Today’s post is going to ruffle some feathers, but that’s the way it goes. When you’re young, older people offer an abundance of well meaning career advice that is often outdated. I am 44 years old, so you can imagine the career advice that I was given in the early 1990s… go to college, get a job, save for retirement. Sounds pretty familiar, right? There are still a large number of families and guidance counselors giving this advice to teens today. I know this because I have a teen, and I see what messages he’s getting from his high school. The cherry on top of that career advice was, “become a teacher. You’ll get summers off and have the same schedule as your kids.” Sounds pretty logical, right? This advice was obviously given by someone who was not a teacher in public education. Today, I am going to share the reality of being a teacher and the career advice that I wish I had been given and that I am giving to my children today.
When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a radio DJ. I would play my mom’s old Beach Boys 45s on my Mickey Mouse record player while recording the music and my monolog with a cassette tape deck. My mom would play the tapes in the car, and I was thrilled!
I loved being creative!
Then came the talks of college and career…
School was a breeze for me all the way through, so of course my guidance counselors guided me toward college. My family definitely supported this because they saw it as a promise for a life of my dreams. I would be the first person from my family to go to college. I left home with a hefty scholarship and a declared major of aerospace engineering. I had stars in my eyes!
I soon realized that the career of most engineers is spent in a cubicle working on projects that others assign to them. Being a bit of an opinionated rebel, this did not appeal to me at all, but I was in love with physics. I was that annoying kid (now adult) who questioned EVERYTHING. Physics appealed to me because it allowed me to look at everything in the most basic way and answer the “why” questions that I had been asking all of my life. After graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in Physics and post graduate research in Chemical Engineering, I decided that the way to make a difference and make my mark on the world was in education. I began a career teaching Advanced Placement Physics, Calculus, and Astronomy. I loved the subject matter and the amazing students that I was privileged to work with, but the pay was dismal and the 8-3 schedule was a fairy tale. I worked 80 hour weeks for pay that equalled less than $3/hour. I was barely making enough money to pay a few bills and pay for daycare for my own child while I worked at less than babysitter pay to teach and care for others’ children.