Help! My Parents Keep Asking Why I’m “Just” a Teacher

It’s about what makes YOU happy.

Illustration of two people arguing

I have an engineering degree, and my parents constantly question my decision to be a teacher.

I graduated from a prestigious university with a degree in mechanical engineering. But my heart was never in it. After college, I decided to become a teacher. I’ve been teaching seventh grade math for five years now, and I love it. The problem is, my parents can’t seem to stop nagging me about my career choice. I know I could be making more in STEM, but this is what makes me happy. How do I convince them? —Not in It for the Money

Dear N.I.I.F.T.M.,

You don’t have to. Convince them, that is. Your success isn’t contingent on your parents’ approval. However, for the sake of the relationship (and so you don’t have to dread talking to them), you may want to say something.

Try asking them specifically what they object to. You can say, “I know you’d love for me to work as an engineer, but my work is about more having a title or lots of money. Teaching fulfills me and makes me happy in a way that engineering doesn’t. I’d love to have your support, but I’m going to keep teaching regardless.”

I expect your parents’ comments come from a place of care and concern. They may just need a little reassurance.

My principal walked in on our team collaboration time and said, “Don’t let me interrupt your girl talk.”

I’m new to my building this year, and the principal just rubs me the wrong way. He’s been in the district for a long time and is one of those “good old boys.” Most recently, I was in a team meeting with all the fourth grade teachers, collaborating on reading interventions, when he walked in and said, “Don’t let me interrupt your girl talk!” I know he meant it to be funny, but I was really offended, and so were the other teachers. I just want to be treated like a professional. But how do I say that without getting on my principal’s bad side? —Sick of Sexism

Dear S.O.S.,

Gross. That kind of comment has no place in a professional environment. Sounds like a classic case of casual sexism in the workplace. And research shows that that kind of everyday sexism is as detrimental to women’s occupational well-being as more overt sexism, such as sexual harassment. I’m not saying it will be easy, but you’re going to want to speak up.

The first thing you should do is call him out but do so privately so as not to put him on the defensive. Be clear and calm. Try saying, “When you referred to our collaboration session as ‘girl talk,’ it made me really uncomfortable. I know you were joking around, but I don’t think you would have made a similar comment if there were male teachers present.”

With this kind of approach, you may be able to get him to assess his insensitive behavior. He may even appreciate the feedback. Hopefully, it will be enough for him to make a change.  If not, you’ve taken the first step to documenting a pattern and can take it to the district level.

I got a new job closer to home, but I just started my current job.

I just finished my student teaching last fall. I’d been applying, and in February, I took over for a chemistry teacher in another town after she quit. It’s a pretty good gig, but the commute sucks. I hate sitting in traffic. Well, last night, I was offered a science position at the local high school. It’s only a five-minute drive from where I live. I don’t want to burn any bridges, but this job looks pretty sweet. Can I renege on the first one? —Reluctant Commuter

Dear R.C.,

I get the urge to make the switch, but I don’t think it’s a good idea, especially given the timing.

It’s really late in the school year to be making any changes, and you’ve only been there a short time. Neighboring districts do talk to each other, and it’s not a good look for you as a new teacher to bail on a job when something better comes along a few months later. You also need to consider the potential legal ramifications of breaking a contract.

I would thank the new school for the offer but decline. Let them know you’re planning to finish out the school year at your current job (they’ll be glad to know you’re not the kind of teacher who would leave a school and students in the lurch) but would be highly interested if something comes up for next school year.

I walked in on one of my students showing another kid her nipple piercing, and she begged me not to tell her mom.

I teach middle school PE. After class, I was going through the locker room on the way to my office when I saw one of my students showing another girl her nipple piercing. As soon as she saw me, she pulled her shirt down, but it was too late. I saw everything. She asked me not to tell her mother, but I didn’t make any promises. This kid is 13. What do you think? Do I tell mom? —Tattling or Telling

Dear T.O.T.,

Honestly, my first thought here was, “Oh no, that’s going to get infected.” Because no reputable place is going to pierce a 13-year-old’s nipples. Many states have regulations around body piercing and require parental presence or permission. So she probably got it done somewhere shady.

Even so, I don’t think it’s your place to report to her parents. You can certainly encourage her to come clean, but it’s her body, and this is a private matter. The fact that you happened to see it doesn’t change that.

Provide her with some literature on how to keep a piercing clean and move on.

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As a guy teacher, I hate having to enforce the dress code on my female students.

I teach health at the high school level. I’m in one of those schools where the dress code disproportionately affects girls. We have rules that cleavage can’t show, skirts and shorts have to be a certain length, and straps must be an inch wide. It’s pretty obvious that this targets our female students, and they are overwhelmingly the ones getting dress coded day in and day out. As a dude, I’m super uncomfortable telling these young ladies that what they’re wearing is inappropriate. Plus, it kind of pisses me off that they’re missing class to go home and change. In my opinion, the dress code is really outdated. I’d like to just ignore these ‘violations.’ What do you think?




Help! My Principal Refers to Our Collaboration Time as "Girl Talk"