There's a lot to be said for being 2 years old again and being able to dress up, putting on an entirely new persona and becoming someone new for a little while. This morning as my granddaughter donned the princess gown and high heels, teetering around the house slipping and trying to balance, complaining about how scratchy the gown was, I couldn't help but smile obviously, but I was also a bit envious. When 50 is knocking loudly on the door, the reality is you've now decided what you want to be when you grow up. Sometimes, I jokingly say, "When I grow up, I want to be a landscape architect" or "When I grow up, I want to be a geologist" bemoaning the loss of the options. In reality, I love being a teacher and even given the chance to start over, I would likely choose the same path.
For many of our students though, they can't see past today to envision their own possibilities. Talking with colleagues yesterday, we talked about the career paths of our own children, the choices they've made, the choices we think are right for them, and the downfalls of our high school's preparation of students for making those choices. Cuts in education have led to few vocational programs being offered. A one-size-fits-all curriculum prepares, or tries to prepare, all students for college. In reality, many kids aren't college bound, for a variety of reasons. But does school really show them other options, explain to them the possibilities, help them explore the many other worthwhile opportunities out there?
The two colleagues I was talking to have 6 children between them. I have 2 of my own. One of mine went to college, undergrad and grad school, right out of high school, and has a lucrative career in the avionics communications field. My younger tried college for several years but it wasn't for her. After a variety of jobs, she has gone back for a certificate in phlebotomy, a much shorter, cheaper option than a 4 year degree, but one with a reasonable salary and benefits. Of the other 6 children belonging to the my colleagues, only 3 are out of high school, with 2 in college, and the other recently joining the Air Force. One of the others will be a senior in the fall, with no clear after-high school goals in mind yet. While he is a great kid, a bright kid, a very likable kid, he probably isn't college bound. Does that mean he is 'less'? No, it just means we need to help him find HIS path whether it is some type of vocational training that will lead him to meaningful, gainful employment, or some other option. His younger sister, a sophomore, has already set her sights on the medical field. We need to help her focus her dreams and prepare her for those. Little brother is still in elementary, but I can already see him working in the Department of Natural Resources, either as a conservation officer or fisheries/wildlife biologist.
The point is... all kids are different, with different educational needs, different paths they will choose in the future. We just need to make sure we, as educators, are not only preparing them for these paths, but telling them their many varied options instead of assuming they will all go to college, and teach them accordingly. For all we know, someday, that young lady WILL become a princess... or a geologist.... or a landscape architect... or maybe 'just' a grandma :)