Wednesday, June 27, 2012

happiness & worth

Oh Forbes, you and your uppity attitudes. The other day you took one step too far when you decided to rank the unhappiest jobs in America: "These 6 professions have been ranked the least satisfying -- based on factors such as growth potential and compensation -- by the people who do them." And guess which one was #3? That's right, teaching.

Yeah, Forbes, because I definitely chose this career path for the big profits it promised me. I'm just so unhappy now that I've realized that I'll never make a whole lot of money.

People (generally) go into teaching because they are passionate about it. In my case, I wanted to share my love of literature and language with students. I also wanted to be a mentor to students, or at least someone they felt they could turn to and trust, because I was always lucky enough to have teachers like that. And if you've read this blog before, you know that I've been able to do both of these things. Am I as good at my job as I want to be? Absolutely not. Do I ever have bad days or weeks and wonder why the fuck I'm doing this? Of course. But then so many good things happen, both little and big, and I know that I've made the right choice. I have a job that challenges me and that is certainly never boring. I get to help shape these students during some very formative years in their lives, and I feel like, with at least a lot of them, I am making some sort of a difference. And that makes me feel fulfilled. I know that I want to keep doing this for years to come, that I will truly make a career out of it. And no, I don't plan on ever becoming an administrator/department head/principal. I guess Forbes would tell me that I lack ambition and that I must be dreadfully unhappy. However, the way I see it, my challenge is to become a better and better teacher every single year. Plus, each year I get a new crop of students to work with and help shape while they, in turn, help change my life too. Just because I won't be moving up in the ranks doesn't mean I will be stuck in some sort of a rut.

My parents told me that when I was attending Brandeis University, which is a good school and also very expensive, people questioned my choice. They asked, "Why is she going to Brandeis if she's just going to be a teacher?" My parents said that don't want to know who said it nor how many people. Just like Forbes, these people measured worth in money. I know, I know, the very nature of money is that it measures how much things are worth. But I believe that in order to live a fulfilling life, one must consider factors beyond that. I chose that school knowing full well that I would come out of it with a lot of debt. And yeah, it sucks to have to write a check every month for over $200, knowing that I'll be continuing to do so for quite some time. But you know what? It's managable, and I don't regret my decision one little bit. I had worked my ass off all my life and wanted the challenge of going to a great school. Brandeis certainly provided me with that. I wanted to become the best teacher I could possibly be, and I knew that this place would help me get on the right path. I had some really kick-ass professors, including the head of the Education Department who really helped me figure out my life. Furthermore, because the school is almost 50% Jewish, I found a community there that I really connected with. When I graduated, I didn't think about the debt--I thought about the amazing education I received, the unique experiences I had, the ways that my horizons had been expanded, and the incredible friends I had made.

I've talked to some of my students before about life choices. I remember a conversation I had with my seniors at the end of my first year of teaching. I told them to, above all, be happy. Yes, you need to make sure you have enough money to take care of yourself and your family. But you also need to be able to enjoy what you do. I don't care if it requires a master's degree or training in a tech program, just love it. One of my seniors this year is planning on being an electrician. Some years back I might have lamented her decision to not strive for more. But these days, I know that's the wrong attitude. This girl loves her field. She was actually one of the only girls in that tech program at the high school, and I admire her for going against the norm. I am proud of her for pursuing her dream.

My high school English teacher sent me an amazing video when I was in college, since she knew I wanted to be a teacher. I've included the link below, and encourage you all to watch it. It is called "What Teachers Make," by slam poet and former teacher Taylor Mali. It is incredible, and sums up my feelings better than I can do here.

1 comment:

  1. People don't go into teaching for the money. (I also like to teach. And my professors kind of assume that I'm going to be a professor some day. If I get my way, they are probably right.)