Dealing With People Who Disrespect Your Career Choice

Even with a Master’s in Education plus fifteen additional credits-halfway to a doctorate degree in education, I faced many people who disrespected my career choice as an elementary school teacher. My major was “easy” and I just “played with kids all day”. My choice, the fifteen additional credits, was in the field of Early Childhood-the primary grades. Part of my graduation requirements was to intern at my university’s Early Childhood Center. Yes, I did “play” with my toddlers, but I was also teaching them through play. This is a concept many outside of Early Childhood Education do not understand. Learning does not always take place in the form of a worksheet.

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My education specialization also allowed me to concentrate on the early elementary years, grades kindergarten through third. These are the years children first learn to read and write, and some of toughest to teach. I would ask my critics again, “Would you rather do worksheet after worksheet or learn to read, write and do math by playing games?” Again, the answer was the latter, not the former.

When I finally became employed in a very good school district, the disrespect for my career choice would become the topic of conversations. “Oh, you’re a teacher? Must be nice to have the summers and every holiday off!” That was not why I became a teacher. Besides, during the early years of my marriage, I needed to work over the summer because my husband and I had financial goals we needed to meet.

Even though teachers do not work in a classroom over the summer, at our profession, we cannot collect unemployment. Where else are teachers supposed to find a job that pays the equivalent of their regular salary? Many teachers I know, especially those who are young, or male, or are single parents, work in the summer because they have bills to pay. Many male teachers that I know have year round side businesses to help support their families, as a teacher’s salary simply can’t support them.

And many of us go back into our classroom in August to set up our rooms, as well as meet with our colleagues to get ready for the upcoming school year. All of this is unpaid work.

In the twenty-three years since I received my Master’s in Education, I have been disrespected in my career choice time and again. I have learned to let it slide, because nothing to me is more magical than seeing a classroom full of children have light bulbs go on over their heads.

I can proudly hold my head up and say, “I know that I touch the future because I am a teacher.”