Friday 22nd October 2021

So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

So, What Do You Do? 2018.88.

I first posted this in 2016, and now today modified as I believe this is even more pertinent in years of retirement or semi-retirement which some of my readers would agree it can take a bit of thought to come up with the answer! I have also removed the original comments.

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.Β The adult teacher/trainer displayed a bias that was not only felt by the person who told me, but the group’s learning was impeded apparently.

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


Are you aware of any intended or unintended bias? Interesting isn’t it?

Now, away from the teaching background, how might I describe myself? I find I use a few more words that I might have even 2 years ago to help clarify….

I am fully retired from a career in education. I blog and that keeps me connected to a wide range of people. I also like to create and do art and take time each day to be outside and also to get dressed with purpose and go out for a coffee. Oh, and over a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums but that is going well after surgeries and treatments.

As for your career, profession or current employment or life status…what do you say when people ask:

“So, what do you do?”


education 150

Joining the I Blog On Tuesdays crew over here at Kylie Purtell’s site and here on Wednesday with Sue and Leanne for Mid-Life Share the Love linky.



  1. I usually answer “what do you do” with “I say no a LOT” πŸ™‚ It is true, after all! But it’s also a good answer for me as while my day job is fine, I don’t want to give the impression it’s a career job for me and be judged by that – you don’t technically need education and qualifications to do my day job but I worked hard for them!

    Knowing a person is a teacher – phew. Well, naturally, they’re all awful! πŸ˜‰ Kidding. Honestly though, I have been to so many schools an unis that I’ve had excellent and awful, so I usually dig a little at them to see how they would have dealt with me as a student πŸ™‚

    • Really interested in your response Vanessa! I hear you on not letting a job title define you as it does not include the hard yards and study.

      I would have found you challenging in my class. In saying that, I know how much more of a ‘straight down the line’ teacher I was and taking into account discipline, getting lessons done as per grade etc, a student as bright and interesting as you might not have had the time given to her that I now, at my older end of life, would like to do.

      Thanks for always letting me know your opinion in such a way that it makes me think about what it means for me.

      Denyse x

  2. When I tell people i am a mindset coach and NLP practitioner – hmm I get looks. Weird looks. Really??? People actually pay for that?? I don’t take any of it personally. The people who need my help will find me.

    • You help people reach their potential. Trouble is, many people are still stuck in ‘labels and titles’.

      I love how much this work has brought out so many great qualities in your life through your beliefs and commitment.

      Denyse x

  3. The Minimalists say that when people ask this question, it’s like they’re really asking “how much money do you earn and are you as good as/better than me?” And it can be loaded with judgement, as your friend’s example clearly shows. Since I’ve been working part time, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot and although I’m a teacher, I know that doesn’t define me because I do so many other things. I write, I bake, I run. I think a better question is “how do you spend your time?” πŸ™‚

    • Oh, this is interesting. I like the thoughts here Sammie.

      The “what do I do” marrying “who am I” is a big thought provoking question these days.

      I had it nailed career wise. In fact teacher is/was the prime one. I admit now, that I use Retired Principal in some instances depending on what I want to ‘show’ about my life. I do not take kindly to the invisibility of ageing (mind you it’s OK when I want it to be) because I see people “assuming” about me: looks, hair, etc.

      I like all the ways in which you consider who Sammie is and you have provided me with food for thought.

      Denyse x

  4. Great question, Denyse, and something I’ve actually been pondering, particularly in relation to my Dad after he retired last year. I’ve wondered how it is for him, when almost his entire life bar 16 years has been very much defined by his career. I think for retired men in particular that question can be very loaded as they don’t have the same variance in careers and time off as a lot of women might and so their career or job can often define them and shape their sense of self much more so, particularly when they’ve spent a long time in the same job/company.

    Re: teachers, I have a lot of respect for them, and in my experience, it’s always been a rare occurrence to meet one for whom teaching isn’t a passion and just a job so I don’t have a lot of negative experiences that would colour my opinion or expectation.

    • It is interesting to ponder that about your Dad. I know that my Dad was glad to stop work when he did and fortunately he left with enough money for mum and he to travel OS in style (first class!!) that one time. Mum had never worked outside the home but was always on committees for us as kids and volunteering too so when Dad retired neither of them wanted to be at home as a twosome all day, They had two cars and Mum continued her stuff outside the home, Dad played golf twice a week instead of on Saturdays, they helped me out a great deal with our two young kids as my husband was very ill then. Dad also went to a place that advertised for volunteers and said what can I do to help with an accountancy background? They offered him work at Beacon Hill Youth Club and he was their treasurer for years.

