A member of my church’s stake presidency stopped by on Sunday to visit with me. He asked me to be a member of the stake’s mid-single committee (i.e. adults aged 31-45).
I told him I was concerned about the time commitment. He said it wouldn’t be much – a monthly meeting and the occasional activity.
“Here’s the thing,” I said. “I’m a high school teacher, and I am the theater director and the speech coach at my school. That means that from October to the end of January, I work pretty much every weekend. I wouldn’t be able to commit to any activities on Fridays or Saturdays during that time.” I didn’t bother mentioning the long weekdays, the musical, or my habit of running away every summer for weeks on end.
He said he’d have to think about that and get back to me. I told him I understood and walked him back to my door. As I opened it, he turned back. “So that sounds like a fun hobby,” he said.
“What does?” I asked.
“That speech and theater thing,” he said. “Quite the hobby.”
I dropped some of my conversational politeness in my surprise. “It’s not a hobby,” I said flatly. “It’s my career.”
He left after that, but I find his off-hand remark so belittling, so insulting, that I’m having a hard time letting it go.
It doesn’t help that he said this at a time when I am wondering whether I can even continue as a teacher. With my own district continuing to shrink in population and in funding and with districts across the nation moving more and more towards using standardized tests to determine not only what teachers should be paid but what should be taught, I cannot say with any certainty that I can hold this job for the rest of my working life, let alone for the next ten years.
I don’t know if theater teachers will still exist in the public schools in the near future, and I don’t think I want to keep teaching if all I teach is English. Public education is changing. It’s changing dramatically, and I’m weighing the wisdom of waiting to see how long my position lasts against getting out ahead of the game. Suddenly I find myself wondering something I thought I’d already decided:
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Honestly, I want to be a teacher. I want to teach theater and Humanities and, heck, even speech and debate. I want to do what I’m doing now, ideally with a bit more money and a few less hours riding a school bus.
I want to be a teacher, but I no longer think that’ll always be an option.
But if I’m not a teacher, what am I?