This Is Disrespect
No, it's here. They're in your living room, and you're all drinking wine, these people you've known since you were 1, long-time friends of the family, you've slept-over at their homes, ridden bikes with their kids, built forts in various backyards, those sloping, rocky backyards of your privileged suburban childhood. They're visiting and they'll take you out to dinner later, but first they're asking about your job and your career, and you're trying not to be on the defensive, because these aren't bad people, you like them a lot, actually, but every question they ask and every comment contains at dig at you and what you do and you find yourself explaining and defending more than you should, more than should be necessary.
They thought you were in a "management" position at your school, assumed it because you'd been there a while and "management" should be an ultimate goal.
They want to know what's next. Or are your career plans just like [mutual acquaintance with no career plans].
They want to know how long you think you're really going to keep doing this. When will you be a principal? When will you move on to university?
Speaking of, they want to know when you're going back to school.
It's not the words, it's the assumptions behind them. It's the assumptions that carries the disrespect. It's the assumptions that undervalues what you are doing, implies rather strongly you should be looking upward and onward, looking past. They don't mean ill by it, and in fact, they probably mean the whole thing as a compliment: We respect you so much, we find it odd you are content with so little.
The other forms of disrespect are fine; they come from small-minded fools who have made up their minds with insufficient evidence. It's this kind that leaves you sucking wind. It's here, in the clear message that you should be doing more important, more impressive things. That your current locale ought to be a stepping-stone to greater things, because really, you aren't going to be just a teacher your whole life, are you? It's in this lack of understanding of how important, how critical this work is -- in general, yes, but in under-resourced communities specifically, in the places our society/government has pre-ordained for failure. You want them to show you what else you should be doing. What else is as clean and powerful as this?
Just a teacher. Do this and then become a principal. Do this and then write Kozol-exposes, or Esquith-memoirs. Do this and then go work at a policy think tank. Do this and then create the latest curricula that can be mandated across entire districts, entire states. Do this and run for school board, leveraging your TFA credentials and connections. Do this and then teach other people how to do this, like you did last summer.
Just a teacher. You wonder if this is what drives so many into the embrace of the charter school movement, the desire to avoid the label and implied settling, the need to define themselves at first blush as fundamentally more. Are they still teachers, or are they KIPP Associates?
Just a teacher. You cannot ignore them really, or write them off because they are well-intentioned, well-educated, well-traveled and successful. They are an accurate cross-section of what it means to be all those things in America. They like that you're doing this, but if you keep doing it, there will come a point where they shake their heads in little sad side-to-sides, wondering why you lacked the ambition to reach for something greater.