The 10 Stages People Go Through When You Tell Them You’re a Teacher

The 10 stages people go through when you tell them you’re a teacher

It’s not always easy to tell friends and family that you teach for a living. It always seems to take a while for them to realize just what it is you do and how insanely difficult it can be. Much like the 7 stages of grief, we’ve identified the 10 stages that people go through when you break the news to them.

Stage 1: Shock and surprise that you actually teach

Every journey to acceptance starts with a little shock at first. 

“Oh my God, you’re one of those!?!” 

“How could anyone in their right mind willingly become a teacher?”

These are just a few choice words that teachers hear all the time when they announce their chosen profession. Is there another line of work that causes more upturned noses than education?

Stage 2: Sorrow and shame that you are “only” a teacher

After the initial shock wears away, it’s replaced with something even worse and more demeaning. When people reach this stage they start to feel bad that the best you could ever be is “just a teacher”. As if going into education is only for people who’ve failed at everything else in life. This is where you’re likely to hear possibly the most infuriating phrase ever uttered in a teacher’s direction:

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Doesn’t reading that just make you want to sucker-punch someone right in the face? 

Stage 3: Feeling sorry for you and your salary

Once people are done feeling sorry for you for being such a miserable failure in life, they’ll start feeling sorry for your tiny little paycheck. Suddenly every one of your friends will turn into a financial advisor and start treating you like a charity case. Don’t be surprised if they even start picking up the tab at lunch or buying you a round of drinks more often, out of pity for their friend who has fallen so low in life.

Actually… this stage doesn’t sound that bad now that I think about it. Free drinks! Woo-hoo!

Stage 4: Comforting you by reminding you of all that vacation time you get

Now that your friends are done treating you like some poor, worthless dreg they’ll start trying to make you feel better about this awful situation you’ve gotten yourself into. And what will they bring up first? All of that wonderful vacation time you get. Summers off! Two weeks at Christmas! What a deal! See, your life doesn’t suck all that much. It’s almost like not even having a full-time job, I mean you only work 180 days a year right?

Oh, if they only knew how truly insane that last statement is.

Stage 5: Thinking about their own children, and the handful they can be 

It’s about this time that people realize you work with children all day, and how joyous that must be. Spending your days with those lovely, cherub-like angels with their eyes so full of wonder and excitement. Then they notice their own children are… well… less than angelic. Not so much full of wonder and excitement, more like full of eye-rolls and apathy. 

Hmmm… maybe teaching isn’t such a cakewalk after all.

Stage 6: Recoiling in horror at the thought of wrangling 25 kids at once

At this stage, your friends will start to do math. Lots of math. They’ll start calculating how much work it is to raise their own children, then multiply that by all the children you teach on a daily basis. This math will make them twitch a little. 

Reaching this stage is the first step towards true enlightenment of the horror show that being a teacher actually is. 

This would also be a good time to mention that you never get to pee or sit down for an extended period of time either. 

Stage 7: Slowly realizing all the extra time you spend at school

As the wheels start turning, suddenly everything becomes clear. Your friends start remembering all those times you weren’t able to hang out because you had something to do at school. All those after-school activities, all those late-night grading sessions, all that paperwork.

All…. that… paperwork. Mountains of it. Piles in every corner of your house. 

Stage 8: Understanding that teaching is way harder than their job

This stage will hit your friend like a ton of bricks. They may even need to take a seat and just sip some water for a while. Suddenly they will realize that your job is hard. Like mind-bogglingly hard. Then they’ll look at their own job and instantly become grateful that all they have is a boss that sends too many emails. 

Stage 9: Consternation that “Teacher Appreciation Week” is only a week

The realization that teaching is actually a really, really hard job will soon be replaced with a growing amount of indignation that you aren’t revered for being the amazing person you are. Teacher Appreciation Week? WEEK? I don’t think so! Where are the parades? The TV specials? The throngs of adoring fans and grateful parents showering teachers with praise?

Stage 10: Amazement that any human being could survive as a teacher longer than 5 minutes

When your friend has reached stage 10, their journey is complete. They now realize what an amazing bad-ass you are for daring to become a teacher. They will sing your praises wherever they go and speak of your name with reverent awe. 

“You’re not going to believe this.. But my friend is a TEACHER! Yeah that’s right, they teach! Can you believe that?”

Now if we could just get politicians to move past Stage 4, we’d really be on to something!


The 10 stages people go through when you tell them you’re a teacher

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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