      As for teachers, there have been some I have worked with and wondered “why did you become a teacher, you don’t seem to like kids!!”. I think liking kids and being interested in learning yourself as well as understanding the curriculum makes teachers that are professional.

      Right now, I have my issues with ‘what do I do” but I am also trying to get used to the multiple things I like doing and being part of. I admit too that I am a recovering head and neck cancer patient.

      One idea for me to know what it is about teaching for me to continue to enjoy the idea of it and encourage those already teaching is that it’s a passion. I admit to you, it is also about the public education system that I try as much as I can to remain passionate about too.

      Your passion must surely be photography!

      Denyse x

  5. Hi Denyse, visiting via MLSTL. I’ve continued to struggle with answering that question because I was a workaholic, defined by my job. Mostly nowadays I respond “whatever I want”. And if they express more interest, I talk about something I’m doing that week – whether it’s a wine tasting with friends, a blog post I’m refining, or a yoga class I’m attending. Regarding teachers – I have many friends who are teachers and I give them a lot of credit for the patience they have with both the kids they work with and the politics that seems to be enmeshed in the school systems these days.

    • Hi Pat, thanks for visiting and sharing your views. It is hard “not to be defined by your job” but as I likke to think, the teacher in me will always be there, even though I am not longer employed as such.

      I think that you are letting folks who ask know that you are covering quite a few interests in retirement and that is a good thing!

      Yes, the politicisation of education started even before I retired. I despair sometimes about what “governments do” in the name of education. I also tend to avoid reading too much about it even though I have friends and family teaching because it just makes me mad!

      Denyse x

  6. Hi Denyse, lovely to have you join us at #MLSTL this week. I must admit for some reason I was reluctant to say ‘retired’ until recently. I felt that not having a ‘career’ per se meant that I no longer had any purpose or value however, my thoughts have now changed. I think my answer now would be ‘retired from working but not retired from life’. This then encourages more questions and I can talk about how I’m trying to live an active life, embracing it and motivating others to do the same. Thanks for posing the question, it made me think! Have a lovely day xx

    • THAT is terrific Sue for you to have that mindset change and to say the words ‘outloud’ and know it is OK. Love your response. Great logo!!

      Thank you for all you do to be a blogging cheerleader too.

      Much appreciated by me.

      Denyse x

  7. I think women are a lot less tied to “what do you do” than men are – we don’t tend to define ourselves by our careers like men do (maybe younger women do these days though??) I spent a lot of time in dentistry and NOBODY has anything good to say about the dentist – so that was never a great way to start a conversation with me! #MLSTL πŸ™‚

    • It’s interesting to read your comment about women because I think I “may” be an exception. My career has been the important role…and the others do come a close second. Grandma possibly may beat teacher on some occasions!

      Yes, I know that must be tough on those who work in the ‘unpopular’ fields…sorry!!

      Denyse x

  8. I was worried about this question so much when I retired (was made redundant) from my role as a an Senior Correctional Education Officer in a men’s prison. My job had defined me for over two decades so what would I say now when asked? I actually made up business cards that said I was a Blogger and now I find I don’t really care. I’m busy, I’m happy in my retirement, I have my blogging and my travelling and feel proud of my career. Great thought provoking post Denyse. Have shared for #mlstl

    • Oh how much I understand this too, Debbie.

      My story, in my next instalment of September Stories, will outline why.

      I like how you have moved on though and any days now…Grandma will be your new title!! I hope it all goes well for your daughter. It is quite the experience when your daughter becomes a mum, I will never forget seeing my now almost 22 year old granddaughter for the first time. Sigh.

      Denyse x

  9. This is an interesting one. I find there is a lot of judgement when it comes to occupations also. And as you say, these days, and in time, roles (not necessarily jobs) often change. I like Sammie’s idea of asking ‘what do you do with your time,’ but not everyone asks that question. I think I have to come up with a better response, because like you, I can’t put what I do into one word anymore.

    • Yes that is true. I guess now I am retired I see less of it but there can be a lot of judgment about a career/job and often it is based on ignorance!

      Denyse x