Can you actually be too short to be a high school teacher?
January 30, 2011 3:48 PM   Subscribe

I want to be a high school French teacher, but at twenty years old I still have the height, weight, and voice of a twelve-year-old. I'm afraid these physical attributes will make it nearly impossible for me to be hired and taken seriously as a high school teacher. Is this a legitimate concern that should cause me to rethink my goals?

To start with, here's why I would love to be a high school French teacher: the French language and teaching are two of my greatest passions. The only thing I love more than language learning myself is teaching languages to others. Despite my severe social anxiety, I've enjoyed practicing English conversation with international students as much as I've enjoyed helping my peers practice reading, writing, and speaking in English and French classes.

I originally thought I wanted to go into research/academia after college, but now I'm having doubts. Everything I've read online suggests that the job market is terrible for Ph.D. students, and I would rather avoid the job insecurity, the mental stress, the endless hours, and the barely living-wage pay of the graduate student lifestyle. Now, high-school teaching is also not the most highly-paid profession, but isn't it true that it's easier to find a high-school job than a university job and the salary will be somewhat higher (from the start, even though the Ph.D's might be earning more in ten years)? Another reason I think I would prefer high-school teaching to university teaching is that it would allow me to have closer relationships with and more of an impact on my students, as well as in the community. It's important for me to be able to help people and make a real difference in people's lives every day.

But what scares me to death about planning to be a high school teacher is the fact that I'm barely 4'10" and eighty-six pounds, with a nearly flat chest, a childish face, and a relatively high-pitched voice. Most people I meet in public are absolutely incredulous when they learn I'm twenty years old. They just refuse to believe it. I am deeply afraid of getting this same incredulous reaction when I walk into my job interviews. Whoever interviewed me would surely laugh or joke about my size; he or she would never consider me a serious candidate. Furthermore, I'm afraid of getting this same incredulous reaction when I stand in front of a classroom for the first time. How would my students feel to have a teacher who is tinier than even the smallest one of them? Would they ever be able to trust and respect me, when I look and sound like a twelve-year-old? How could I put up with the inevitable laughing, teasing, and dismissal? How could I be taken seriously?

I need to know how much weight should be given to these concerns. Please be honest and tell me, is it realistic for a person of my stature to try to be a high school teacher? Do you think someone like me could actually be hired and taken seriously as a teacher, and if so, what would it take? How could I get school administrators and students to view me as an adult? If this is not realistic, are there any other promising careers for someone who (1) loves the French language, (2) loves helping people, and (3) wants to have a reasonably secure job in the near future?
posted by datarose to Education (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a teacher, but I was six foot two in high school. My German teacher may have had ten pounds on you, and she's easily on my top five all-time K-12 teacher list. She ruled the roost, graded strictly and we all loved her.

My physics teacher was a man my size, but the class just walked all over him.

It's all in the bearing.
posted by Rat Spatula at 3:53 PM on January 30, 2011 [15 favorites]

I have tons of friends who are teachers who still get mistaken for students. It happens and it's not a big deal.

If you want a job that meets all 3 of your criteria, it sounds like French teacher is the job for you! Here in Canada (because French is an official language and taught in all schools), the people who can teach French are always first to be hired out of teachers' college and are in high demand.
posted by pised at 3:57 PM on January 30, 2011

I used to be a high school teacher at a pretty rough school, and while I'm not slender, I am 5'3" and frequently got mistaken as a student in the hallways at first glance. When walking my kids out for fire drills and the like, they'd constantly say things along the lines of, "I thought you were taller!" I have told 6'3" 300 lb boys to sit down, shut up, and stop screwing around, and they have obeyed quickly and with alacrity. This is totally realistic, and you can do it!!!

