"You went to Newberg High School, right?", she said.
"Yep. That's right......Oh, that's why you look familiar! You were a teacher there." I said.
She gave me a bit of an up-down look, then said, "Wow! It looks like you've done pretty well for yourself!"
I responded with an enthusiastic "Thanks!" while really thinking, "Hmmm. What is she trying to say?"
"Being a TA is an amazing job, isn't it?" she asked.
I had to think about this for a second. Apparently, she had the wrong impression and I needed to find a way to let her know without making the conversation uncomfortable.
"Yes, being a TA is a wonderful job. I loved it when I was one at Chehalem Valley a few years back, but I really love being a teacher. It's so rewarding!", was the response that I came up with.
"Oh my! YOU are a teacher here?!"
I tried really hard not to take this personally. I told myself that she responded in this way because she thought I look too young to be a teacher. Or because based on her observations of me in high school, she thought I would go into another field. Certainly, she was not surprised because of my grades in high school. I worked very hard while there and earned a high GPA. My ability to work with kids couldn't be the issue either. I spent 3 years of high school working in the Life Skills classroom with disabled children, and volunteered at two local elementary schools.
So why then, was she so surprised to see me at a middle school as a 6th grade teacher?
The short answer is, I don't know. She told me that she was extremely proud of me for making it "this far". To which I said, "Thank you." With what I'm sure was a confused look on my face, I walked out to my car. It wasn't until I was halfway home, that I realized how many people have had that reaction to me and just about anything that I accomplish.
Why is it that people have such specific and strong ideas about who I am and what I am capable of? I have wanted to be a teacher since I was very young. I spent my days lining up my stuffed animals and reading to them. Being a teacher has almost (there were a few years, after Free Willy, where I wanted to be a dolphin trainer) never been a question for me. Yet no one seems to "see" me in this role.
Maybe it's because I tend to be quiet and I'm short. Believe me, both of these qualities come in very handy when dealing with the middle school population. I don't know why people react to me the way that they do. But I'm going to learn to take it as a compliment and be happy that I seem to exceed most people's expectations of me.