Last night at a neighborhood party I was asked what I did for a living. This party was a collection of new neighbors that just recently moved in. The theme was Hawaiian. Tiki torches, grilling, and your occasional lay. People were very friendly and polite, engaging in all the appropriate small talk. Inevitably someone asks what you do for a living. I typically hang out with fellow teachers so I am not used to the responses I get from those who work for profit. When telling this coconut rum drink that I was a Special Education Teacher, they responded that was a very admirable job. I knew they were trying to complement me, but I can’t help hearing the condescending tone to that statement. Health care workers, lawyers, small business owners, real estate agents, don’t get that.
The remark follows an assumption that I teach because I do it for charity, like I’m volunteering my time. The idea that my job is hard work, or highly skilled does not matter. That it took 3 years to obtain a license does not matter. The fact that I had to do a year-long internship, does not matter. The fact that I have to invest my own money to keep myself trained and up to speed on latest techniques in skill sets, does not matter. I am seen has a volunteer at some charitable organization. A position chosen as a sacrifice. The remark simply states that there is no status in what I do. It is a profession that is seen has a hobby or a stepping stone on the way up to a more necessary money producing job. People understand my choice in low pay, just as much as they understand why priests chose not to have sex. I was given a buddhist monk status, which is admirable but does not qualifying as a job. There are no health plans in the field spiritual enlightenment.
Here’s what I want instead. I want to that person to simply say “good choice”. Teaching as a career needs to get out of the category of being rewarded with words such as “admirable”, as if I am going to school to feed and baths orphans. Teaching is a job that I have to show up for to get paid. I educate people so they don’t burn our world down and I get a shit ton of time off. How can I be admired for that. That word should be reserved for what someone choses to do on their weekends or who has stepped out of economic universe for admirable reasons. May I have a sip of your coconut drink?