24 July 2010

The Long and Winding Road

More and more these days, I find myself looking at adults and thinking about what they were like as high school kids. That "oral processor" in the meeting? I would definitely have seated her teenage self somewhere that others who needed quiet space for concentration would have minimal contact---as well as given her opportunities to spew. The leader who can't seem to keep his foot out of his mouth? I would have probably encouraged him to be an exchange student, peace corps volunteer, or have another experience that would put him into other shoes and help him gain perspective. I have written about this before, but I find my mind wandering that direction frequently these days. Perhaps it represents my thinking about my days in the classroom and whether or not my career will take me back there.

I can also think of experiences I've had watching young students (5 and 6 years old) and thinking about their future school selves. Which ones seemed likely to try out for a certain sport or cheerleading? Which were already showing a propensity toward music or figure drawing or math? At that age, we think we can be anything while learning about everything. Oddly enough, I don't remember looking at any of these children and envisioning their lives beyond adolescence. I might have asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up, but that was as far as any sort of career counseling on my part went.

Every once in awhile, a conversation will pop up as to whether or not being a teacher is a "calling." Personally, I don't believe it is. Education is not a religion. We don't talk about people being "called" to drive a garbage truck, cut grass, or write computer code. All of us learn to shape and improve our abilities. Where our careers take us is the intersection of many conditions: level of education, personal interests, family needs, talent, and opportunity. What I've seen in youngsters and oldsters as I imagine then at different points in their lives is also a product of these things. It's not destiny---just patterns that I am becoming more familiar with as I age. More and more, I'm viewing teaching as a journey, not a destination.

Update: About a week after I posted this, there was an article about how personality sets up by first grade and that report card comments are good predictors of adult characteristics. Maybe I wasn't so far off with this post.


doyle said...

I left medicine, as you know--and yes, any profession is best seen as a journey, not a destination.

Still, I hear a hint of wistfulness in your words--how much do you miss the classroom?

The Science Goddess said...

Depends. When my job is particularly fraught with meetings and diplomacy, I miss being in the classroom a lot. In particular, I miss the kids in all of their fun and frustrating glory.

But I also have to acknowledge that my current job affords me opportunities I would not have in the classroom. A lot of those are more personal (e.g. getting to work from home two days a week), but it has been good to stretch.

When I am ready to look for greener grass again, I am sure to head back to the classroom.

Marjan Glavac said...

I was once told to think about what your father was like at a certain age. When I went back and found out what my father was like when he was younger, it put a lot of things into a better perspective.