“I’d tell myself
What good you do
It’s my life
Don’t you forget”
- Hollis, Mark David; Friese-Greene, Tim. Song “It’s My Life” Talk Talk
Recently, I was reading a post about trying to make a decision. I suggested writing a pros and cons list because it’s helped me when I’ve been stuck at a crossroads. Looking not only whether there are more pros or cons, but also the content of the list sometimes forces an answer to jump out at me.
It brought me back to a big decision from my past. I was a couple of months into in my second year of graduate school and miserable. Who said the first year would be the hardest? Soon, I was pregnant and could feel the stress my body was under, making me worry I could damage my unborn baby in some way. I knew I was unhappy, but what to do about it was another question. Graduate school was something everyone has to get through – nobody particularly enjoys it. But did the end justify the means? And did I want the end that this means was justifying?
While I mulled it over, I called my former high school, asking if I could observe a Social Studies class. If I was considering a change, I should know exactly what the job was like. At this point, I was in my second trimester. Observing the class, I was pleasantly surprised about the level of learning that was expected of the students. And an AP course would demand even higher order thinking. Perhaps teaching to high school students wasn’t such a concession.
I think it was my husband who suggested the list. Although I didn’t save the original, I think I can approximate it:
Become a College Professor or a High School Social Studies Teacher?
Students would be more mature
Fewer hours in the classroom
Prestige of a PhD
I’d have to spend a lot of time in dusty libraries researching (Publish or perish)
Fewer hours in the classroom
May have to teach in lecture halls
The department wouldn’t prize my teaching skills
Less job security (Tenure)
A lot of putting one another down in an effort to seem intellectual (I couldn’t compete)
Greater chance of moving far away from family
More difficult time coordinating careers with my husband
High School Pros
Smaller groups of students in each class
Closer relationships with the students
More job security
Getting same students every day instead of twice a week
Should be able to get a job just about anywhere (Ha!)
Easier to find an area where my husband and I can both work
High School Cons
Students would be less mature
More discipline problems
Dealing with parents
I’d be quitting the PhD program
My professors and classmates would think I’d failed
History graduate students look down upon education graduate students
When I looked at the list, the high school had more pros than staying in college. Then I looked at the cons, and noticed that the content was starkly different. The college cons got to the heart of what I hated about the History program, and eventual job I’d obtain. Many of the high school cons were mostly superficial. If I stayed in the graduate program, I’d be doing it because I was worried about lowering expectations for myself, as perceived through someone else’s eyes**. Why on earth would I want to do something to theoretically please others – many whom I didn’t even respect?
That’s always been my problem. My hardest decisions are the ones where I think I should do or not do something because of what I think others will think or how I think my decision will make them feel. Now that I’m nearing a BIG BIRTHDAY (ugh, it’s coming ever closer), it seems beneath my years to live my life with others’ happiness in mind more than my own.
Do men do this? Do other women do this?
Of course, I know that I have to think of other people. But when I’m in a situation where the other person probably doesn’t care (or at least, shouldn’t care) as much as I do, why am I sacrificing what I want? A problem recently arose, and I made a mental list, revealing that I was once again putting my own happiness aside in the worry that I’d offend someone else.
If it weren’t for lists, I’d be an even bigger mess.
*This story is in more detail here:
** Here’s a post on my views on different types of educators: