Shiffie returned home from school and went into the kitchen for a snack. As usual, Mrs. Kanner was on the cordless. “Bina, I’m telling you the third-grade girls will calm down. Just give it time.” She motioned with her fingers for Shiffie to sit down. Shiffie pulled out a chair and helped herself to a mocha cookie and apple juice. “Patience, my dear,” her mother continued her phone call, “we’ll talk tomorrow in my office at two sharp. Bye now.

“Hi, Shiffie,” Mrs. Kanner said. “I got off the phone quickly so I’d have time to chat with you! How was school?”

“The usual 12th-grade business, you know, with midterms next week,” Shiffie answered cautiously.

“Right,” pounced Mrs. Kanner, “and what’s happening with your model lesson?” “Huh?” spluttered Shiffie as she swallowed juice down the wrong pipe.

“Shif, this is the highlight of the year! Have you given any thought to what grade you want to teach?”

“Oh, that,” her daughter returned nonchalantly. “We choose after midterms.”

“Don’t forget to consult me. As a principal, I can picture you as a ninth-grade math teacher.”

“Right, Mom. I think I’d better go study now.” Shiffie headed for her room.

At her desk, Shiffie stared at the complicated word problems. The words rolled into each other as she tried to make sense of her mother’s assessment. Ninth-grade math teacher?! Was she for real? She sharpened her pencil as her mom’s constant banter replayed in her head: You’re going to be the perfect teacher. Don’t forget to consult me before making any major decisions. You’re going to love teaching!

Mom had actually bought her a teacher’s handbag as a recent birthday present.

Shiffie’s sisters were all teachers. Her oldest sister, Suri, had been teaching preschool for years. Naomi handled ninth grade — a really tough class — and Gitty was such a renowned fifth-grade teacher that parents vied for their kids to have her. There seemed to be an unwritten rule in the Kanner household: You must be a teacher! Despite her unique protektziya, namely her mother being a famous principal, and the realization that teaching was a noble calling, Shiffie was almost positive she didn’t want to go into this field. Snippets of her sisters’ conversations with her mother floated around in her head: “Midterm week should be renamed drowning week; I’ve got tons of essays to grade. I’m fortunate if I go to sleep before two a.m.,” groaned Naomi.

“Don’t think I have it easy,” Gitty said, “I have 25 science projects to evaluate.”

Do I want to become enslaved to marking tests, giving unwanted homework, and dealing with grumbling girls? thought Shiffie glumly.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Suri’s familiar voice, and then face as her older sister peeked into the bedroom, and asked, “Can I come in?”

“Sure, Suri! You’re doing me a favor by giving me a break from Algebra II. What’s up?”

“I need to go out tonight, Shiffie,” Suri said. “My Mindy is 12 already and agrees to babysit, but when it comes to two-year-old Shaya…”

“I’ll help you out,” Shiffie answered curtly.

“Hey, what’s the matter? I’m not forcing you to help,” Suri said.

Shiffie smiled and said, “Suri, it’s my pleasure. I’m not annoyed at you, actually…” “So what’s up, kiddo?” Suri asked warmly.

“Look, between you and me, I’m a bit confused about my future. I feel choked by Mommy. Her dream is that I become the teacher of the year. Or any teacher for that matter.” Suri nodded. “I’m not sure what I want to do,” Shiffie continued, “but somehow I don’t think teaching is my forte.”

“Let me tell you something, Sis,” began Suri softly, “I totally understand you. Look at me, I’ve been an assistant in a preschool for the past 14 years. I basically wipe noses and hand out drinks. I’m grateful for my job, but sometimes I get a yearning to break free and do something that will challenge my brain. But with six kids under 12, I don’t think that’s going to happen in the near future. Shiffie, don’t get stuck in a box. Let your dreams have a chance to materialize.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 657)