1.   Witnessing great student talent and really amazing kids.  For example, I’ve heard so many great renditions of the National Anthem that it’s impossible to pick just one “best”.  And the acapella groups!  This is such a benefit that I still expect it to show up on my W-2 every year. 

2.   Getting to contribute to and participate materially in something bigger than any private enterprise.  Although I’m not a teacher, by supporting public education, I still participate in one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

3.   Being counted among the good guys by folks who actually know things.  This takes a hundred forms, but typical is the reaction at our church the last Sunday of the summer break, right before the kids go back to school (you know, the one where the backpacks get blessed.) Those friends and neighbors go out of their way to show their appreciation for all of us in education—even the maintenance men. By the way, not everyone sees it this way- I’ve been called a bureaucrat on multiple occasions, with the most negative of connotations.  Sticks and stones.

4.    Reading to kids.  This ranks up there with #1.  Every year I get to read a new book to a class full of kindergarteners.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

5.    A lifestyle that allows room for things that really matter: family, a healthy lifestyle, and the real potential for a life after work.  Make no mistake—the era of 40-hour workweeks is over for public employees in positions of responsibility.  Those managers and administrators are working lots of long days, and lots of Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays.  But even so, there is an expectation (perhaps grounded in the kid-centric nature of our work) that public servants’ kids, spouses, and families are important and we not only can, but should dedicate appropriate time and energy to those who count on us. 

6.    The real collegiality and familial environment of the folks employed at the District.  I never grasped the enormity of these bonds until my father died last year.  Dozens of my colleagues reached out to a small town 1000 miles away to send messages of love and condolences.

7.   Generous vacation allotments which encourage #6, above.  And in our District we switch to four ten-hour days for several weeks every summer.  Those extra three-day weekends are gems to be treasured.

8.    Pension plans that makes it possible to retire after 30 years of service, making it possible for many public servants to enjoy the fruits of their labor in their early 50’s.  Unfortunately, during the Great Recession, some elected officials determined that the public sector pensions were too attractive to pass up and consequently, many pensions are less attractive than they were previously. And the unwarranted attention to public sector pensions is still going on every budget cycle.  

9.    Participating in a long-term work environment that is increasingly scarce in the current short-term-value-centered business environment.  Many of our colleagues came to work right out of school and have made a career—and a good family life—for decades.  The Great Recession pierced the myth that such jobs are “entitlements” which can never be taken away, but in general, lengthy employments are still common among School Board Employees.