How I earn money

It was the end of the day. My last class was with a group of Grade Five kids. I often ask one or two of them to help me clean up – just erasing the whiteboard, stacking the chairs, maybe wiping down the individual whiteboards or ensuring that all the laptops are properly put away in the cart. Nothing too onerous or time-consuming. They’re always happy to help, and as we tidy up together, we chat.

Of course we chat. It’s what I do best – just ask my mother. It’s a good way to connect with a kid on a totally different level, to get to know one another a little better.

So Ivan was erasing the big whiteboard. I was piling up the chairs.

“Madame?” he said to me.

I answered, “Oui, Ivan?”

We were speaking in French (obviously), but I’ll just transcribe the rest of this in English.

“Do you do a job?”

I thought it was a trick question. “Um … do you mean, do I have a job?”

He nodded. “Yes. Do you do a job?”

I still wasn’t quite sure what he meant. So I decided to go with the obvious meaning. “Yes I have a job. I’m a teacher.”

Ivan nodded again. “Oh, ” he said, in that conversational tone that adults reserve for “isn’t that interesting” when it’s really not that interesting. “Do you have money?”

Did he want to know if I had money in my wallet right now? Or maybe was there currently money in my bank account? Was he planning to audit me or something? I needed more clarification.

“Do you mean, do I get paid to do my job as a teacher?”

Ivan nodded a third time. “Yes. Do you?”

“Yes, Ivan. I get paid to be a teacher.” I was thinking, where on earth was this going already???

“Oh,” he went on. “I didn’t know that.” Pause. “I’m finished erasing the board.”

I thanked him, and off he went back to his classroom.

So this ten-year-old boy didn’t know that my job is to be a teacher and that teachers actually get paid? Really? This boy whom I have had in my reading class for almost three years straight now? What did he think I’ve been doing with him all this time – cutting his hair or colouring with him, perhaps? Did he think that I hang around the school every day because I have nothing better to do?

Makes me wonder what he hears and sees when he goes home after school …

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8 responses to “How I earn money

  1. I think I was 7 or 8 before I realised teaching was a their job. I thought the teachers were there because they liked the children. (I also thought they came with the school, along with the excercise books and pens. I would never have believed you if you told me stationary was ordered from somewhere else!).

    • bevchen – I remember thinking that all the school supplies just came with the school, too. I once found a pack of construction paper in the local drugstore, just like the ones we had at school, and I had no idea how that could have happened! But I figured out the whole teaching-as-a-job thing much earlier – and maybe that’s why I became a teacher, not a stationery store owner!

  2. You get paid, too. Now there’s a bonus for the charming time you get to spend with those tykes. Indeed it makes you wonder what they hear at home.

    I remember thinking like Nora did. Once I was out grocery shopping with my parents and we passed my teacher on the street. Not only was he in casual garb rather than a suit or jacket and tie, but he was smoking a cigarette. I think I was a bit horrified.

    A couple of years ago his obit was in the Sun. It became obvious as I read it that he was also gay. Possibly just as well we didn’t know that at the time because I think homosexuality was still a hanging offence in those days.

    • mrwriteon – My Grade 1 teacher’s mom was the receptionist at my own mom’s doctor’s office. My mom was pregnant when I was in Grade 1, so she spent a lot of time at her doctor’s office, and of course she chatted with the receptionist. When they figured out their connection, my mom told me, and I was absolutely thrilled! I LOVED my Grade 1 teacher, and this just made her even more wonderful to me: she had a MOM who knew MY MOM!

  3. When my kids were little, they thought their teachers lived at the school and had beds there to sleep in. They had no idea that the teachers had lives of their own and families to go to. It was some awakening when I explained it to them. It was like stopping believing in the tooth fairy.

    • Nora – Oh yes, that’s quite common with little kids. I often had to explain that when I taught Grade 1 – but I’ve never met a Grade 5 kid who hadn’t yet figured it out, till Ivan. That boy’s certainly got a few issues – and this is just one of them!

  4. Well, I thought you just hung around school to glean stories for us. What a wake up!

    • Jazz – I have to admit that it was a bit of shock for me as well when I first realized that grown-ups actually had to work to get money – and worse, that I would have to do that some day! – but I’m pretty sure that I understood this before I started school at age four. Not sure what Ivan’s deal is yet …