Useless toil vs. useful work

William Morris – the 19th century designer, poet, writer and painter – carefully distinguished between what he termed useless toil and useful work. He reasoned that useful work had to engage both the mind and the senses and that, for that reason, an enjoyable occupation shared many characteristics with play and games.

I enjoy teaching tremendously and count myself very lucky to be engaged in an occupation that satisfies me at every level and helps me develop both professionally and as a person. I am sure that there are many teachers who share that sentiment with me. Perhaps you are one.

Spare a thought for our students though. When they come to school, are they engaged in useless toil or useful work?

Photo by Bettina


Submit a Comment
  1. I like to think in primary we have the luxury and freedom of providing useful work. Everyday is genuinely exciting, my fervour for teaching has rekindled over the years and I share your sentiments completely. Here’s to more useful work and less of the toil.

    1. Thanks Kevin for your comment. I think it was Confucius who said “find an occupation you enjoy and you’ll never have to work again”. Here’s to less jumping through hoops and more enjoyment of learning for the sake of learning.

  2. I’ve noticed teachers that uselessly toil tend to have students who feel as though they are also uselessly toiling.

Your feedback and comments are very welcome