Tell the truth: Smart people don’t become teachers

June 7, 2014 

Come on, you can do it. Confession is good for the soul.

We all SAY we admire teachers, and maybe we do applaud their efforts to work from dawn to dusk molding our children into compassionate, knowledgeable, THINKING individuals, but, Mamas, let's face it; none of us wants our babies to grow up to be teachers.

For heaven’s sake, we know deep down inside that no one in his or her right mind — no one with any real intelligence and class (ha, ha) — would go into education.

If you're bright and full of talent, you would never stoop to choose such a socially under-appreciated job. Smart people just KNOW that a career with long hours and low pay is just for the mediocre. And everybody knows that when you say you want to teach over going to law school, you’re really covering up those low SAT and LSAT scores that couldn't get you anything but cut out of Uncle Poindexter's will, am I right?

Anybody who is anybody — at least, anybody you’d actually want to invite to a party and introduce to your friends — does not earn a college degree for the purpose of going back to a classroom full of hormonal adolescents who act out and talk back. Or find themselves every day in the Twilight Zone of wee folk who still pick their noses and throw up on your shoes. No siree.

A man worthy of our admiration, who represents all that is possible in this country, is defined by a job with prestigious perks: power lunches, vacations in Maui, and a personal masseuse. A woman truly worth the emulation of our daughters knows that a real job must allow for the purchase of Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses and a cute little condo on Bald Head Island.

Only those who are "not all there" would be stupid enough to accept employment with a salary dependent on the whims of our wise and benevolent legislators.

If you wanted more money, honey, then, a-hem, you should have thought of that, shouldn’t you have, when you refused to inherit the family business and decided, instead, that your purpose in life was to teach and encourage the minds of the young.

What is wrong with you? If only your addiction had not started so early, you might have been saved. But, the signs were always there, weren’t they?

What were you thinking, telling Mrs. Jackson, your sixth-grade teacher, that you would teach the new German girl English. You didn’t know a word of German. And, yet, your 11-year-old self sat in that stuffy old radiator-heated room, day after day, helping her with homework, doing charades and pointing until you both burst into hysterics.

Katja started to speak English to you, and YOU, you thought you were the bee’s knees, didn’t you? And you danced all the way home when she said, “thank you.”

You were possessed and someone should have intervened.

Oh, please.

So, here you are, all these years later, in some world of delusion. You say you cannot understand why society doesn’t value you enough. You don’t know why you don’t get paid more.

Uh, hello. You knew when you went into this so-called profession you would forever forfeit any social or political respect and power. You knew that the pay was low. And even so, you took out a loan and went for your master’s degree. Today, while working a second job to make ends meet, you exhaust yourself, caring about your students’ academic success. You continue to work long hours, grade thousands of papers, and plan a gazillion lessons. You cannot stop yourself from reading new articles and books every spare minute so you can model for your students your joy of in-depth learning. And, yet, what good is all that know-how doing ya?

Hey, I’m talking to you. Don’t start getting all teary-eyed about how Scottie, who hasn’t written more than two sentences in his life, wrote his grandmother’s eulogy—a whole page and a half—while you sat with him for an hour after school. Forget the light in Lucy’s eyes when she came by at lunch and, over a PB&J, you helped her uncover the metaphorical significance of the cave dream in McCarthy’s “The Road.”

Can’t you see that there is a screw loose somewhere when the pay check YOU chose — and continue to choose — allows for off-season rates at “Two Flags over Fuquay” instead of jaunts to Vegas, a river boat cruise on the Riviera, and a weekend spa-package at the Grove Park Inn?

Look, sugar, you made your bed. Your only hope now is to wake up and get out of that job. And do get one that will pay for some decent clothes, will you? We all know that no self-respecting lobbyist is going to work to reward a masochist.

Mary Gulledge teaches English at Broughton High School. Contact her via email at

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