point of doing what you love to do every single day of your life?

Working in higher education is a delicate matter, because it cannot just be a job that is done when working with students; it has to be a passion to see students prosper toward getting degrees and achieving a better life for themselves.

Is doing what you believe as your passion in higher education worth the sacrifices that it would take to make it happen in your life? Are your dreams worth downsizing to an older model car with no car note and putting the 2016 Mercedes Benz or Audi on hold? Is a $20,000 pay cut for a few years worth putting your heart and effort into making those dreams into a reality in working with students? How many more years can you wake up to a check, knowing it’s just not what you truly love to be doing in your life? Do you get a confidence “high” off of working with students and seeing them reach their dreams and succeed in higher education?

These are all questions educators should ask of themselves as they are working and looking to work with students in higher education. So what is it going to take for you to get into that job and career that you just love going to and working at every single day with students? You should never live with regrets and why would you ever regret putting the effort into doing what you want to do in your life?

Is it worth the risk, sacrifices, and effort to work toward doing exactly what you want to be doing in your life? Sure it is.

Start to do the educational research, see where you would like to live and can see yourself living, figure out your financial prospectus, and analyze the factual reality of what it would take to make your dream of working in higher education happen. Isn’t your happiness important? Find a way to make what you love to do in your life, well, your life and go for it in helping students achieve their college dreams.

John C. Turner is an Urban Education Ph.D. candidate at IUPUI and an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College.

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