Tuesday 22nd May 2018

So, What Do You Do? 366/311.

So, What Do You Do? 366/311.

This is often a question when getting to know more about someone.

What is your answer?

Mine is…or used to be…”I’m a teacher.”

I find that there is a response of interest mostly and also I then sense that there may be another response that can be a negative one.

The ‘other’ response that teachers may get when they disclose their career can be, in my theory, based on the questionner’s experience with teachers.


I am interested as recently I heard of a situation where someone was given a very hard time in an adult learning setting because that person knew he had a teaching background.

So, what is your response to knowing a person is a teacher?

As for your career, profession or current employment or not status…what do you say when people ask:

“So, what do you do?”

Are you aware of any intended or unintended bias?

Interesting isn’t it?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


education 150

Joining the I Blog On Tuesdays crew over here at Kylie Purtell’s site.



  1. I always think to myself “you must have sooo much patience”. But never say it out loud.

    When I tell people that I’m a “technical writer” I always follow it up with “that’s a fancy way of saying that I know nothing about anything”… heh, since no one really knows how to react to that.

    • See here’s the thing, I am not that patient at all but I guess the love of helping others learn is part of my teacher-persona.
      I think it’s ace that you can write in the field you do. You have transferable skills I imagine from your original role..you’ve been a journo I am guessing. Anyway, I am sure you just blow people away with your follow up because ‘ah it would take too long to explain’ …it’s TECHNICAL… LOL
      PS I so want your updates on ‘the election’ of all ‘elections’ via SM!!

  2. I never knew there was any bias towards teachers!! I have huge admiration for teachers. They take on a lot. They don’t just teach! I hate it when people ask me what I do, because I walked away from my *acceptable* what I do … which was a high level job in the corporate world. Now I blog, take photo’s, sometimes do a bit of work from home and earn hardly anything and sometimes nothing. I might change that once my health improves but I feel so judged by people and not in a good way. They don’t know my story.

    • I will let you in on the secret..I think it’s people (like the one I mentioned who is not a teacher but a trainer of adults – there’s a subtle difference) who are most likely to comment when they know a teacher is in a group. Mind you I rarely mention I was a school principal because people generally go into “Oh, the principal’s office was a scary place” mode.

      I hope that you can generally become more confident within yourself about your now roles because I think others pick up ‘our vibes’ about ourselves sometimes. Take care, Min!

  3. When someone tells me they’re a teacher I firstly thank them, then I tell them they’re saints because I’ve worked with large numbers of children as a coach and I would be exhausted after an hour.

    When someone asks me what I do, I sometimes say “too much”. Other times I say “what day is it?” and other times I just say “I’m an author” or “I’m a writer” or “I’m a success consultant”. Really depends what forum I’m in. When I write it on my customs card when travelling I always go with “author”.

    • Oh yes, I thank people who are in service industries as volunteers ALL the time when I get the chance. The local RFS went by last Christmas and I went out specifically to say thanks as well as donate.

      In terms of teachers, I congratulate those I know who teach because I know how hard the job is particularly these days. When I was tutoring the Masters students at Uni I thanked them for choosing teaching.

      As for you…mmmmm. I hear what you are saying and why! Is it a female thing that we can’t quite bring ourselves to say exactly what we do and are? Interesting to ponder!

  4. Some time ago I wrote a blog post about this very question, in particular people’s reaction to being a stay at home mum and how I often felt like I needed to plug the gap by saying I’m also a writer, blogger, former journalist, former media advisor, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know why I felt the need to justify my reasons for leaving behind the corporate world. I’m better at not doing that now but I still stumble sometimes.

    • How sad we continue to have to justify ourselves and our choices!! It has been like this, unfortunately, since my generation (baby boomer) started to make the choice to work outside the home or stay at home. I used to say, I went to work because I was no good for my own kids or myself staying at home. Others thrive on this. It takes all kinds.

      I think raising families in the way we choose and can afford to do is the best thing we can give to them.

      I think we females need to find some ‘better words for what we do’. Thanks so much for sharing! I remember that post of yours too.

  5. I tell people I’m a writer and they think I’m all glamorous or something like JK Rowling. Errr, no. A lot of the time I write marketing copy for tractor attachments…

  6. I’ve had some very negative responses when I’ve stated I’m a teacher (and even when I say I used to be a teacher). It seems to be an open door for some to tell at length about all the teacher’s they hated… On the flip side, I get lots of people saying how hard teaching must be and how much patience I must have had (very little, like you 🙂 ) I used to say I blog, now I say I write for online publications which seems vague enough to move on to the next topic. I hate trying to justify what I do in the few hours I’ve got in between mothering during the week. You’ve hit a nerve Denyse! 🙂

    • I know…without actually meaning to of course. I hear you on the teacher positive and negative responses to ‘being a teacher.’

      Blogging never seems to be well-understood even with its much bigger following now. I say I have a blog (and then I get a look of wonder that someone as OLD as I am knows how to operate a blog!)

      I must admit, I end up saying most of the time ‘retired teacher’ and mentioning the principal part of my career to a chosen few.
      As for the staying at home thing..the part-time thing..I am so darned grateful people get to do this!! Maybe if back in the 1970s when I was having kids some part-time employment would have been the best. Sigh.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response because we need to open up convos at times!

  7. I don’t like the question what do you do, mostly because it’s asking us to define what we do for work, when what I do is so much more than that. I don’t like to define myself or others by their professions, much rather get to know them before I know what they actually “do”. xx

    • I agree but it IS the question that so many ask isn’t it? I think it’s vnarrow too BUT I have found out as I have retired that my identity as “Denyse” was hugely centred on my paid role as a teacher. Interesting topic. Thanks so much for your thoughts Nicole, you made me think more too. Denyse x

  8. Lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to be a teacher. It’s ideal if you have kids. You can have the holidays off with them 🙂 #teamIBOT

    • Ha Renee! If you are serious about becoming a teacher, that is awesome. But it ain’t all about the hols…I wrote a post about that a while back. Happy to chat if you want about the idea of changing careers..from my perspective only of course! D xx

  9. I say I am a social media coordinator and virtual assistant – then follow it up with I basically play online all day.

  10. I have admiration for teachers. I think it takes a special person and some strong attributes to be a teacher. Attributes that I don’t have! When people ask me what I do I often say I am a stay at home mum and then I kick myself for not giving myself more credit… not that being a stay at home mum isn’t worthy!! Oh my head plays games.

    • That is so true about the mind games. What can we do about those? I am learning, oh so slowly, not to believe what my thoughts are! Thank you for your words about teachers. Now, we need to to come up with some kindly words about the ‘staying at home’ mum because YOU too are admired and doing a job no-one else can! Take care of you too, though! Denyse xx

  11. If somebody told me they were a teacher, I’d probably say “Oh cool, whereabouts (in Adelaide) / primary or high school?” Then maybe ask what subjects they taught. When people ask me what I do, I say I’m an executive assistant working part-time. I might throw in that I also blog and have a little business and whatever as well as being a mum. Depends on whether they are actually interested or just making conversation!

    • That’s probably how I would answer too..where are you teaching? Who do you know etc. It is a ‘small world’ when teachers meet let me tell you! I like your response to the question. That’s so cool. Yes, you are right about how much to say depending on level of engagement or interest!!