The trick for this (and really, 60% of classroom management) and for job interviews? Self-confidence. Stand, sit and walk with good posture and your head up--this makes you look more authoritative. Project calm, sound decisive and sure of yourself, and be even-handed about everything. Dress up (Seriously. Whether they'll admit or not, most people DO judge people by how they dress, so suit up or at least do a blouse/blazer with nice shoes. You can make yourself look like authority pretty easily and cheaply via Ross or Marshalls). With kids be firm but fair and consistent, make your class interesting, show you care about them without trying to be one of their friends, and you'll have it made.

It won't be easy, but you'll have student teaching to practice these things, and never before has "Fake it til you make it" been more true. It took me student teaching & then two classes of crazy kids in summer school to finally nail this down, but if I can do it, you certainly can! Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

I had a very tiny very frail HS English teacher who was a dreadful bully and did not know the meaning of the phrase "Freudian slip"....we all loathed her. But she sure could run a class, chaired the department and had tenure. She didn't dress in an especially authoritative manner--no suits or severe outfits--although she had a fairly short hair cut.

What about doing some classroom volunteering (you'll do this in any good teacher training program anyway) and giving yourself a couple of semesters to get comfortable in the school environment? Make sure it suits you, then focus seriously on your teaching skills.

If you have the right persona and enough experience, your size (especially since you're female...being large and butch might be more of a drawback, just as being a small, frail man might be) won't count against you.
posted by Frowner at 4:00 PM on January 30, 2011

I had a midget/little person/whatever is PC these days teach one of my high school classes. She used a step stool to reach areas of the chalkboard that she otherwise wouldn't have been able to and sat in a chair that was higher than most so she could see and speak with the class.

She was a professional, and was thus treated as one.
posted by darkgroove at 4:05 PM on January 30, 2011

As a school board members, age 32, who sometimes looks at our new teachers and thinks, "When did they all get to be 12? Does this mean I'm old?" I promise it won't matter if you can project professionalism. Maybe spend a little time focusing on classroom management techniques (which, really, ALL teachers should learn) so that you feel confident that you have this managed.

I'm only 5'2" and I had teachers shorter than me. I also had teachers, when I was a senior, who were only 3 years older than I was who had enough AP credits to skip a year of college. A couple of whom I'd actually BEEN IN HIGH SCHOOL WITH when I was a freshman and they were seniors.

I think you should maybe relax a little bit about your size; I expect it matters a heck of a lot more to you than it does to other people. I mean, this? "I am deeply afraid of getting this same incredulous reaction when I walk into my job interviews. Whoever interviewed me would surely laugh or joke about my size; he or she would never consider me a serious candidate." That strikes me as such a truly, deeply bizarre reaction. I've interviewed a ton of people at this point, and I don't recall EVER reacting to their physical body beyond whether they were appropriately dressed and had a decent handshake. And laughing or joking about someone's size strikes me as beyond inappropriate and unprofessional. It would never even cross my mind to do such a thing. I've interviewed MEN shorter than me -- recall that I'm 5'2" -- and it didn't seem remotely relevant to their interview or ability to do the job. (The only reason it even registers is that I so rarely meet men shorter than I am.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2011

My small high school had two teachers who had experienced growth syndromes, both of whom were a bit under 4 feet tall. One of them was excellent at maintaining classroom order; one of them was terrible at maintaining classroom order. In each case, this had more to do with their choices and communications styles than with their physical differences.

Several of our teachers were slender women under five feet tall, a group which included two of the most rigorous disciplinarians in the school. Classroom control is not just about physical intimidation. (One of my beloved great-aunts, a teacher of nursing, was famed for her intimidating presence despite being about your height.)

Another thing is that most people can train themselves to lower their speaking voices. I am not suggesting that that is something you "need" to do, but it is certainly something you might well be able to do if you chose to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:07 PM on January 30, 2011

A couple of things.

Firstly, I was a pretty late bloomer, and while I was routinely mistaken for a high school student at 19 and 20, by the time I was actually finished with college and entering the workforce*, I both looked and carried myself like someone who was old enough to be doing what I was doing. A lot of this sort of thing is in lived experience and attitude, not how tall you are.

