My daughter, who is 11, has a pretty standard response prepared for people who ask her what she wants to be when she grows up.
“A teacher – or maybe an engineer,” she says.
I smile inside. I smile because I think she says, “teacher” for my sake – which means that she: a.) sees how much I love my job and b.) doesn’t think it’s a bad aspiration.
If I really thought she would like to be a teacher some day, I would not discourage her. Many of my colleagues disagree. They have told me that they would never allow their own children to become teachers. I understand their frustration and disillusionment. It’s not an easy career by a long shot (but, really, what career is easy?) – and it can be taxing both financially and emotionally.
My own teachers in high school registered disappointment, one by one, when I told them I had decided to pursue a career in education. Despite the fact they had inspired me, some of them obviously felt themselves to be personal failures for not convincing me to go to medical or law school – or to become a college professor at the very least.
I was undaunted by their discouragement, and I’m sure my own daughter would be, as well.
No, my daughter will not be a teacher. Not because I will prevent her – but because I suspect she doesn’t really want to be a teacher. Unlike me, she never spent hours teaching her dolls and stuffed animals when she was in pre-school. Her patience with children younger than her has never been exceedingly long. And, she never goes out of her way to explain difficult concepts to others; in fact, she rolled her eyes when I asked her to explain how to play Flappy Bird.
She will not be a teacher because that is not her passion. She may not see that yet, but that’s okay.
Could teaching become her passion one day? Possibly. If it does, I will whole-heartedly support her. But I will also support her if she decides to become an artist, a rock star, an astronaut, or a stay-at-home mom. If she is willing to put in the work and sacrifice to follow her dreams, who am I to stop her?
In my post on The Science of Character, I included this quote, “Instead of asking students what they want to be, we should be asking them who they want to be.”
I asked my daughter to look at the Periodic Table of Strengths on the site, and her goals for the future her are: creativity, enthusiasm, kindness, fairness, appreciation of beauty, and optimism.
If she becomes that person – and, truly, I feel she is already well on her way – then I will feel that we have both been successful.