Today I have 9th graders coming into the library to do career research.
Their youthful optimism is a joy to behold. They still believe that they can do anything they want to do. No job is out of reach so long as they work hard enough and hold on to their dreams.
No one has told them yet that that is mostly a bunch of crap. Really, it's not our place as educators; these kids have to find this out for themselves. Just as many, many American Idol hopefuls don't realize that they will never be the next Whitney Houston (or even the next William Hung) until Simon Cowell tells them, "That was absolutely dreadful," so must these kids learn on their own that they can't be a pediatrician if they can't pass biology on the first try. At least, not one that I would want as Ainsley's pediatrician. At the freshman level, there are still a lot of kids who want to be singers, or actors, or professional athletes; when seniors come in I still see a few of those (and the ones I see are usually justified), but mostly the kids have gotten a big enough dose of reality that their career choices are more in line with where their true skills and talents lie.
That's why I like career research more with the freshmen than with the seniors; kids that still have dreams are so cute.
It always gets me thinking about what I wanted to be when I was their age. In ninth grade, I wanted to be a lawyer. This was mostly because I watched L.A. Law, but also because I was under the illusion that the only appropriate career choices available to people who were labelled "smart" were doctor or lawyer. Doctor was out because bodily fluids make me gag, so that left lawyer. When my high school had a career day and I got to meet an actual real-life defense attorney, and his answer to the question "What was the most exciting case you ever had?" was, "Well...I got to go to Hawaii for a case once," I changed my mind. I wanted to be the female Atticus Finch, fighting for justice; I was very sad to learn that is not the life of your average Kentucky lawyer.
There was a brief time after that that I wanted to be a botanist simply because I liked caring for the plants in my high school's greenhouse during biology class. When I learned that to do that job I would have to get a Ph.D. and actually study plants, not just water them, I switched gears. To meteorologist.
For over a year, that was my dream. I was informed enough to know that being a meteorologist was not the same as being a weather girl on TV, so I have to give myself some credit there. In fact, I didn't want to be on TV. I saw myself working at the airport for the National Weather Service, drinking coffee and tracking Doppler radar and wind speed. I was so certain that I wanted to me a meterologist that this is what I put down as my area of interest when I took the PSAT, and was alarmed when the only schools that sent me information were from states in the midwest, further away from home than I really wanted to go. It came down to living my dream or facing homesickness. I am sad to say I let my fear of being more than a couple of hours away from home win. I'm still fascinated by weather and think I might have made a good weather scientist (so long as I only had to be mildly proficient and not brilliant in physics and higher math). It's the road not taken, and in moments when I really hate my job, I wonder if it would have made all the difference.
But I was probably born to be a teacher and librarian. Sad, maybe. But true.
That's not to say I don't still have dreams. Some days I think of turning the handful of decent blog posts I have written into a book that will be published and read by (and here's where I'm dreaming big) hundreds of people or at the very least get the attention of some newspaper that would hire me to write a weekly column along the lines of Celia Rivenbark or my idol, Dave Barry.
Though I'd probably have to be a lot funnier for that to happen.
Other days I think of the screenplay idea I've had in my head for a couple of years now, kinda like Office Space but about the ridiculousness of working in education instead of the ridiculousness of working in a cubicle farm. I have some truly hilarious (to me, anyway) scenes in my head and can even see the low-key cast I would want. I dream of my little movie becoming a sleeper hit that survives as a cult classic among anyone who ever tried to be a good teacher.
But I would probably have to know something about writing a screenplay, and then selling said screenplay, for that to happen.
I even had a dream this winter about working for the current presidential administration. For a while there, people were talking about the application up on the White House website where one could apply for the myriad of positions both big and small available in the Obama administration and suggest other jobs that would benefit the President's agenda. A friend of mine, who is known in these parts for her work in organic farming and re-introducing species of heirloom vegetables, applied to be the White House gardener and offered to plant a kitchen garden well before Michelle Obama broke ground for that herself in spring. I thought of applying to be the President's official White House librarian, organizing the first family's personal collection of books, DVDs, and CDs, doing story times for Sasha and Malia, and filing whatever top secret tomes might be lying around. (A binder that contains the truth of what happened at Roswell? Don't mind if I do!)
And yet I would have to pass a thorough vetting process, be seen as necessary, be really good at what I currently do, and pack up the family to move to D.C. for that to happen.
I guess I'll just keep my day job.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Be like the ninth graders, not the seniors. Dream big. Climb every mountain! Even the ones you don't have the snow shoes for.