I’m a former and future teacher. And I’m the manager of our family and household.
There is work that’s compensated and work that is uncompensated—these days I’m heavy on the “un.” The work needs to be done, even if it’s not always the most rewarding. Is it meaningful? Yes, but it can get a little dull.
I stopped teaching when I had kids, but I still think of myself as a teacher. I’m planning to go back with the start of the new school year.
In the beginning, staying at home with younger kids, you feel your purpose more; you’re literally carrying them, feeding them, putting them in the stroller. Later on, they need you more emotionally, but the work is less measurable. You’re dealing with big issues affecting what kind of person they’re going to grow into.
Through most of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I first thought about teaching during my senior year, but I couldn’t go and start another degree right away. So I went to work in publishing—first in books, then magazines. I loved the people, but I found the work somewhat disposable. I was on the production side and became a managing editor. I was very good at it, but I didn’t enjoy it much. The days seemed slow. Every month it was like starting over from scratch.
This was back when most of the writers and editors worked on PCs and the designers were on Macs. I spent a lot of time explaining to people how to convert the files and that sort of thing. I liked explaining things, which helped lead me back to the idea of teaching. I didn’t really want to keep explaining things to adults! Eventually I started working on my master’s at night.
Teaching was more tiring than I expected, physically and emotionally. It’s relentless, like being in battle. It never goes exactly according to plan. Kids come in with problems, and they don’t necessarily have the support the need at home. But I love the classroom dynamic. Every day is different, and it’s never boring.
In struggling public schools like the one where I taught, the kids are not always prepared, but there’s a level of respect for teachers. Especially from the parents—they can’t always help their kids or come to conferences, but they respect you. More affluent parents tend to think you settled for teaching. They assume they could do your job.
I’ve had a lot of men tell me that they would have liked to teach, but the salary was too low. And to me, that’s a big part of feminism—not only making sure there are opportunities for women in traditionally male jobs, but also compensating the more traditionally female jobs so that men can feel free to take those jobs too, instead of dismissing them.
Interviewed on April 13, 2018