When I was in 9th grade, we got a few new teachers who were just barely out of college. While I'm sure they looked barely old enough to drive to a lot of adults, they were GODS to us kids. Teenagers see people in their 20's as adults. Period. Even an 18 year old likely thinks a 22 year old is A Full Fledged Grownup. I seriously remember being a senior in high school and looking ahead to the day when I would graduate from college, not even really able to fathom being that old. If you are teaching 14 year olds? You might as well be their mom.

If you are extremely concerned, you could either spend a couple years working in some other field, or getting an MA in your area, before beginning to teach. But I don't think it's absolutely necessary.

*Granted, I didn't have the degree till I was 24. But still.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2011

Also, read the later Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables books - both Laura and Anne become schoolteachers at, like 16 years of age - that was the done thing, back then. And in both situations, it's a rural community with no stark separations by grade level. Which means you had these teenage girls often teaching students who were not only bigger than them, but older, too.

That'll definitely put being a 22 year old high school French teacher in perspective.
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

My high school chemistry teacher was a slender man either my height or a bit shorter (I'm 5'2"), and he was the most respected and feared teacher in the entire school. He's also the only one I have ever known to cram 60 kids together into a chem lab meant for 20 and have pin-drop silence.

So, yes, it can be done!
posted by Xany at 4:20 PM on January 30, 2011

First, it's good that you're not rushing into a PhD program. (Even if you end up in one eventually, you should consider your options.)

but isn't it true that it's easier to find a high-school job than a university job and the salary will be somewhat higher (from the start, even though the Ph.D's might be earning more in ten years)

Definitely. Finding a university job is like winning the lottery, and the prize is that you have to move to wherever a dart thrown at the map lands. In contrast, apparently finding a job teaching high school is like finding a job. (And although this differs by field, at least some economists have concluded that the higher salary you could get from having a PhD doesn't offset the cost of getting it.)

Anyway, to give some input on the question you actually asked:

I had a high school physics teacher who spent a year straight out of college teaching at our school, and was young-looking for his age. (There were actually people who were sure he was a student.) We may have made fun of him occasionally for it. But he knew what he was talking about, and that's what matters.

(He was only at my high school for that one year, and then went off to get a PhD, but I'm pretty sure that was his plan all along; I don't think we drove him away.)

I also had a history teacher in high school in a similar situation (straight out of college, young-looking for her age). She did not know her field that well, and it showed. We all secretly wondered behind our back how she could have possibly got the job.

My point is this: if you seem like you know what you're talking about, your students will take you seriously. If you don't, they won't.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:22 PM on January 30, 2011

My sister is exactly your height, and a teacher. She's awesome at it, and her height has not presented a problem. Classroom management is something you'll learn.
posted by Houstonian at 4:28 PM on January 30, 2011

I'm a high school teacher, 5'2" in shoes (though not, alas, tiny in other ways!), and I am actually taller than quite a few members of our staff. 4'10" is short, yes, but a *lot* of high school teachers are short. The 6'4" male teachers may have some advantage; they can find their students more easily during fire drills, sure, but I warn the kids before we ever have one in the first place that it is their job to stay with me and make sure they find *me*. Haven't lost one yet! Yes, I've been asked for my hall pass by new teachers who weren't familiar with other staff members, and yes, it irritated me, but at the end of the day, respect from kids and classroom management have nothing to do with size and everything to do with attitude.

I make sure to dress up for interviews (and school) so that i don't look like a student as much as is possible (I'm 32 but easily mistaken for a teenager). Grown-up clothes are the key.
posted by lysimache at 4:29 PM on January 30, 2011

It's all about presence. If you can carry yourself with absolute calm and assurance it really doesn't matter what your actual size is. Demand respect and you will get it--if you are able to show mastery of your subject area and consistently firm discipline.
posted by Go Banana at 4:31 PM on January 30, 2011

I'm a junior high school teacher. You have valid concerns, and classroom management is really what makes or breaks the school experience for both teachers and students. However, it is my experience that issues with keeping students/classrooms in order have little to do with size, gender, voice, etc, and much more to do with what rules are in place and how they are enforced. At my school, the two teachers who I think have the most well-run classrooms are both relatively small females. The students know, however, that they can't get away with messing around in those classes, that stepping out of line won't be tolerated, and that consequences are consistently enforced.

