Friday, September 19, 2008

Brain Vomit: Age is more than just a number

*Disclaimer: This is quite the disjointed post. I think I got it all out. I think I said all I wanted to say. I think I conveyed in a way that I wanted to. But I also think this is all brain vomit. Enjoy!*

I'm young. I know that. Compared to my co-workers. Compared to some of my friends. Compared to some moms out there. Compared to a lot of people I'm young.

So what?

So, I feel like I get judged based on my age. I feel like people look at me in a different way because of my age. I feel that people don't take me as seriously because of my age.

When I started my current job the women who work in the office thought I was a new student. This was also the case at my last high school teaching job. Personally, I don't think I look THAT young but who knows?!

Last night was back to school night. Normally, I loathe back to school night but last night was not so bad. I'm having a lot more fun this year. I'm enjoying myself and my job and I think that makes a HUGE difference! At any rate, last night the parents have the opportunity to come in and go through their child's schedule and meet their teachers. Each class is brief. We give a short presentation, answer a few questions and move on. Nothing too exciting.

The look I get from parents bothers me.

They look at me as if to say "she's way too young to teach my child."

They look at me as if to say "she could not have the experience required to really handle a classroom full of kids."

They look at me as if to say "what could she possibly know about theology?"

Or maybe it's all in my head.

Maybe it's my insecurities.

Maybe I'm imagining it.

Maybe not.

I had a parent roll their eyes at me last night. Literally. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as I described a year long project we're working on. As I talked about ways that her child could gain extra credit. She almost stopped me in my tracks.


I don't know if she was shaking her head because she thought my ideas were ridiculous.

I don't know if she was shaking her head because she knew that her daughter would never attempt the extra credit project I was suggesting.

I don't know. But I do know that I wanted to walk over to where she was sitting and punch her. I wanted to scream at her, "What the hell lady?!?!" I wanted to ask her what she found so ridiculous that she had the balls enough to sit there and roll her eyes and shake her head at me.

But I didn't.

I packed up my room. Chatted with some friends. Headed home. I drove and thought about how people perceive me. I thought about what those parents must have been thinking as they sat in my desks and hung on almost my every word. I thought about the fact that at 28 years old I've been teaching high school for more than 5 years and teaching in general for closer to 7. I thought about my age.

Weird, right?

I don't know if my parents- meaning my students' parents- judged me based on my age. Part of me thinks they do. They don't bother me nearly as much as the other moms out there that I think judge me based on my age.

I've encountered moms that won't take my advice or thoughts on a particular subject because clearly, I'm too young and couldn't possibly know anything about childrearing. It doesn't matter that I've managed to keep two children alive for close to 4.5 years (including pregnancies). It doesn't matter that my kids have run the gamut with problems, illnesses and experiences that have given me new wisdom on things. It doesn't matter that before I had kids I was a nanny, a baby sitter, a pre school teacher.

What seems to matter to them is that I appear to be far too young to know anything. Or at least that's my perception.

Why do I think this? What makes me feel this way? Why do I care?

I think this because I've watched as moms have asked advice on something and listened to what I've had to say and then ignored it. Until another mom, older than I, gave them the same advice.

Maybe that's a trust thing. Maybe it's a comfort thing.

I'm not sure why I care. I guess it's because I feel that I've got a lot in me in terms of experience and knowledge and know how. I've got a lot to share. I'm a lot more than a number.

But maybe it's all me. Maybe I'm perceiving wrong. Maybe I'm paranoid. I really don't know.


Sandi said...

As an older mom and I can tell you that I think a lot of older mom's make some serious mistakes and spoil their kids. Maybe it's because they are older and have the means and money to spoil them; maybe it's because they weren't sure if they were going to ever have the opportunity to have children and are so grateful when they do.

Anyway, I don't usually listen to older moms who I think also have much more of a tendency to turn parenting into a competition and overschedule their kids.

That's just me, though.

A Buns Life said...

