During our jump start program I have a middle school volunteer helping out in the classroom. She’s been a great help and seems to enjoy working with the children so I asked her if she wanted to be a teacher. She looked up at me, bit her lip, and very politely said, “Well, you know, my parents don’t want that. Like everybody else’s parents they want me to be a doctor.”
And there we were. Me, the teacher, and her the middle schooler with the bright medical future. For a moment I felt like a second class citizen. The one who’d made it through college and had come out as a teacher. I suddenly felt the desire to explain to her that I didn’t have to be a teacher- it wasn’t a career I settled into- it was something I chose because I thought it was important. I didn’t, but I’ve played the imaginary conversation in my head the rest of the day, imagining me saying brilliant and inspiring things about choosing to be a teacher, and how important it is to choose what you love to do and to do it well. And part of me wanted to drop in my SAT scores, my college grades, the fact that I strongly considered law school, or the fact that I started working on my doctorate. But I let it go. She is in middle school after all.
She went on to talk about how her parents are pushing her to study for the test coming up in December that could gain her admittance into one of the better high schools in our district. She talked about all her extracurricular activities and how hard she works in school. As I listened to her talk I realized I was that kid- in middle school. I was already thinking about college, doing volunteer work, making grades important. So she has time to find her grove and go after what she loves. I just hope that by the time she’s in college choosing to be a teacher will be a highly respectable and admirable job that will make her parents proud. Can we change that in ten years?