The Million Dollar Question

If every job in the world paid the same, would you still do what you do? Unfortunately, I think that my answer would be a firm “No.” Granted, I certainly don’t teach for the money.

I have become increasingly disillusioned by my chosen profession as a high school Spanish teacher. While I certainly enjoy making a difference to a handful of kids, having the summers off, and teaching the language itself, I have realized that it is truly a thankless job. I am constantly hearing things like “I hate Spanish.”; “My mom made me take it.”; or ignorant comments about how something is “So gay!”. The sad thing is that when I bring this to the student’s attention they have absolutely no idea that they’ve done anything wrong. I’ve been right across the hallway from a stabbing and have taught in a school where a shooting took place. I’ve had a student say “F*** you!” to me in class and have been disrespected a thousand times.

However, the kids aren’t necessarily the worst ones. Parents can be something else and don’t even get me started on the other teachers. The politics and dirty games played within a school are insane. You think the movie, Mean Girls was bad? Step into the teacher’s lounge. I have recently found myself at the center of one of these horrendous rumor mills and I really think it is the last straw for me. I refuse to allow people to continue disrespecting me. I work too hard and bring too much of my work home with me to allow that to happen. I think the worst part is that I am not getting what I thought I would out of teaching. I’ve taught in the city and in the suburbs, so it isn’t necessarily an issue of challenges or being needed by the kids. It just isn’t enough for me anymore, and I’m not sure it ever was. I feel as if at this point, the bad far outweighs the good, at least for me.

I truly admire those who devote themselves wholeheartedly to the profession, and more importantly, to the kids. I admire them for their tenacity, dedication, and ability to navigate the rough waters without falling prey to the shark attacks. It is a very noble profession, but it is not one that I will continue in for much longer. Obviously, I will finish out the school year, but I don’t know what I will do after May. I really have no idea what lies ahead for me, but I’d like to do something creative and different. I’m not exactly sure what on earth I will be able to do with a degree in Spanish and Italian Studies, but I have faith that greener pastures await me in the future.

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  1. Have you ever thought about teaching at a private elementary school? I wonder whether teaching at the high school level is part of the issue, whether it is in public or private.

    My experience (with my children) is at a private elementary, and it seems like a very different world than what you describe. However, I assume that the other parents are like me…truly grateful for the dedication and influence of the teachers. I am sure that there are many parents with the ‘entitled’ attitude that so often comes with the private school scene.

  2. Oh, I am sorry you are feeling this way. That seems to be precisely why I did not choose teaching. That and the fact that I am too driven creatively, as well. I have seen my parents go through it all with their careers. It just never seemed like something I would be satisfied with, and the summers off would never be enough for me. It is unfortunate because schools need good teachers like you.

  3. I’m so sorry you are dealing with so much right now. I hope things ease up, and the rest of the year goes smoothly. Hopefully you’ll find something else that will be a better fit. Thinking of you!!

  4. Paloma,
    I’m so sad to hear that you are not enjoying teaching any longer. I feel your pain, although I teach undergraduates. I really love all of them, but I do cry blood tears sometimes when I grade their work. I hope that things get better for you. You could always come back to good old UH and get a masters degree.


  5. Dear Paloma,
    It was teachers like you that made my high school experience manageable/bearable. Your dedication and honesty is so appreciated. In public high school on the central Californina coast in the 80’s: I lived for Spanish class – an escape from the traditional 3 r’s and an opportunity to daydream about one day living in Barcelona, or Mexico City and further understand that Monterey CA was not the center of the universe.

    Today I am married to an Italian national, spend summers in Italy. My Spanish helped me learn Italian. I love visiting Barcelona. I live in San Francisco and my daughter goes to private school where WE COULD USE SOMEONE LIKE YOU!!!!!!
    Joelle : )

  6. This post totally bummed me out…..teachers can have such an impact on a child, when I think about why I believe in the things I do today, a lot of it I can attribute to grade school teachers I had. You are a such a fabulous young woman – you’ll be effective no matter where you apply yourself.