As well, I have known some pretty big guys that still have issues with students, all because they lack the qualities that they teachers above possessed.
posted by Nightman at 4:34 PM on January 30, 2011

What everyone else has said, plus

Whoever interviewed me would surely laugh or joke about my size;

There is no "surely" here, and that you say this indicates that it's an area you need to work on, in terms of confidence (and projecting it). If, however, an interviewer were actually to say this to your face, this is good news: it means you should not work there, because you'd be working for an unprofessional jerk, and you get to find this out before they offer you the job!
posted by rtha at 4:38 PM on January 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Not quite as on topic as a lot of answers, but I'm a lawyer who's regularly mistaken for a teenager (twice this week alone, in fact). This has never been a problem at work or while looking for a job, although I, too, am quite self-conscious about it. If you carry yourself professionally and authoritatively, you'll be treated like a professional and authority figure.
posted by mchorn at 4:46 PM on January 30, 2011

Your seriousness and your passion for the subject will be far more decisive factors than your physical appearance when it comes to succeeding at teaching. I say this as a teacher who has looked radically different, sizewise and otherwise, over my 20 years of teaching. Students have always responded to me in a very consistent way despite my looks. I think of this as encouraging information about them, and about me!

I will also add that the most inspiring teacher I ever encountered was about 4'5'' and suffered from a spinal anomaly that made him look all twisted up. In the end, looks matter far less than one would imagine.
posted by Morpeth at 4:53 PM on January 30, 2011

Size matters not.

In real life too. To go along with the anecdata, I had 3 very short women in primary and high school that I towered over. All of them kept order in the class very, very well. There were also tall, imposing guys that were unable to handle high school kids.
posted by sien at 4:55 PM on January 30, 2011

One of my English teachers in primary school was an elderly and physically frail nun. Sister Jessica scared the hell out of the worst of the boys without ever laying a finger on them. Yes, she was pretty free with the detentions, but it was more than that - she made people feel bad for acting out. Monsieur Ch-telet, though, he was well over 6 feet of pure French arrogance, and he was forever throwing chalk and thwacking desks with rulers and hauling the boys around by their ears - we knew what the limits were and we pushed on them all the time, because his outrage was kind of funny.

I don't know if you can learn the bearing, or if it's a matter of personality. But - I'm also short and round and totally harmless, but when I did direct care nursing, I bossed military veterans three times my age and they typically hopped when I said "Frog." It helps to keep in mind that everyone will be happier if they know who's in charge and they're confident in that person. Of course, that only helps if *you* are confident that you should be in charge.

If you think about it, your power and authority as a teacher derive from your knowledge and your position, not your physique. Like Yoda, you're a super-compact package of badassery.
posted by gingerest at 5:00 PM on January 30, 2011

Ha, sien, great minds....
posted by gingerest at 5:01 PM on January 30, 2011

My french teacher in high school was around your height and probably weighed 90 lbs. She was great. I ended up minoring in French in college.

She always dressed very professionally (almost like a business woman) and tended to wear heels.

She handled the 6'+ football players and the uniformed ROTC folks just fine. I was in her classes for several years (taking more than the minimum language requirement) so I saw her in all sorts of situations. I can't say exactly what she did; it just never occurred to me not to respect her. She projected an air of refinement and adulthood, though thinking on it now, she was probably only in her late twenties or very early thirties.

