You Want to Be a What?

A few weeks ago, I was volunteering in a 6th grade classroom and as we were wrapping up the period, one of the boys asked me what I want to be when I “grow up.” I looked at him and said that I wasn’t sure, but that I was keeping my options open. “Do you want to be a teacher?” was his response, and following this he offered, “You shouldn’t do it. Don’t they make like nothing?”

For the majority of my life, I have witnessed teachers around me making next to nothing for changing lives. For changing lives. It’s a topic that is sickening for me to talk about and yet, what will come of the issue if we don’t discuss it? On this day I was told by a 6th grader that I shouldn’t be a teacher because the money isn’t good enough. What does this say about the respect he feels toward his own teachers? He’s not only already determined that he most certainly won’t teach; he’s urging people around him to do the same thing.

And he’s certainly not alone. This survey found that one of every two students felt their teachers didn’t “measure up” in various categories. What’s more is that only 39% of students reported feeling respect toward their teachers and only 54% of students feel that their teachers respect them. Who’s to blame? Teachers, or the people who determine that teachers don’t deserve to make more of a decent living for their work? Bad teachers exist, to be sure, but students aren’t naive; they know that teachers make little money. Does this in fact have a bearing on how they feel about the people teaching them?

I am friends with almost every teacher at the school where my mother teaches and where I attended kindergarten to 5th grade. As I progress further and further through college, I have yet to meet one of them who has encouraged me to teach. A favorite line of most teachers who know me: “Hayden you would be such an awesome teacher, but you just shouldn’t go into teaching.” What?

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Credit: Falling Creek Camp

I know I’m not the only student who has heard that sentence before. This weekend I sat on an admissions panel and discussed the Education minor program. I talked to high school seniors about its premise and how it’s perfect for students who have a good deal of interest in Education but don’t know whether or not they’ll teach. As I talked, I couldn’t help but feel like I’m lying to myself. What if I do know that I want to teach? What then? Should I be ashamed of that? I am still on a path to law school, but I refuse to ultimately rule out teaching as a possibility. Few things make me happier than walking into one of the elementary classrooms in which I volunteer and hearing, “Mr. Hayden is here!” What if I could enjoy that as a career, every day of my life?

Have any of you also been pressured to not consider teaching for financial reasons? Have you ever talked to someone and walked away feeling that they were thinking, “You want to be a what?” by the end of the conversation? I don’t yet know what my future holds, but teaching is certainly not out of the question.

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4 Responses to You Want to Be a What?

  1. Autumn Grace says:

    Hayden,

    Unlike you I have known since about middle school that I wanted to be a teacher. I have actually received several comments similar to yours such as, “you are too smart to be a teacher” or “you must not care about money.” As you indicated in your post, some of these were actually coming from teachers themselves! I personally was sickened by these comments, and luckily I had parents who encouraged me to follow my dreams despite what others thought about it.

    I am interested in who is at fault for these ideas about teachers? Who decided that teachers were lower in status just because of the money they are making? Does our society really only value people who make a lot of money? Do teachers often base their self-worth on money instead of taking pride in the fact that they are changing lives regardless of the money?

    I would have to say that I think both teachers and the public are at fault in this, and it will take a new generation of teachers as well as a new generation of educational policy to disband these negative attitudes around education.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. liznels says:

    Hayden,
    This is a GREAT post! I thought I wanted to be a teacher for a long time and convinced myself in high school that I didn’t want to because of some of the reasons and responses that I received that you mentioned above. However, this past year, I reevaluated the reasons why I wanted to teach and I feel that the amount of money I make shouldn’t dictate what I do. Yet, the amount of money teachers make does often completely readjust their lifestyle. For the sake of changing childrens’ lives and hopefully being able to impact the system, I think this is a good choice. Yet, the pressure not to teach and thinking of teaching as a “lesser” career and a good “second option” is still very present. Do you have any thoughts on how to change the way that teaching is perceived?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Those Who Can’t…Teach | The Politics of Reading

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