Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"So how's the teaching thing going dude?"

"So how's the teaching thing going dude?" I love answering this question.

I just spent a long weekend in Washington D.C. where I stayed with a friend of mine from college whom I hadn't seen in a long time. It was great because I was able to catch up with him and explore the city. As an added bonus, this trip helped me realize that ever since I've started teaching, the tone and style of my conversations about work have drastically changed.

Teaching has made me forget how miserable I sounded when talking about investment banking. Almost. It’s ironic because all I remember from my college career fairs are the polished investment bankers who spoke so passionately about the “live deals” they were on. They made eating dinners at your desk at 3 AM sound extremely cool. The managing director who ultimately extended me an offer on Wall Street told me, “Nothing beats the inexplicable feeling of working all night on a deal that gets published in The Wall Street Journal. That’s gotta be the best feeling for a 22 year old like you.” Sign me up!

Turns out, he actually forgot to mention the inexplicable feeling of trying to take a shit for 10 seconds in the office bathroom without hearing your blackberry buzz eight or nine times.

These days, it’s completely acceptable to do something you hate if it brings you money, power, prestige, etc. For most of the “career-driven” people I know, feeling miserable is a part of the work-life balance (and they’ll usually bitch about it at some bar). There are also those who view work as a means to simply obtain income and pay the bills; I suppose they consider feeling miserable at work a norm too. And they’re quite okay with it (but they’ll also bitch about it at some bar).

That’s why things are getting really awkward lately when I start talking about what I do. This weekend, I must’ve been asked “how teaching was going” at least five or six times and each time I was more than willing to talk about how great things are. By now, I’m pretty used to these questions since most of my friends aren’t teachers. I’m actually so used to them that my answers have now become pretty standard, giving me the ability to focus more on my questioner’s facial expressions. It’s actually kind of nice, because I’m noticing some pretty interesting things.

For one, when I talk about teaching, I have my questioner’s complete attention. They are awed about the fact that I wake up so early to lesson plan (when I don’t have to) or that I come home late in the evening (when I don’t have to). When I mention I’m also attending grad school for a Masters in Education, their eyes widen. When I talk about the sheer madness at my school, their jaws drop. When I talk about some of my students’ success stories, they smile and seem impressed. Oddly, I don’t recall getting any of these reactions when I used to talk about how I pulled two all-nighters in the office back-to-back. There was one facial expression I do remember getting often however: disgust.

Honestly, I love talking about what I do now (hence this blog). I love talking about my students. I love talking about my voluntarily crazy work ethic. This trip has reminded me how lucky I am.

On a side note, I have to say that some people are doing investment banking (and other corporate-related jobs) because they really are following their dreams (rather than falling in line like sheep). And if they’re happy doing it, then I’m happy for them as well.


Anonymous said...

hey bro, glad to see your having a much better time teaching than being booked 24/7 on wall street. A very fine decision you've made sir

Mr. T said...

It's funny, I was just thinking that no matter how much we bitch, no matter how unreasonable some of the things that are asked of us can be, never-the-less we wake up every morning with a clear purpose and desire to go to work. What a juxtaposition of emotion!
It sounds like you may stick with it! I was hoping to not be the only one :)

Anonymous said...

Again, I'm a teacher in very similar circumstances to what you describe and it is indeed amazing how we wake up with purpose and a mission to teach despite all that we face; it's like some cruel form of self torture, but we love it because we keep doing it. Sick? Maybe. Passion? Definitely.