It was an interaction that I had with a student that has held with me all week. I had the pleasure of capturing an all day conference for grade 8 girls about careers and the choices involved. One student shared with me how so many people ask her “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and how she has no idea what to say. I tried to talk to her about how she doesn’t need to know but we couldn’t get much further in the moments conversation. The conference highlighted several women working in various careers to show the various possibilities that are available to young girls. I ended up thinking about how it would be so hard to identify with the various career options in the world before you know who you are as a person. I thought about the word ‘career’, and heard what it meant to the group of grade 8 girls. I walked away from the day thinking about what career means to me, and it was a much bigger word than when the day first started out.
It was later in the day that I had a inspired and powerful conversation with Claire Clark a career educator from the University of Victoria. We talked about how we want to avoid having girls reverse engineer themselves and their identity to fit into a career. Instead, she said, so articulate and powerfully, “we want to have them focus on recognizing who they are, and their core values, and how they can engage and align with those values in their everyday lives.” This brief conversation left me both stunned and excited. I want students to believe in themselves and know themselves long before they chose their careers. Yet at the same time, schools sit students in front of desks and tests that essentially open or close doors for them in life, all while our students are trying to figure themselves out. It is no wonder we have such high anxiety rates in schools where pressures are palatable and students hit depression when their identify is wrapped in text scores.
So as I think about our classrooms, I am thinking about not just the tools accessible, but also the end in mind. Is the end in mind a career? Hopefully the focus of today’s classroom, and all our learning, is on the process of self-discovery, and not merely a career. So what do I want to be when I grow up? Well, I am want to be empathic, wise, generous, faithful, and kind. I want to listen and help and encourage people.
There is more to this, but I will leave it here for now. Feel free to contribute to my thinking in the comments.