She never lost control of the class that I can recall. One of my math teachers, male, over six feel tall, had more discipline problems than she did. (/anecdote)
posted by ZeroDivides at 5:04 PM on January 30, 2011

I had a (college) professor once with your dimensions. Probably the only reason she doesn't get mistaken for a student is that she's 60+ years old. Despite her small size and being incredibly soft spoken, she always had total command of the room.

And I think I also read somewhere once that teaching is a popular profession for little people.

So no, you can't be too short.
posted by phunniemee at 5:04 PM on January 30, 2011

When I was a sophomore, a new teacher started at our school who was also 20, maybe 21. She looked quite young - enough that during the first week or so, she had a couple of male students ask her out, not knowing she was a teacher.

It took very little time for her to assert herself, so that we all forgot the small age difference she had on us. She was very confident in her teaching style and obviously knew her stuff. She had to be extra strict at first (according to her, more than she normally would have been), but in time she was able to loosen things up as her students demonstrated that they saw her as a teacher and not one of them. So it's definitely possible to overcome the small age gap, but it's good that you are mindful of it and not taking it for granted that your students won't notice.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:08 PM on January 30, 2011

Strongly echoing smirkette and lysimache on the correlation between dressing professionally and being taken seriously. I'm shorter than average and used to teach; I found professional/grown-up/tailored clothes and styling to be a huge help in projecting authority and confidence in the classroom (and in interviews).

I have a lot of options about tailored outfits and what heels I can wear to teach in and tasteful makeup and whatnot, but really, I wonder if this is a social anxiety issue. Please forgive me if this is way off-base, but . . .

would surely laugh or joke about my size . . . would never consider me a serious candidate . . . getting this same incredulous reaction when I stand in front of a classroom for the first time . . . inevitable laughing, teasing, and dismissal. . .

I'm just some stranger on the internet, but this sounds to me like anxiety-related catastrophizing and I wonder if it might be worth addressing in that light.

You sound like you'd be a devoted and effective teacher, someone I'd have loved to have had a HS course with.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 5:09 PM on January 30, 2011

I also look rather young, and when I first started teaching, was mistaken as a student by other teachers. I had no trouble gaining the respect of my students, though, and developed a great rapport with almost all of them. Don't let your height/appearance dissuade you from becoming a teacher! Students know when a teacher loves what they do, and they will respond positively. I'm sure you'll do great!

As a side note, the French teacher at my high school almost exactly matches your description! She was far and away one of the best teachers at the high school, and all of her students loved her!
posted by I_love_the_rain at 5:26 PM on January 30, 2011

When I first started working as a librarian in grammer school I was mistaken (and scolded) for a grade eight student several times. That stopped when I became more secure and projected "adult" better.
posted by saucysault at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2011

Kerry Litka is your height and 91 lb. She used to teach highschool and I believe she's back to doing it these days.

I think the problem is less severe than you think, but it will help to package yourself so you look older. For example, see this post on Extra Petite.

(Yes, I am also 4'10" and 26 and have had offers of kids' menus when I go to dinner with my parents.)
posted by bread-eater at 5:38 PM on January 30, 2011

I really like what Sara C. said. If someone (who has lost their minds...) says anything in an interview about your height or how young you look in the classroom, say something like you were inspired by Anne of Green Gables who started teaching at 16 and then transition into your perspectives on classroom management and what you did while student teaching that worked for you. The Anne of Green Gables part may not be true but it'll provide you with a way to transition to something not completely and totally inappropriate.

To make sure you feel confident in interviews so no one even thinks of making a stupid comment about your appearance, get to a Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers and get suits/suit separates to wear for interviews and in the classroom until no student doubts you. My standard outfit is a gray or black skirt or slacks with a BB wrinkle free button down at the beginning of EVERY school year. Also, get to a fancy-schmancy salon and find out ways to do your hair in a way a kid likely wouldn't - can you do a french twist at home? Would you like a chic bob? Anything that a kid wouldn't do (which at my school is long and straight.) I'm NOT saying to change yourself or not be yourself but interviews should always be treated as a special event. Even I, supreme queen of everything AWESOME, has an interview outfit and hairstyle that helps me feel confident.

