I have lots of privilege – white, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender, US citizen, English speaker and teacher. The teacher privilege isn’t usually such a big deal, but it has been a clear add-on in my experience. Being a teacher doesn’t necessarily result in increased access to power and wealth (probably the opposite in some ways), but most people are willing to trust a teacher. They assume you have good intentions and the patience of a saint. They know you have chosen a career you do for love. All of the forms of privilege work in conjunction with each other, but the teacher signifier often earns an extra smile.
This week, teacher cred led to a free Sambal Oelek. Last Saturday, I went in to the local Cambodian market I often go to for Asian food staples. I got to the counter and said hi to the cashier I know. He asked, “How is school going?” I replied, “It’s going well, but a lot of families are under stress.” He said, “I know what you mean. These days, you don’t even have to say it, and people know what you’re talking about.” As he finished running my credit card, I remembered I needed some Sambal Oelek (chili paste). I said I would run to get it and pay cash. When I got back, I opened my wallet and realized I didn’t have any cash. Doh! I was going to just put it back, but he stuffed it in the bag and said, “You can have it, on us. Teachers deserve way more than an extra Sambal Oelek.” I mumbled thanks, and said I would pay it back the next time. I tried to pay for it today, when I went back for some groceries, but he insisted that it was a gift.
I don’t expect gifts and am humbled by the appreciation. May the extra love help me deliver on the expectations!