But leave who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and my vocation

As my two eyes make one in sight.


Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the work ever really done

For Heaven and the future’s sakes.


Those last two stanzas of Robert Frost’s poem Two Tramps in Mud Time (or, A Full-Time Interest) make me think of word language teachers. Maybe it’s just the people I hang out with, but I can’t help but wonder if language teachers are different. Most of the language teachers I know fulfill Frost’s object of uniting avocation and vocation: they are doing what they enjoy while they do what they need to do. Using the language is not only what they do to make a living, it is what they want to do. They combine emotional, social, intellectual and even spiritual needs with the need of earning a paycheck. They get more than a mere wage from their vocation and they give more than mere instruction.


Talk about a full-time interest. The subject consumes the lives of these language teachers. They think, speak, read and even dream in the languages they teach. They read in the target language for pleasure. They go to conferences, they read books on the subject, they blog and post unceasingly about it on social media. They voluntarily travel with students to other countries. They passionately discuss and argue best practice. They constantly share the tips, tricks and techniques that work for them. They develop materials and distribute them, often free of charge. They engage.


Doing the work only because they need a job is not what these teachers are about. They approach Thoreau’s idea of the whole duty of life being contained in the question of, “…how to respire and aspire both at once.” Respiring, breathing is doing what is necessary to live, aspiring is the play—what makes life meaningful and worthwhile. The conjoined focus of need and love takes it to a different level; a level that students surely must feel. Rather than retreating into stern numbers, they embrace the subject they love and they impart that passion along with the content to their students. Their work is so enjoyable to them that it nearly seems unfair to those that trudge through the days dissociating need and love.


With this combination mastery becomes possible. They combine the emotional, social, intellectual and even spiritual needs of the avocation with the need of earning a paycheck and so they begin to do a different kind of work. They get more than a mere wage and they give more than mere instruction. That level of involvement and service compels them to become better teachers.


I realize that I am biased, but I cannot imagine that kind of involvement in other disciplines. Not only are these language teachers doing it right, but they are approaching their profession in the best possible way—by enthusiastically combining intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, avocation and vocation.  It makes for a rewarding profession and one that I am proud to be a part of.


Having the opportunity to combine work and need with love and play? Doing what you enjoy AND getting paid for it? Not a bad gig.


Think I’ll sign up for another year.