Another option is to do lots of interviews even for locations you don't think you'd accept a job at. Practice makes perfect. Oh.. and have a portfolio from student teaching so you can keep showing evidence of your awesomeness. In this era of NCLB, principals want to see effective teachers. Show them evidence of your effectiveness and everything else will be forgotten.
posted by adorap0621 at 5:43 PM on January 30, 2011

Whoever interviewed me would surely laugh or joke about my size; he or she would never consider me a serious candidate. Furthermore, I'm afraid of getting this same incredulous reaction when I stand in front of a classroom for the first time. How would my students feel to have a teacher who is tinier than even the smallest one of them? Would they ever be able to trust and respect me, when I look and sound like a twelve-year-old? How could I put up with the inevitable laughing, teasing, and dismissal? How could I be taken seriously?

You are certainly not too short or slight to be taken seriously as a teacher. But your attitude sounds so incredibly self-defeating. It is indeed going to be difficult for you to be taken seriously if you insist on valuing the uninformed opinions and superficial reactions of others as more credible than your own experience, emotional maturity, and knowledge.

I'd advise you to stop thinking of yourself as looking like a child. If you've spent any time with twelve-year-olds, you must have noticed that there are obvious physical differences between barely-adolescent girls and women in their twenties. People are terrible at judging age even when they're not delivering a little jibe to cover their own insecurities. (Complete with that condescending little chuckle about it being such a compliment to be mistaken for younger, right?! Ugh.)

It will behoove you to be more meticulous about your professional appearance and demeanor than others your age, sure. And you can get a head start by taking some classes in public speaking and taking on leadership roles wherever possible -- practice getting comfortable projecting your authority.
posted by desuetude at 5:51 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone that your appearance shouldn't be an issue.

However, I think you should look into the job market for French teachers. My sense is that fewer and fewer high schools are offering French, and there may not be that many jobs.
posted by craichead at 6:04 PM on January 30, 2011

All high school students come pre-equipped with a full decade of intense Pavlovian conditioning that runs like a powerful current through their heads and can be tapped into if you can project the right stimuli. Your ability to tap into that flow will matter much more than your percieved age much less size.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:10 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Building on Blasdelb.. I only talked about the interview process because getting your foot in the door is the bigger deal. The kids really are programmed to respect the teacher. The only reason you wouldn't get respect in the classroom is if you were a teacher w/ poor classroom management skills - not because you were a short teacher. Good interactions with parents/guardians will help you there, too.

And I forgot.. have a quip ready for parents and co-workers. "Wow you look young!" say something like "I really should lay off the Oil of Olay at night.." or "I can't wait for my first wrinkle!" When the kids say something, say "I look this young so that I can spy on you all that much easier - you'll never notice me! "
posted by adorap0621 at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two of the most powerful human beings I've ever known were women not your size but not much larger, either. One of them, a girlfriend for a year or two, had been a seventh grade teacher at one time and I *know* that hers could not have been a class kids would mess around in -- whoa. I don't know what she's doing now but then she led workshops around the country, remarkably present. I spoke with a friend this past week, a friend who knew me when I dated Anne; he talked again how upon meeting her in the flesh he was shocked that she wasn't forty feet tall and carrying a bazooka, and a machete. The other woman an attorney turned dog-walker here in Austin, she hated law and chose a different life, regardless what way of life or job she was in, she just radiated that juice.

I on the other hand am a big galoot, real tall. But that doesn't make me who I am; I'm a terrible manager (voice of experience, Peter principle) and I'd be a terrible teacher, too, though I'm a good mentor; give me an apprentice in whatever trade or work that I know and I can give him/her everything I know. In construction work, I was a great lead guy, with up to three or four apprentices at a time, I was a pretty good foreman, leading small team of lead guys and apprentices, but I was just a terrible superintendent, foremen reporting to me. I just don't do it well, I freeze, I'm just not a natural leader, not that way.

