This Veteran’s Day weekend, my wife and I spent time in our yard getting ready for the inevitable winter onslaught. As I was splitting some larger pieces of wood, I mentioned to her that this type of work is satisfying because there is a finale, a time when the project is completed. One can look back on the accomplishment: the wood pile neatly stacked, the leaves racked into a pile and the large pieces of firewood split in half, ready to be burned. My contractor friend Tom can put his ingenuity and hard work into remodeling a kitchen and then when finished, take pictures of his handiwork on his iPhone and feel an enormous sense of accomplishment.

It’s a bit different for those of us in education. We’re never quite finished with any project given that there are always new students and families moving in or moving up. Fresh initiatives and innovative research challenge us to renew our practice. New colleagues or administrators often inspire us to improve simply by their example.

So if the checkbox of completion can be rarely confirmed, how do educators feel this elusive sense of achievement?

We have to acknowledge that our work is a ministry of sorts. We show up at work every day to complete a mission. Educators may sacrifice time and money to work in a field that provides never ending challenge and opportunity to give others’ guidance and the tools for them to grow. We set goals for our classroom, our students, and our school and with the collection of data we can check some things off.

But, it’s really the lightbulb that goes on in a child’s brain or the disregulated student showing signs of adjustment and happiness that pushes us onward.

It’s good work my friends, even if the work is never quite finished.

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