Sometimes you just have to write…

Karma and “selfless” acts

I know I said I’d post again on Tuesday, and here I am, posting on Thursday instead. But I have an excuse, really! And it’s a good one too, full of self-sacrifice and pathos!

Okay, maybe not, but it is a good excuse.

After postponing all that work, knowing I had all day Tuesday to do it, a colleague at the teacher-training college where I work couldn’t be at school Tuesday due to a family emergency. Not a problem, normally, but it’s a test week, and she was scheduled to help administer oral exams to the first year students. These are half-hour-long, in-depth sessions focusing on various aspects of fluency and pronunciation. Six teachers were scheduled in pairs: one to ask the questions, one to do the assessment. And, if they didn’t find a replacement for that one colleague, everyone would end up hopelessly behind.

So I agreed to do it. I left at eight o’clock in the morning for the one-hour commute. I was busy testing students until about two o’clock and didn’t get home until around 3:30.

See? That’s a good excuse, right?

Which leads to a topic that brings up all sorts of arguments in my Theory of Knowledge class when we discuss ethics: is there such a thing as a truly selfless act? (There’s nothing better than getting a classroom full of teenagers arguing about a meaty topic like that!)

Yesterday is surely an instance of a “no” to that question. I didn’t just do this to help out my colleagues. I certainly wasn’t very happy about doing it. But the colleague who initially asked me has done many favours for me in the last few years, and I felt that I owed her.

I know, too, that I scored “points” with the staff by agreeing to be there. Every workplace has some form of unofficial point system: acts of giving and receiving that people do keep track of, at least informally. Scoring points will help me next time I need some cooperation from a colleague, even if it’s not one of the colleagues I helped yesterday. It’s like karma: “what goes around comes around,” but in a workplace situation it’s much more reliable and immediate. I can collect on this karma as and when I need to.

It also makes me feel good. I helped. And if I carefully suppress any thoughts of favours returned, I can feel virtuous. I gave up my own best interests to help others. Isn’t that laudable? Aren’t you proud of me? Now I’ll sit back and wait for the karma to arrive.

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This entry was posted on January 31, 2013 by in Being a Teacher and tagged , , .
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