I spent a long time in college. A long time.
It took me five and a half years to finally finish undergrad with some semblance of a degree and, eventually, an additional two years to wrap-up my post-graduate degree.
Flitting between five different colleges and four different degree plans, I took a bunch of classes in all those years of college. All kinds of them. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Everything from Intro to Tennis (The instructor was cute, and I became a founding, card-carrying member of the Corey Hill Fan Club, sitting on those bleachers where I’d gotten out of, yet another, workout because of some ridiculous reason I made up on my way to class.) to Intro to Costuming (I learned a new, less-creepy meaning of the word “spiders” and how, based on my sorely lacking sewing skills, I should refrain from quitting any day job that might come along).
When I finally settled on the bread-winning major of Elementary Education, the classes seemed to fit me better. I relished the classes and soaked up the processes. Teaching. Kids. Books. Technology This was what I was made for.
But, in every job description I’ve ever seen and signed, the phrase that brings the expectations portion to a close is, “And, other duties as assigned.” Even a skeptical mind knows that this phrase is meant to encompass all the things that a supervisor might not have thought of and those tasks that might be added onto a position as things come up. I’ve, unfortunately, heard countless stories of employers who take advantage of that phrase, as if the words act as the contract of an indentured servant. But, it seems to me, in my experience, the healthy space between the listed expectations on a job description and that line about other duties as assigned is where the good stuff is found.
One of my favorite places and time of learning was when I spent my days in an elementary library, reading to kids and helping them find books that made their eyes dance. After a class full of four-year-olds filed out of the library one afternoon having just heard a precious rhyming story of forest animals preparing for a party while tip-toeing around a hibernating bear, one of my littlest learners stopped in front of me. She dramatically stamped her foot and pointed to her shoe. It was then that I noticed her shoelaces strung out behind her foot. “Will you tie my shoe, Miss Brant?” she inquired. I sank down into a sitting position, criss-crossed my legs, took her shoes, re-threaded the laces, and retied her shoe. She skipped off, new books tucked in hugged arms, thinking nothing of what just happened, but I couldn’t stop smiling.
At that same library, I spent months teaching my students with severe developmental disabilities how to check out their own books. I’d spent time teaching every other student the five or six steps to check their old books back into circulation and then to turn around and check out new books for the week, and while it took a little longer to learn and more supervision, my four unique learners were able to check their books in and out each time they came to the library. And, as was my normal send-off, I’d walk these students to the door, give high-fives, and tell them that I loved them. One of these unique learners who rocked an extra chromosome better than anyone I ever knew would turn around and point at me and say, “No! Love YOUUUU!” It was the highlight of my week.
Recently, I was called upon to discipline a high school senior after his failed attempt at being funny on a digital platform caused parents to be upset. The kid was hilarious but didn’t consider his audience. He didn’t mean any harm but certainly didn’t consider the effects of his poorly planted humor. I started the conversation by telling him how funny I thought he was, how I had read aloud to colleagues the banter in question while we all laughed until tears rolled down our faces. And, then I brought up timing and audience and how pivotal both variables were to landing humor. I told him that I hoped he continued to be funny and that he’d continue to work on his delivery so that he’d get maximum laughs. And, then I told him that if he ever did that again on a school-owned platform, I’d hunt him down. We laughed because after all these years, I’ve gotten better at my own delivery to warrant maximum laughs. As he was leaving, he turned back toward me and said, “Thanks for this, Miss Brant.” And, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more proud of a disciplinary moment.
None of these instances fell under the official expectations listed on any job description, but they are the other duties as assigned that have taken up the most space in my memory. They are, to me, what made each job fulfilling. These other duties made every day worth it.
And, so while some employees balk at the vagueness of those other duties as assigned, I’ve come to appreciate them as being what really makes a position. Underneath the expectations, usually at the bottom of the job description, look for the magic phrase. It might just be the good stuff that’ll make your day worth it.