It started with the Parkland shooting. I had been a teacher at a school where there had been an unusual amount of tragedy and violence. I’ll avoid some of the more horrific details, but will simply say that I lost two of my students to suicide. Another had a gun in his backpack in my class. He was preparing to defend himself against a group of guys on the football team who were, possibly, planning to attack him later that day. Another one of my students is still serving life in prison for the murder of a girl (the sister of another student I had at the time). Each one of these (and there are plenty more) is a long and complex story.
In a few words, I know something about youth violence and I know about curriculum and course writing. Since my time as a high school teacher, I’ve learned a lot about emotional intelligence and things that work in making students feel more included, like games and projects that get kids with all different forms of intelligence and skills to feel like they’re part of something.
For example, after one school shooting that was unfolding in real time on television as I was still in my classroom after school (a while back now) a student confessed to me that he had thought about doing something like that, as in shooting up the school. He explained to me all the reasons behind his thinking and we kind of began a dialogue that continued, especially as he got more involved in a world history game that I had developed with my students. He wrote to me years later saying the game was the best thing he’d ever done in all of his years as a student, and today “Joe,” is a teacher.
This is why - when I saw that a professional development company was recruiting (on a popular contracting platform) for course proposals, I had my idea. I’d submit a bunch of ideas, but would focus on the one that really, really needs our attention right now -- school and youth violence. I created he outline and began researching a course for “Community, Connectedness and Preventing Youth Violence." I took this very, very seriously -- inviting members of my discussion Meetup group to help with ideas. I also reached out to a friend, a high school counselor, to get her thoughts on the proposal.
I don’t need to tell any writer, teacher or anyone who is “connected” or dedicated to their work, that at some point, you get emotionally invested. You need to see something through. That was me. This seemed like a calling and I had the tools to do this very well. So, when days would pass between messages from my contact person -- the person overseeing the course writers -- and when there was very little feedback, if any, I would start getting frustrated, i.e. you’ve already said this is good, so when are we getting started? Weeks went by. They needed one more sample of something and I was already deeply into 20 or more hours of unpaid work. I should also mention that, as I became more dedicated to this project, I was turning down other work invitations, as I’m sure many independent contractors do. And, of course, when you’re not on salary, you need to close these deals or have no income.
Two more days went by.
At this point, I figured I should cut my losses and begin searching for an organization more in line with the idea and more motivated by the mission of helping teachers with this complex issue. My question is, what do you do when you are more motivated than the client to begin work? In the “gig economy,” does one have the luxury to pursue things with deeper meaning and purpose? When is the right time to move on?