I am a teacher. This translates into a lot of things. At bars, stating my profession elicits reactions ranging from raised eyebrows to free rounds of shots to awkwardly indirect and occasionally funny comments about my sixteen-year-old male students’ attraction to me. At family gatherings, however, I refrain from talking about my career because it always throws my uncle, grandmother, aunts, and cousins into a ridiculous tirade about how I wasted my degree from the University of Michigan and how I should have just gone to the local community college. When I go to buy shish kabob from the meat market where I temporarily worked as the butcher-coat-donning cash girl, I refrain from professing my love/appreciation/eternal gratitude to my boss because that cash-girl paycheck he handed to me every other Friday is pretty much the equivalent to what I’m getting paid now for teaching American teenagers how to read, write, and transform their world into the socially just utopia that I truly believe it can be. TL;DR: Yes, I get paid the same amount working as a teacher that I did as a meat market cashier.
However, I must come forth with my most embarrassing teacher confession to date: I have witnessed a student turn his face to avoid me as I stood — apparently very teacherly — stirring cream and sugar into my coffee at Starbucks. While my ego tells me that he did that because he failed to turn in his final project the week prior, my conscience was alerting me to something else: “Your job is to teach these people, not to make them like you. Why are you making it personal?” To clear my conscience, this actually happened twice.
Well, because teaching is hella personal. It’s about building relationships, about speaking with conviction; it’s about planning, grading, and bullshitting with conviction. Teaching is about making self-love contagious. I repeat: teaching is about making self-love contagious. As your teacher, I have to love myself so much that it has to be inspiring to the point of action for you, my student. And if you are not inspired, it is because there is something that I have failed to do.