Teacher, Teacher

9 May

Letterbalm Black MaleTeacherDear LetterBalm: I am crushed because I just heard that my grandson has decided to change his major to education. He wants to be a high school science teacher. He’s studying physics at a prestigious university and can easily get a Ph.D. and a high-paying research position. I think his career change is a big waste of time and money and unfair to his parents. But they don’t seem to be bothered by all this. My daughter, who has a Ph.D. herself, says the most important thing is for her son to be happy. I’ve always thought teaching was nothing special. I’ll be seeing my grandson this weekend for Mother’s Day, and he’ll probably want my reaction to his decision. What do I say?

–Disappointed

A little snobbism, grandma? Far from teaching being “nothing special,” the profession is as vital as air and water, a noble calling. Ms. L.B. believes good teachers are desperately needed and are fundamental to a vibrant society. As one case in point, New York City – by far, the largest school system in the nation – has just negotiated a nine-year contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Think of what your grandson can do for the hundreds of children he will teach and inspire. Clearly, he is pursuing his new dream as a worthwhile career, not as a source of money or prestige. It’s your job to encourage your grandson without signaling disappointment. (He won’t change his mind anyway, and your disapproval will only hurt his feelings.) Be kind and enthusiastic. You might also write him a little note, thusly:

My dear grandson,

Your parents tell me that you’ve decided to be a high-school history teacher. You’re entering a noble profession that is vitally important today. I have no doubt that you’ll be a great teacher – your students will be lucky to have you. I’ve always known that you’re a good and intelligent person; this decision to help others proves it. I congratulate you on choosing a career that will inspire children and contribute to your community. Bravo!

With love,

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