I've been a high school English teacher for seven years, and I've been a single woman for five of those seven. Over the years, I've gotten some terrible responses from guys — (and gals, but mostly guys) — when the "what do you do for work" conversation arises. Mind you, in these scenarios, I don't think that anyone is trying to offend me. In fact, sometimes, I suspect they are making an (albeit misguided) effort to connect with me. Unfortunately, they are majorly failing.
Maybe these people are just being their dumb selves. Or maybe these responses showcase the sexism that runs through everyday conversation. Whatever the reason, being a teacher in social situations has made me agree with the sentiments of American author and humorist Fran Lebowitz: "Polite conversation is rarely either."
The scene usually starts at a Christmas party, or a friend's apartment, or a coffee shop. After a brief introduction and the obligatory exchange of job titles, I get the dreaded, "You're a high school teacher?" reply, complete with a face contortion that suggests some level of shock or discomfort. After recognizing via face contortion and tone that I have encountered an idiot, I seek an exit. When none is available, my feet remain uncomfortably glued in front of said dude, and despite my annoyed face, he often proceeds with a cringeworthy line. Here are a few I'm damn tired of hearing.
1. OH, THAT'S CUTE
My job is cute? Have you ever spent your weekends and evenings trying to read and grade 100 students' essays? Prepared nightly to teach five classes of teenagers? Worked in a cinder-block-walled classroom with no air conditioning on a hot, humid day? It's not cute. My job is a ton of work — and it's important.
2. YOUR STUDENTS MUST HAVE A HARD TIME CONCENTRATING! (Implied: Hey girl, I'm complimenting you!)
Nope, they don't, because I am grading them, so they have to like, write down notes on the topics I am covering. If they seem like they are having a hard time concentrating, it is literally my job to tell them to pay attention and take notes. So I do. And you know what ... they listen! Can you imagine that? Despite the fact that I have breasts and all!
3. CAN YOU BELIEVE ALL OF THESE FEMALE TEACHERS, LIKE, SLEEPING WITH THEIR MALE STUDENTS? Those dudes are lucky!
Well, if I wasn't completely convinced that being single is the best option for me before, that did it! THIS is what's out there?
The media makes statutory rape cases brought against female teachers into something sexy and cool, when the reality is that any teacher having sex with a student is a serious crime. And it's damaging to the male victims — not cool or lucky for them at all.
4. DO THE BOYS EVER, YOU KNOW, GIVE YOU A HARD TIME?
I mean yeah, teenage boys and girls are tough to manage at times, like any humans. But don't worry your pretty little head about me. Ask me about literature and then maybe we can have a conversation.
5. I WISH I'D HAD A TEACHER WHO LOOKED LIKE YOU!
Um, bro, we just met and we are talking about our careers, right? I was going to ask you about your job, but now I just feel awkward as hell.
6. I ONCE HAD THIS YOUNGER Female TEACHER, AND MAN, WE GAVE HER A TOUGH TIME. I DON'T THINK I LEARNED ANYTHING IN THAT CLASS.
7. It'll BE NICE TO HAVE SUMMERS OFF AND GET HOME EARLY WHEN YOU HAVE A FAMILY.
Right, because I get home sooo early. Please. And yeah, it would be super easy to do both! Let's have a kid right now!
The more I do this job, the more I realize how impossible it would be to do it and also have children. Props to all the men and women who do both.
8. SO YOU MUST BE LIKE, THE HOT TEACHER!
No, "Hot" is not a class at my school. I'm the English teacher.