My mother was a teacher, my step-mother was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher.. my sister has wanted to be a teacher since she was 4 years old.
I didn’t want to be a teacher as a kid and as I watched my sister battle through her teacher-training it became easier to articulate why the family trend was never going to work for me. – Despite the assumption that a classics degree destines one to teaching and that if your PhD is not a pathway to academia then you must also want to teach, I still don’t want to go down that route.
It wasn’t just that I never had the vocation (though I don’t) and it wasn’t just that it struck me as too much work for too little reward (it is) but there has always been something about teaching as a career that seemed very alien to me. There seems so little about ‘teaching’ that has anything to do with knowledge and the power of information, the skills of interpretation and exploration and the strength of education for changing the world, not because teachers are unskilled or uninterested but simply because of the system and I think that would sap all of my strength and passion for my subject(s).
I have expecially watched my sister’s disappointment that being a maths teacher didn’t fuel her love for mathematics.
In recent years having watched the ever increasing administrative hurdles friends and family have faced in their efforts to impart knowledge and the baffling attitudes of so many young people to that knowledge I have become more confident that I don’t have the patience. I had once thought that I would be ok with teaching adults who wanted to know more about my subject but now I know that I am not passionate enough to deal with all of the hurdles that one faces just to do that.
But even more than that the idea of being a teacher fills me with fear. Ever since I was a child I have been afraid of failing. And there is something about the vulnerability of children that makes it feel like my failure would be especially awful. But its not just that my failure might hurt a child or more likely disadvantage them for the rest of their lives its that it especially makes me a “bad” person. It is easier to refuse to interact with children than to let them down & it is easier to never try to impart knowledge than to acknowledge that you are bad at it, that you don’t know if you can do any good.
As a woman there is a lot of social pressure to ‘like’ children, to instantly attempt emotional attachment to them and to be good at it – and if you don’t manage that you are expected to disavow all contact/interest in kids and get a career instead. When certain careers in the family they are either all-consuming or out of the question – in my experience teaching can be one of those, if you grow up with it you either get involved or run away as soon as you can – you learn the lingo and the tricks and whether or not you can fake it. [This is not unique to teaching – it happens with the forces as well]. Like with being uncomfortable around other people’s children generally, once I had expressed doubts about teaching I realised that the expectation for a vocational career (and I think especially for women) is that you will be all-or-nothing. I wasn’t good enough, confident enough, for all so I knew it was nothing..
Its not a decision I regret; but its hard to admit that I made it not because I don’t like children, or because the admin is soul-crushing but because I was afraid that I wasn’t passionate enough and afraid of failing.