What if? #SOL23 14/31

The first time I remember saying that I wanted to be a teacher was when we were living in California and had friends over for dinner. We were in the dining room because there were too many of us for the kitchen table, and I think a few of us kids were seated in a row on one side. One after another, we responded to some adult who had asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The boy from next door said he was going to be a pilot, like his dad. My youngest sister, who must have been four, declared her intent to be a garbageman. I said I was going to be a teacher. Both of us were met with scoffing laughter, in my case because, “you’re too smart to be a teacher.” 

For years, I assumed that everyone wanted to be a teacher, kind of like lots of little kids want to be construction workers or, like my sister, garbagemen, and then they got over it at some point. I just couldn’t seem to get over it. I nurtured my secret desire while telling well-meaning adults that I planned to be a lawyer or, later, a diplomat. Meanwhile, teaching leaked through my every crack: I taught swim lessons and coached swim teams; I volunteered as a tutor; I nannied. Even though I attended a college that had no education major, I took a course that involved an internship, and convinced the prof to let me work in a third grade classroom; then I took a language acquisition course, then a children’s literature course. None of these were in my major. 

When I finally accepted an overseas teaching position, I packed a stack of graduate school applications, already printed. I started filling them in after my first day in the classroom; I’d sent them all by the end of my second week.

Teaching is who I am; I am as likely to tell a stranger that I am a teacher as that I am a mother. In fact, I can’t imagine someone knowing me and not knowing that I teach, but lately I’ve been wondering… what if I weren’t a teacher? What might I be?

The serious options:

  • A lawyer – I deeply admire my friends who work for justice and equity through the law.
  • An editor – I have been blessed (?) with a brain that sees spelling and grammatical errors quickly and easily, and I’m pretty good at straightening out complicated sentences.
  • A librarian – I had no idea about all the cool things librarians could do. My librarian friends curate art, help with tech, do research for Parliamentarians, and much, much, more. 
  • A nonprofit worker of some sort – which is what I did between college and teaching. I worked for the Red Cross and for a small nonprofit that worked with some UN agencies. It was kind of cool.
  • A psychologist – which, in some ways, isn’t that different from being a teacher.

The wilder options:

  • An actress – obviously (she pirouettes and takes a bow)
  • A former swim champion turned coach – ideally a champion with some medals or something
  • An organizer (one of those people you call to come help you get your house sorted out) – because I am *much* better at organizing other people than myself.
  • A midwife or a doula – in fact, ever since having my first child with a doula alongside me, I’ve imagined doing this, maybe after I retire. What a thrill to help someone bring life into the world!
  • And, in the realm of the completely impossible, a dancer or acrobat – I have precisely zero ability to do this, but every time I attend the ballet or watch Cirque de Soleil, I dream of being able to move my body like that. So impressive.

I’m sure there’s more I’ll remember after I publish this; it’s kind of fun to think about who else I could be. What about you? If you weren’t you, what would you do?

15 thoughts on “What if? #SOL23 14/31

  1. Amanda,
    Like you, a teacher is who I am, and I’m proud to identify as a teacher. Retirement made me question whether or not I still am one, but former colleagues and friends have assured me I am. My dad wanted me to be a doctor, which is a problem since I don’t like being around sick folk. I’d be a lawyer as a second choice. I’m articulate and logical, and that would lead me to politics. I always wanted to run for office but am not tactful, so… These days I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to be a tour guide. It’s not as easy as being a tourist, I imagine!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this idea, but, honestly, I am scared shitless to think of anything else I would be!
    What I love about your writing is your honesty, and this feeling of “being too smart” to be a teacher (I have heard that before — not for me, but others). Like the profession is almost a…easy one to just “do”.
    Clearly you have a huge passion for it!


  3. Like you, I have always wanted to be a teacher, but was also told that I was “too smart,” by well-meaning adults. One summer, when kitschy items with “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” seemed to appear everywhere, I asked myself that question while taking a walk. My immediate answer, with no intervention of though, was, “A Puppeteer!” This came as a great surprise to me, as I have no experience or (presumably) talent with puppeteering. But there you have it…my secret career choice, were I not me.


  4. I loved reading your story of how you became a teacher. I should write mine. All those things you could have done are somehow ingrained into the teaching life, you problem solve like a lawyer, talk to kids about books like a librarian, a nonprofit worker because teacher’s salary, and psychologist which pretty much sums up the role of a teacher, the best kind of teacher anyway. I want to be a writer when I retire, so I’m working on it. But what fun to be a doula. When I had my children, Lamaze was a big deal so I started seriously considering training for it, but instead got pregnant again.


  5. Teaching is a gift that not everyone has. I sat in on enough sessions by non-teachers to know this. As to what I would be if I weren’t a teacher – I really don’t know.


  6. I read something recently, aimed at new teachers, that said something to effect that they should not let “teacher” become their whole identity. I wondered how this was possible! I am equally mom-wife-teacher. I wouldn’t want to give up any of that. Like you, I have always wanted to teach. Now I am starting to think about retirement projects (even though it’s a while away!) I think I want to travel-teach. We’ll get an AirBNB in all the US cities we want to visit and I’ll substitute teach while living there for a month or two. I may get ambitious and try to do this in Canada, but the requirements to get certified in each province already feels like a pain in the ass. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I never expected to be a teacher…an actress, yes! And a director. An author, most of all…but teaching pursued me and brought countless special and beloved people into my life. I couldn’t possibly be a dancer or acrobat either but oh, are they ever-inspiring to watch. When people tell me I’m graceful I try not to fall in the floor howling with laughter… it is an illusion, I tell them. The what-ifs are fun to ponder!


  8. Strike me that most of the what-if alternatives on your list are jobs that teachers do, too. Midwife, not so much, unless we’re talking metaphorically.


  9. Librarian has been at the top of my list since I was a kid. It’s still there . Can I realistically see myself getting an M. LibSci at this point? So totally not. But it’s a lovely dream.


  10. This is a fantastic post. I love the alternative lists you created. I have know that I would become a teacher since third grade. Recently I have played with the question you asked. For example, I could be the person who checks the tickets before a performance in a ballet theatre. Or even better, I could be a panda hugger (it’s a real thing).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Terje! And I’m sorry I haven’t been by your blog much this month! I would love to be a panda hugger, but I’m not sure about a ticket-checker. Still, I like the idea of interacting with others in some way.


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