People will ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what they really mean is what job are you going to get so you can be independent? I always answered artist because I loved drawing and was good at it. My sweet Daddy finally told me in high school that there is a reason the idiom “starving artist” exists. He was gentle as he told me how much they made unless they were ridiculously successful.
The next time someone asked I said scientist. I loved science and I thought that would be a better choice. However, my family was poor and the parents busy working in shitty jobs just to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. They hardly had time to take me to colleges or to workplaces to show me what was out there. So being a scientist became just a pipe dream. I certainly had the aptitude for it. My biology teacher even said I could be a geneticist.
In high school everyone started to plan their futures. Some kids already knew what colleges they were going to and what area of expertise they would study. Others knew they would graduate from college and work at McDonald’s just to pay for rent and car payments. I was in a quagmire. I was smart enough to go to college but had no money and no idea what to do and no true guidance.
One day the guidance counselor approached me and told me to fill out a scholarship form for teaching. I had never thought about teaching so I put it aside and forgot about it. She pursued me a few days later and explained that it was a full ride at a State University and If I taught for 4 years then I would not have to pay it back. Now I know that NC Teaching Fellows was not truly a scholarship. Instead, it was a loan forgiveness program.
Not knowing any better I signed up and of course I got it. Not to brag but I was first in class for years and graduated #7 and I had a 4.0 average. I chose to become an English teacher because that was my strongest academic area. I turned out to be a pretty damn good teacher but the pay was incredibly low. My first salary was $24,000.00 a year in 1992. Is that not ridiculous? I had a 4 year university degree and I was paid less than managers at retail stores. This is what happens when someone does not choose her career wisely.
I taught my 4 years to pay back the loan and stuck it out another 3 years because a teacher told me being tenured meant higher retirement benefits. After 7 years of getting up at 6 am to get to school by 7 so I could tutor kids who were too busy in the afternoons, running clubs, being an athletic trainer, tutoring after school, grading papers until midnight and then doing it all over again. I was never paid a bonus and I was never paid extra for any of the extracurricular jobs like coaching or being a club sponsor. Yet, we were expected to stay after school for all sorts of functions AND to try to attend students’ activities to boost their confidence. Yeah all that for a few dollars an hour, a 30 minute lunch break and no recognition whatsoever. I became AIG/AP certified, attended the athletic training program, sat in on countless content committees and never ever was given even a piece of paper to say good job. It was just EXPECTED.
In the end I DID get a 4 year degree. It did afford me jobs that paid $10 an hour or more instead of minimum wage but other than that I saw no benefit of having been a teacher. I made more money as someone who helped out at a doctor’s office making sure patients got where they needed to go. They called me a concierge. I only had to work 9am – 3pm, there was food catered to us for free almost every day, free coffee, bathroom breaks whenever I needed it, AN HOUR for lunch and time off when needed without a guilt trip. They gave all of us a ham for Christmas and there was a holiday party at a country club. Pharmacy reps courted me with chocolates and coupons to restaurants just for a chance to talk to me.
You MUST educate your children on the career choices they might make. Take them to different companies, research online with them, let them talk to your friends who are successful. If you are poor then reach out to the schools and to the community for help. Help your kiddo earn a decent living. It is never too early. My 11 year old has been saying she is going into engineering since forever. My 15 year old is still floundering but she could easily be a digital artist or a medical researcher. She is attending a magnet school and if she chooses, she could have an associates degree FOR FREE right out of high school!
I have never had another career after leaving teaching. I have had some rewarding jobs. I loved being a librarian’s assistant and I would do that again in a heartbeat if I could. I loved staying home with the kids for 10 years – it was very rewarding. The job as a medical concierge was nice. I enjoyed substitute teaching (which again paid me more than my salary did). Now, I want to write and be published. After blogging for a few months I feel the creative juices flowing so I will try my hand at it. My goal is to publish a book by the end of 2021. Wish me luck?