Most people would say you should avoid digging into stereotypes, but those people are usually afraid to kick up some controversy and are always worried about offending someone. That sounds like a pretty good way to get a reader’s attention for this post, right?
Lately I’ve been thinking about teacher stereotypes. Now, the problem with stereotypes is that they are lazy generalizations made by those who want to assume something about somebody. The other problem is in that in many cases, those lazy generalizations can be true.
For example, teachers are nerdy people who lack social lives. Yes, this is true, and so what? Can there be an exception? Sure. Is there usually an exception? Most likely not.
The reason I’m thinking about this is that I’m wondering where I fit in with the teacher stereotype. I like working with kids, but I can’t say I absolutely love it. I like my job, but if I could quit and have a work at home job that I could do in my sweatpants, I’d drop education like a hot rock. Do I love blathering on about learning objectives and formulative assessments? No, but I doubt that any teacher-type person does. Is it really important to me that students learn? Heck yes. Do I spend time stressing about the best way to teach something or how to help a particular student? Does a bear pee in the woods?
But what is the typical teacher personality type? Is the history or social studies teacher always a coach? Does the English teacher go into spasms over symbolism in novels? I sure hope not.
A student said to me a while ago, “You don’t fit the teacher stereotype, Ms. Marlowe.” I was sort of flattered (see the above note about nerdy people with no social lives and symbolism-related spasms), so I asked why.
The answer floored me. “Because you wear makeup.”
This female student then informed me that most female teachers (I don’t know what you male teachers do about eyeliner and contouring) do not wear makeup, have either practical chin-length bobs or un-styled, un-highlighted hair, tend to be overweight and are almost always single.
Before I could blurt out, “I only need to lose about five pounds!”, she then started naming teachers I worked with who looked like that. And you know what? She was right. The majority of the female teachers (and by majority I mean about 70 percent) at my school fit that criteria.
I knew I shouldn’t ask, but I did anyway. “Who would you point out as a typical teacher-type?”
She didn’t even hesitate. “Ms. Smythe.”
Ms. Smythe is in her late twenties, single, chubby, wears glasses, has long reddish hair she always wears in a ponytail, is always makeup free and LOOOOOVVVESSS English novels. She’s actually a member of a Jane Austen society that re-enacts Regency balls and teas. If you ask her, she’ll gush on and on about dressing up Regency style.
So my question is, does teaching attract a certain type of person? Do certain subjects appeal more to certain people? Are we more similar to the people who attend Comic-Con than we want to admit? Is that why so many of them and us are still single? (I'm married, so don't include me in this nightmare.)
By the way, I love Jane Austen, but I’d never be caught dead at an Austen re-enactment society event. There’s a reason why people in the 1800s had such short lifespans.