Is My Face to Blame for my Changing Job Description?

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Part of my job is to teach acting classes.  I primary teach teenagers, occasionally teach kids, but almost never teach anyone over the age of 18.

We offer the classes three times a year, but of the 10 sessions that have been offered since I started working at the theatre, I’ve only taught one class – not one session, but ONE CLASS.  Only 4 people had signed up, and despite my hesitation to teach a small class, the bosses made me go ahead with it.  Only 2 people showed up for the first class; I did my best to adapt the lesson to partner exercises, and they seemed to have a good time, but they never returned.   For the rest of that session, I still had to plan the classes, come in alone on Sunday afternoons, and sit here for half hour or so to see if anyone showed.  They didn’t.  (They also didn’t answer or return my phone calls.)  Ugh…

The bosses always ask me WHY this class isn’t catching. Is it the timing of the class? The cost? Lack of advertising?  But I know the real reason – adults that are interested in theatre want to be part of the production (acting, designing, backstage) and not play “silly games” in a classroom.  It happens time and time again: someone comes in or calls looking for more information, asks if we do any sort of performance, I say no and never hear from them again.  I keep telling this to the bosses, but nothing changes and the cycle continues.

At least that’s what I had assumed was the reasons until earlier this week.   But what if it’s me????

A guy in his early 20’s came in, asking about the class.  In the middle of my regular spiel, he made a face at me and asked “YOU teach the class? What are your credentials?” Umm… an-honours-bachelor-of-arts-in-dramatic-arts, a-certificate-and-a-post-grad-diploma-in-arts-management, four-years-of-teaching-workshops-while-in-school, and-three-plus-years-working-here.   He didn’t look impressed.

Then it occurred to me: PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO BE TAUGHT BY PEOPLE THAT ARE YOUNGER THAN THEM.

A supervisor I had at one of my internships was younger than me.   I’ll admit, it bugged the shit out of me – at first (but it didn’t take long to see why she had landed the job).  I know it was an ego/jealousy thing, but I assumed that I knew more than her, and that she couldn’t teach me anything, so I almost didn’t take the internship.  She ended up being an integral part in getting me to where I am today.

Even though I’m 6 months away from the big 3-0, I look young, and still get ID’d all the time. People don’t always take me seriously or underestimate me because of this.  I try to dress professionally, but the dress code in the office is pretty casual and I’m usually bundled up under a sweater and a scarf (and occasionally, my coat). Pair that with the occasional break-out, and I instantly look 10 years younger! (Can I somehow bottle this and make millions of dollars?!?)  I’m pretty sure his judgey face didn’t help me sell myself either.

I much prefer to teach kids and teenagers, and get a lot of great feedback from them and their parents.  Maybe this carries over (to my disadvantage) when I am teaching adults?  Like they can sense that isn’t really what I want to be doing?

Whatever the reason, the declining enrollment in all the classes we offer is starting to worry me.  Not so much in a job security way (although there is that), but more so that I’m going to continue to be assigned tasks at work that don’t interest me, don’t help advance my career goals, and/or have nothing to do with what I was hired for.  But that’s a whole other (forthcoming) post…

Have your abilities ever been questioned based on your age and/or appearance?
Or have you ever had a boss or teacher that is younger then you?  What was that like?

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Amanda is the owner and creator of My Life, I Guess... a personal finance and lifestyle blog that started back in 2013. She strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes and making the most of it.

 

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5 thoughts on “Is My Face to Blame for my Changing Job Description?

  1. Liquid

    I know that feel :D I taught art and design when I was 22 in a college where most students were older than I was. But what I learned was that people pay money to learn stuff, and if I can teach them what they want to know then they will respect me. It’s sad, but some ignorant people still discriminate against age. One way to possibly get more people interested in the acting sessions is to create a promotional/advertising campaign geared towards adult’s in particular, and make maximum use of social media. On the bright side, getting ID’d because of your young looks is a problem many people your age would love to have (^_-)

    Reply

  2. Lauren Bee (@Lbeemoneytree)

    I don’t think it is your face, I think it all the reasons you outlined above.

    Reply

  3. Leigh

    I’ve definitely had this problem too, but as I’ve become more senior in my roles at work, no one assumes this was my first job out of college. Since I’ve changed jobs, no one knows how old I am and it’s fun because I actually have people assume I’m in my late twenties with my work experience! (I find that especially amusing since I get ID’d all the time, though not this weekend, and outside of work, people tend to assume I’m 16, not 24.)

    I’m usually the youngest one, so it’s been the opposite side of the spectrum for me. It sucks being younger than everyone else AND looking young.

    Reply

  4. eemusings

    I’ve supervised interns/peers my age or older on some occasions (some even those who’d studied alongside me) and I think the dynamic really depends on the people involved. The only really weird time for me was a crunch time at work when asking the person to help out on something, and it turned out she really was not a can-do type at all. Awkward for me, not sure about her.

    Reply

  5. Nicole

    I know this feeling all too well. I’m in my late 20s and have an Honours Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education and additional teaching qualifications certificates. My grades of choice are 9-12. I should add that I’m 5′ tall and also look ten years younger than my actual age. I was nervous about being mistaken for a student while teaching (which I was numerous times) and that other teachers/students/parents wouldn’t take me seriously.

    I think the biggest thing I learned is that you have to get their respect. Of course every teacher wants to be liked (I think as humans we all crave to be liked in some way), but I realized that I needed my students to respect me. That way, when I gave instructions or had to talk to a student about behaviour, they took me seriously based on my work and not what I look like. Same goes for teachers and parents who were older than me.

    Being underestimated is difficult because it feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle – but it makes me more determined to prove that I’m the right person for the job. I also think that my own experiences allow me to look past a person’s age or looks and focus on their talents and skills instead (and it sounds like it has for you as well).

    Great post, Amanda :)

    Reply

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