This is a tough one. I had a hard time with Jake's Kindergarten teacher last wasn't her age per-say it was a multitude of things all rolled into one, but her age was a factor, and I think it DID play a roll in how she treated US as parents and our children. At first I was excited that she was young! She was energetic and not burned out. It was her second year...but she didn't have children of her own. She pretty much told every parent that their child was immature. Yeah, the are in kindergarten. She didn't seem to understand that she had an older class her first year (primarily 6's) and our year they were young 5's, so they seemed REALLY young and immature and she couldn't adapt I guess. (our cut-off date is weird). One child used to cry just a bit for her mom and instead of redirecting her or giving her a quick hug, she would either just ignore her or talk about her to the other students. I think when she gets a bit older, and has children of her own she will be a better teacher and be more empathetic with the children.

In your case....when you introduce yourself do you say how long you have been teaching and that you are a parent to two children? I really appreciate knowing our teacher's background. Maybe if they know you have been teaching for 7 years and are a parent as well that might alleviate some of it? Honestly though, you would still have the same reaction from some parents even if you were 40 or 50 years old. Because no one is going to tell them or their child anything!

Helen E.M. Wright said...

Good for you for not saying something to the eye roll! I would have gotten myself in trouble!

Before my child I was a young teacher too and I didn't find that, but then I did teach 2.5 - 7 year olds at a Montessori school.

I think ANY teacher needs to prove that they 'are worthy' not just the young ones. There's a problem with all ages. Those who are young, don't have the experience. Those who are old are stuck in their ways and don't care anymore. Those in the middle are too interested in their lives outside of teaching!

Here's hoping for a great year! I hope the feelings go away!

Kate said...

Yeah, I got that a lot when I was teaching. Most parents have no idea how how much work goes into creating a meaningful classroom experience for their child. Don't let the bastards get you down. :)

the MomBabe said...

And that's why I always lie about my age. Seriously. LIE.

And wear eyeliner. Lots and lots of eyeliner is good. ;)

Laski Gal said...

It is my belief that people who are insecure will look for anything where they can find fault, be it education (not educated enough), social status (not wealthy enough), or AGE (not OLD enough) in order to make themselves feel better (and this doesn't necessarily apply to A Bun's Life's experience--that teacher was just, UGH--and teachers like that can be ANY age).

Woman, hold your head up high. You have accomplished so much and you should be proud!

And, as a teacher (and I'm a wee bit older than you) I've been given the doubting looks, the eye-rolls, the sarcastic tone. If anything, that just speaks volumes as to their character . . . smile, shrug, walk away.

BTW, I never, ever thought about your age. You are a bright and intelligent woman (and great mom) . . . 'nuff said.

ConverseMomma said...

I'm 5 years older than you, and I have nothing. I repeat, NOTHING, on you. You are a sage.

Oh, and I totally hate back to school night too.

Bunchy said...

Okay, so I may be guilty of leaving a "Meet the Teacher Night" or two and telling my husband that the person teaching our child is 12 years old. But here's the thing...I don't respect him or her any less because of their age or how old they look. I figure they must be at least somewhat qualified, right?? And then I wait and see how the school year goes. No, we haven't always loved our kids' teachers. But I always AT LEAST give them the benefit of the doubt to start with. Don't let it bother you, Girl. Just rock the school year and they'll all come around. And your reputation will then say it all!

lattemommy said...

I have often been told that I look young for my age. Which I'm not complaining about. But, I would occasionally have people at work freak out about how old I looked, assuming I couldn't possibly be experienced enough to deliver their child. I would simply reassure them by saying, "Trust me, I'm a lot older than I look," and then go about doing my job with the confidence and authority they expected from a physician. The age issue usually went away pretty quickly.

My point? Do your job to the best of your ability, displaying confidence and an air of authority. They'll come to see you for the fantastic teacher you are. They just need to get past their own insecurities first.

canape said...

Lots of things strike me here.

The first being - I could have written this not too long ago. Then? All of the sudden? I'm not that young.

The second - you teach theology? How did I miss this?

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