• Fri, May 4 2012

The Teacher Who Cringes At The Thought Her Kids May Follow In Her Career Footsteps

On Wednesday, I shared seven encouraging stories from people who were eager to have their children follow in their career footsteps. I heard from several happy entrepreneurs, the second-generation owner of a cozy inn and spa, and a cool cowboy-boot designer in Oklahoma. The message from these cheerful workers seemed to be that if you’re happy in your job, you like your kids, and you think the work you do contributes something to the world, then of course you’d want your children to follow in your career path. But I also heard from one parent who absolutely does not want her kids to choose the same career she did. Here is her story.

The woman I’ll call “Amy” is a high school teacher. Ironically, she teaches a class on career planning and life skills, even though she wouldn’t want her own kids to be teachers. She has previously worked in retail and hotel management, and has started her own business, but teaching “is by far the most time consuming, intellectually challenging, misunderstood and dumped-on profession that exists,” she explained.

“Unfortunately my gut literally cringes at the thought of any of my three children possibly following in my career footsteps,” Amy said. “Any kids — or my students! — for that matter. Teaching is the only profession of its kind and must be considered much more carefully than most do.”

Amy says she thinks too many people go into teaching because they’ll get summers off and it doesn’t seem too difficult. (As the daughter of teachers, I can vouch for the fact that teaching is incredibly difficult and time-consuming.) Amy’s perception is that the general public thinks teaching is a breeze, and that “those who can’t do, teach.”

All these notions — The job is easy! Teachers are overpaid! They have it easy! They should work miracles! — make a miserable stew for many teachers. “Misconceptions and the unrealistic demands placed upon teachers with the dramatically changing population of kids coming into schools makes the job impossible to do well,” Amy explained. “The general public has idealized and outdated notions of what high school is, should be and their ‘golden memories’ of their days past. They also have distorted ideas about what their children are and aren’t.”

Sure, teachers can tell themselves they’re changing the world. And perhaps they are, she conceded. She acknowledged she is paid fairly, too. But it’s not enough. “Normally we just go home exhausted after trying to parent other people’s children.”

So despite the difference she’s making, Amy says she hopes her children, who are now young adults, consider other lines of work. “I’d truly hate for my children to work this hard and get so little respect and recognition in return,” she said. “I encouraged my children to find and pursue their passions and then go do it, not teach it.”

Amy’s story isn’t a happy one. But the truth is, not everyone is happy at work. We like to only listen to  the rah-rah stories from people who are thrilled with their career paths. (Including many teachers who genuinely love their jobs!) But it’s important to remember that not every career path ends in fulfillment and bliss. How’s that for a cheery beginning to your weekend?

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