*WARNING: what you are about to read might come across as a rant, so proceed with caution 🙂
I taught English in secondary schools for over two years and one of the many things that used to grate on my nerves was the professional reputation of teachers. How many times did I hear (from well-meaning people) “Dammy is just a teacher.”
Just a teacher? I beg your pardon! Why don’t you have a go at standing in front of thirty hormonal teenagers who couldn’t give a toss about Shakespeare and think it’s funny to call you all sorts of names that are not on your birth certificate. Go and try it and see if you live to tell the story.
Even when people don’t actually utter the word ‘just’, their actions and attitude are practically screaming the same sentiment. This got me thinking about the way we use this modifier ‘just.’ Feel free to disagree, but in my opinion, ‘just’ is symptomatic of a dismissive attitude where things are not perceived or valued in the highest regard.
It wasn’t always other people, I did it to myself too. How many times did I find myself trivialising and belittling my profession because it wasn’t (allegedly) as popular as others. It was almost as if I didn’t deserve a seat at the table because I mean, how many teachers do you find on Instagram with 150k followers sharing updates about pedagogy? Zero. Zilch. Nada.
It’s not just teachers; this attitude is rife in our world. If it doesn’t measure up to the arbitrary standards we have set for success, then it’s not worthy. If the packaging is not shiny, we think it is disposable.
Many of us have sabotaged ourselves because of that tiny modifier ‘just’. I’m just a stay at home mum, just a delivery driver, just a customer service operator, on and on the list of why we’re ‘less than’ goes on. Sometimes the problem is false humility and at other times, it comes from having an unhealthy self-esteem and understanding of your place in the world.
I might be wrong, but when I see the phrase ‘just a teacher’, ringing in my ears is the underestimation of worth and painful devaluation of skills that you can’t simply acquire by listening to a podcast. When you say ‘just’, you are ignorantly devaluing the years of study, dedication, skill, expertise and discipline it takes to arrive at that profession, whatever it may be.
Even bin-men have to spend hours in training – you cannot just wake up one day and start a career in refuse collection. It is most definitely not the most glamorous or well paid job but it still takes personal discipline and consistency. You have to wake up early even in the darkness of winter when others are still pressing snooze on their alarm, you have to understand how to lift safely otherwise you’ll damage your back and you need to know how to work in a team.
So, can I encourage you to take up arms against the tyranny of ‘just’ and refuse to let this distortion of your value continue.
I’ll give you one tool for your arsenal – it’s the words of the very person who made you:
“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.God, Luke 12:6,7
Yes, a surgeon might have more letters after his name than a roofer but neither of them is ‘just’ anything. As gifted as the surgeon is, he cannot fix his leaking roof himself. A sleep deprived surgeon who has spent the night trying to fix his roof to no avail is a danger to his patients. He needs the roofer.
The world needs you.
There are 7 billion people breathing in and out like me and many of them excelling in all spheres of life better than I am, but none of them is ME. None of them is YOU.
Say it out loud: ‘I am NOT just anything!’
P.S: remember to say thank you to your bin man, waiter, checkout cashier, babysitter, window cleaner, roofer, teacher, Pastor, doctor, carer, worship leader, bus driver, etc next time you see them. You might think you’re better than them but you are still NOT them.