“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” By Heather Bekkers

Never before in my life have I ever felt as inferior as the day I was told I had picked a good job for myself. Now, I thought that this comment had come out of a pure perception of my personality, as it came from my aunt. No. This was something quite different.

“You know you really picked a good job for yourself. I mean teaching is kinda a woman’s profession. You are so patient and kind. Plus, just think of how nice it will be to have the summers off with your kids. This really seems perfect for you.”

As a single twenty-five-year-old, with no intention of having children anytime soon, it was hard to plan my life around the idea of my imaginary children. No. The phrase that I had been caught by, like a fish on a hook, was “kinda a woman’s profession.”

What about educating the minds of the youth of our nation, the ones that could one day make the laws that affect us all, made it a woman’s profession? To me, I was a superhero. Waking up early and staying up late. Praying for those who struggle to finally get the subject you have been tirelessly working on for two weeks after school. Irate by the lack of effort portrayed by the valedictorian. I was teaching them skills that would guide their lives. I could analyze the shit out of literature and teach students to need the written word like the body needs air. Reading between the lines of cannon classics was a pastime. Foam swords and masquerades used to teach the true passion of Shakespeare. Poetry leapt off the page and brought us conversations where we analyzed just what it meant to be human. What about these skills screamed woman?

In a world where both educators and women are undervalued, it is clear how the two could become synonymous. But then, why hadn’t immigrants and women become the same? Why had my gender suddenly defined my role for the rest of my life?

Feminist. What a dirty word on the lips of our mothers. In a job where you are told:

“Don’t talk too loud.”

“Don’t push back.”

“Do you always have something to say?”

“She is one of those girls.”

“How can you teach my child? You can’t be more than twenty.”

Hun, what are you doing?”

“Remember you don’t know everything.”

It is hard to become anything more than “woman.” A quiet being with no opinions but the ones fed to her by the men around her, the sacred mouthpiece of “family values.” Why is teaching something that only women are connected with? Shouldn’t the outcome of our nation be the main focus of everyone, regardless of their gender?

In a world where the only people who seem to be the principal are men, I guess just being the teacher makes sense. When, in the crisp dark mornings of Wisconsin winters, I nursed a cup of day-old coffee while I prepared the lesson that had students talking for weeks, I was just a teacher. When I convinced a scared freshman that her poor test grade would not be the thing that kept her from her dreams of Princeton, I was just a teacher. Talking my star of the basketball team through a panic attack after a conversation hit too close to home, I was just a teacher. Convincing my quiet, brilliant AP senior that my world would be far less bright without her gentle, loving smile, I was just a teacher. Loving your students does not connect directly to the gender that you are. It connects to who we are as humans. I will continue to just be a teacher, but nothing about that has anything to do with my gender. It is my heart. When asked if it is really worth all the stress and worry, I will always respond yes. No love can replace that of a student. And there is no joy like watching them become the best people they can be.

“You know you really picked a good job for yourself. I mean teaching is kinda a woman’s profession. You are so patient and kind. Plus, just think of how nice it will be to have the summers off with your kids. This really seems perfect for you.”

Yes, I am a woman and yes, I picked the perfect job for myself. However, neither of those two things have anything to do with one another. Accepting this world as it is, without trying to do my best to improve it, is impossible. Teaching is the vehicle to get me there.

Heather Bekkers is a high school English teacher. This is her first publish work. She is a proud teacher of two and a proud feminist. Her goal is to inspire young women to fight for their own freedoms and think for themselves. She is very excited about this work and hopes that it inspires others.

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