In what you're talking about, it's not size. It just isn't. It's about being suited to a role. It's projection of leadership. (If this were a thread about guys personal ads it'd be a different story, and a shitty story, to boot, but this isn't about that, it's about you teaching, stepping into that role.) So maybe you don't have that capability -- I don't -- but if you do or you don't, I don't think it's because of your size.

I like the ideas upthread, classroom volunteering or student teaching, of somehow getting into the classroom without teaching, to see if it's for you or not, probably you'd know more after that. Also from upthread, I remember what it was like to be a hs kid, and anyone in their 20s was absolutely a grownup.

Unless you're like me, and leading/teaching just really isn't your deal, I hope you'll try it; you sound like you've a lot to offer, and that you care, too, that you want to help these kids.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:34 PM on January 30, 2011

Tell me this: Have you ever worked with kids at the high school age?

Not in the "well there was this one girl who was 15" or "my cousins are high school age", but in the "yeah, i spent 1-2 years working about 20-30 hours/week with teens".

If you have, I bet you know what kind of rapport to have with them. Experience with kids, and experience with the way kids are affected by you is way more important than your size.

You gotta know how they are gonna react to you, and you gotta know how to use that to your advantage.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:46 PM on January 30, 2011

Ah, we had a petite little old High School French Teacher, and we the students adored her.

She wasn't particularly authoritative, but she had an inspired deadpan sense of humour.
posted by ovvl at 9:04 PM on January 30, 2011

My sense is that fewer and fewer high schools are offering French, and there may not be that many jobs.

If this is true, and you're open to relocating, the state of Louisiana has an entire state agency and numerous Dept. of Ed policies virtually mandating the availability of French language education at all levels in the public school system. I don't know what the recession has done to hiring prospects in general within the state, but I know that schools basically can't economize by getting rid of their French programs.
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 PM on January 30, 2011

If you have the opportunity to do a summer study program in France, just that can be something that will add a lot to your confidence. If you're going to be teaching French, being perceived as really knowledgeable will work in your favor as will the student teaching, your education courses and the opportunities you seek out to present yourself as a leader while you are in college. Even presenting in class or volunteering to lead some project can help you develop confidence.

The reason you don't know how completely insignificant your physical size is in the way you are perceived is because you do not have experience as an adult. All your peers are asking this same kind of question about how others are going to perceive them except they have in their minds whatever flaw they imagine is going to make people reject them as not really adult or professional.
They're asking, "Am I too tall, too fat, too ugly, too shy, too country . . ."

The only way out of this is just to forget about how you imagine you look to others and focus on what you can prove to yourself that you can do and learn to do. Take these chances to stretch your powers now while you are in the relatively safe college environment. That's what college is for. Good luck. I hope you make the most legendary, elegant, effective and beloved high school French teacher your selected school has ever seen. Your students will tell stories about how awesome you were and you already know the punchline they'll always end that story with! You're the story, not the punchline, and right now you're just looking at your story backwards.
posted by Anitanola at 10:12 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yay, a potential French teacher!

My French teacher, who also taught Spanish, was your size and she's basically the woman who inspired and supported me to become the person I am today (I majored in French, became a translator, and live in France now). She loved life and had a quiet self-confidence, and love for teaching, that came through in everything she did. She loved her job, loved kids, and gave of herself freely. She never had discipline problems that I was aware of; I can't remember anyone making fun of her, and I knew her for 6 years in all (she tutored me from her home after the 4 years possible in public school).

She won Oustanding Teacher of the Year, too. If you're curious there's more about her here (sadness warning; she died a violent death, nothing to do with her work though).

Bon courage :)
posted by fraula at 1:14 AM on January 31, 2011

Thank you all for your job advice, stories, inspiration, and encouragement. I almost want to mark every single one of your comments as a best answer. You've convinced me!
posted by datarose at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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