“You’re a high school teacher?!” My astonished Lyft driver asks as we wind our way down the lonely streets towards my school at 4am. “Do the kids even respect you when you look so…young?!” he continues, echoing the questions I’ve heard from a hundred people over the past 4 years. As I sort through my usual responses, I can’t help but think: Darn. I thought when I turned 26 last month I’d magically look 5 years older. Bummer.
Now, for those of you well past the days when people thought you looked too young to teach, I get how you might think I’m being ungrateful about my face situation. You might think I’m being silly or say to yourself “She’s lucky. Most women would love to look younger.” I get that. And if I were in another profession, I’d probably agree with you.
But here’s the thing: my face is literally frozen in time. As in, the picture in my 10th grade yearbook (taken at age 16) looks like it was taken yesterday.
So for all you baby faced teachers out there, I’ve complied a list of things (in no particular order) that have happened to me due to my youthful appearance. Hope it makes you feel less alone in this ridiculous struggle.
- Last year, my students wanted to do a tribute page in our school yearbook that showed teachers’ high school senior portraits. When I sent my picture in, my students sent an email back saying I looked exactly the same. They thought it was hilarious.
- Administrators regularly come into my room with announcements or to pull a student out. Often, they can’t find me because I blend in with my students. They walk around awkwardly, scanning the room and I bet myself on how long it’ll take them locate me. P.S. I’m the only one standing.
- Back to School Night is the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting parents. The parents, however, walk in and look confused when I start telling them about what their students will be learning this year. Their eyes seem to say “okay lady, but where is the teacher?”
- Last week I told my 10th graders that’d I’d been driving for a decade now and they responded “How is that possible? You’re like 22.”
- Every year we take the junior class (only like 90 kids) to Southern California to check out colleges. (Coincidentally, that’s why my Lyft driver was taking me to school at 4am.) We take tours of about 7 campuses. At LMU two years ago, the admissions officer looks at me in the back of the auditorium and asks “are you one of the student tour guides?” The whole junior class erupts in laughter. I’m roughly the color of a beet.
- When I tell literally any adult who doesn’t know me that I’m a high school teacher, their eyes narrow, they look me up and down, and then politely ask a question about how I can manage a classroom.
As I create this list, I notice that most of the time, it’s the adults that are incredulous about my baby face. I think it’s interesting to note that once students know me for about a week, they don’t really have a problem with how young I am. They don’t often comment on it or disrespect me or refuse to listen to me. It’s interesting how the adults assume the students can’t handle a young teacher.
And here’s the thing: teenagers are adaptable. They get used to me being young and then treat me the same as any other teacher. I’ve never had an ongoing problem with students who couldn’t accept that I was their teacher.
In fact, I think there are crazy benefits to being youthful. For all you baby faced teachers out there, I hope you can ignore the haters and enjoy what’s great about being 20 something in a school setting. Here’s a few positives to help you balance out the negative comments:
- Students can connect easily with you. Because you look young, students will be more likely to believe you know what they’re going through. You get the honor of providing them with support in a difficult phase of life. To me, this is the single greatest benefit because creating rapport and relationships with students is my favorite part of teaching. It also really helps with the classroom management.
- This is related to the first point, but when students confide in you, you can more easily advocate for them. You can be the mediator between students and parents/counselors/other teachers and provide valuable input to help everyone understand the situation and provide the best support for that student.
- You can easily be relevant to the students. If you’re trying to give them advice for academic or future success, you can give examples from your own high school experience and it will seem relevant to the students because it wasn’t that long ago for you.
I’m sure there are a million other benefits and funny stories. Let me know yours in the comments! Also, those of you past the baby faced stage, give us advice on how you survived 🙂 I’d love to hear your input!
History and Economics teachers, if you want to check out additional resources, here’s a link to my store!