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My Life’s Calling

By Jim Hague

What is a job? What is a Career? What is a Calling?

They say a job comes and goes, you watch the clock. Same thing, different day.

The one thing it lacks is passion 

A career requires passion, more drive.  But it can resort back to being a job. As we go through our careers, we can easily lose our passion. After all, the average person changes careers three times in their lives. It’s been told that career forces one to come into work Monday mornings.

A calling, however, forces you to go home Friday evenings. You never change a calling, it’s who you are, embedded in you. It defines you.

I am a teacher. It’s not just what I do. It’s who I am. It’s a part of me. It’s embedded in me. 

It took me nearly 48 years to figure out how to align myself with the forces of the universe to give meaning to my life.

So fellow Toastmasters. The focus of my speech today is how I found my calling and how MY CALLING managed to get me through the many  hurdles I faced throughout my career.

After leaving college I worked as a microbiologist. I have a Masters degree in biology and my first job was working for a pharmaceutical company. It was a job. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of the biology field, especially with what we are going through right now. It’s important work. 

But it’s not for me. It was a job.  I was living my dad’s dream. He wanted me to be a doctor, I didn’t have the grades, so I ended up being a microbiologist and I hated every moment of it. 

This hurdle was called, LIVING SOMEONE ELSE’s DREAM.

But my CALLING found me an opportunity.
The Internet came into our lives and I was fascinated.. I was determined to make a career change and at the age of  29 I decided to move up to the bay area during the dot com movement to learn from the masters and watch the world change before my eyes. It was exhilarating. I have found my new career as a web designer. I was creating websites for fortune 500 companies, Important people, making some real good money. 

Eventually, I started my own company which lasted for 25 years. The services that I offered involved digital media arts : Web Design, Video, and Graphics. I developed the discipline to get things done. No excuses. I learned more from  being an entrepreneur than I ever did at school.  That is a blessing for an entrepreneur but a curse for a teacher.

But eventually technology produced tools that allowed people to make their own websites.  My company was not making as much money as it did before.  

This hurdle was called, CHANGE.

But my CALLING  found me an opportunity.  I got a call from a friend who informed me about a  job opening. I was thinking oh someone wants me to go work for them doing websites or video, or graphics.

Oh no, he said. This is a job teaching Digital Media Arts at the high school level.  And I’m like, High school? Did you say high school? Like, teenagers? All sorts of thoughts went through my head. From, sounds interesting, to, these kids are going to rip me apart. I’ll never make it through the day.

This hurdle was called, FEAR

But my CALLING  found me an opportunity

Ultimately I applied and went to the interview.  I was not offered the teaching position, but rather, a substitute teaching position.

It got me in the classroom.I remember the very first class I entered as a sub. I’m like oh My God, I’m supposed to be in charge of these kids. I don’t think I spoke into a teenager since I was a teenager myself. 

In a little over a year, I subbed at 17 different high schools. Eventually earned  a teaching credential. 

Then, one day, I attended a speech on how to get a job as a teacher, and the speaker told the audience that the chances of getting a teaching position for digital media arts was slim to none. 

This hurdle was called DISCOURAGEMENT.  

But my CALLING  found me an opportunity.

In January 2016, I was asked to be a long term substitute for a continuation high school. That means I was getting paid as a sub, recognized as a sub, but had the responsibilities as a teacher. And for those of you who don’t know what a continuation high school is, let’s just say some of those kids are just a few steps away from juvie. 

It was tough, I did not have much support, I had a backstabbing principal, I have rough kids. I was teaching students like they were adults and failed to make a connection. I was stern, angry, frustrated, I didn’t care what their background was, I had a job to do and these kids were keeping me from doing it. At the end of year, I was not welcomed back .

This HURDLE was called : Rejection.

But my CALLING  found me another opportunity at another high school full of academically inclined students. This position was better than the one before. I was all about being serious and getting to the point. I went from students who barely graduated to IVY League bound students. These were my type of kids. Serious, to the point, get things done. I was there for two years. 

Then one day, Someone hacked into my Facebook account and posted horrible things that I would never dream of posting myself.  Racist things, stereotypical things, all with my name and my picture on there. As a victim of racism myself this was painful.  The principal found out about it and thought it was me. She didn’t give me a chance to explain.  I was told not to come back. I was devastated.

THIS HURDLE is called UNFAIRNESS.

But my CALLING  found me another opportunity. This time at a high school 3 It was a bigger better school.. But it was not a good fit because I was still very much an academic teacher, I believed I was there to teach lessons. It’s my way or the highway. I had snooty rich kids. They wanted to run the show. Luckily I controlled their grades, and I failed a lot of them. But that cost me because of low enrollment, no one wanted to take my classes.

THIS HURDLE is called STUBBORNNESS

But my CALLING  found me another opportunity. This time at a high school number 4. It’s another troubled school that lacked funding, lacked resources. I remember the first day I received a phone call from the principal who told me that I really had to make things work here. It’s now or never. That other admins heard about me and were uncomfortable about me because I worked so many schools in such a short time.

THIS HURDLE is called PRESSURE.

But my CALLING  found me another opportunity. I had my epiphany. I realized it was me who had to change. I cannot enforce the same discipline I had as an entrepreneur toward these kids.  Instead of shoving information down their throats, getting frustrated, thinking their stupid….I decided that I was going to be there for them. 

I’m going to open my hands, my arms, my heart to them.  I’m going to make this class enjoyable. No question is dumb. No student is dumb. It didn’t matter what their condition was. I will go all out for you because I wanted to go from a teacher, to a mentor, to a father figure, to a big brother figure. I had to preserve my career. 

By mid year,  I was nominated for Teacher of the Year. Then the school asked me to help write a grant and I got $300K.  I turned a classroom that looked like a garage into a studio good enough to make movies. Kids were lining around the block to take my class. I’m returning for my third year.

It was my CALLING that I was able to overcome these hurdles.

It was my CALLING that brought me these hurdles to begin with, so that I can learn.

Teaching is my CALLING.

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