Last week I went to lunch with Josh, one of my former high school students. There he is grinning on the left. He is just about ready to graduate from college and has begun the job search. He joked about his major: English and American Studies. He also has a minor in film. He has begun to circulate his resume, but so far has received no invitations for an interview.
I asked Josh about his dream job.
Right now I’d like to do something with my writing. I would especially love to write about films or music. But who will ever believe that I could do that? How do you impress anyone and get them to take a chance on you, when you are fresh out of college?
I’m fortunate. I positively know Josh can do all of these things. I began reading Josh’s writing when he was only seventeen. It was clear even when he was in high school that he had a major talent for writing. He was always interested in plays, characters, settings, and how to impact those scenes with just the right music and dialogue. He is a director (or novelist) in his soul. I’ve also watched him act in productions and lead a group of a thousand teens as a Master of Ceremonies on the stage at a national conference. It is so gratifying as a teacher to sit with a young person and absolutely know in your gut that he will be a success. I am probably even more excited than he is to watch this all unfold.
This weekend I also attended the college graduation party of another former high school student, Nicki. She is now a respiratory therapist. She has her job already lined up. Remember I taught these students in a Teacher Academy program. I spent two years with them teaching them everything I knew about the teaching profession. And yet some of my former students have steered into completely different paths; lawyer, forensic accounting, an engineer who wants to design prosthetics, signer for deaf children and adults and a great variety of other careers. While the vast majority of the students I taught have gone into the teaching profession, many have chosen completely different paths.
Does that make me feel like a failure? Not at all. Why? Because fortunately I didn’t just teach my students about teaching.
- I taught them about pushing outside their comfort zone and refusing to give up on a dream (any dream) because of fear.
- We talked about facing failures and how to not allow those failures to defeat you but how to turn them into a success.
- They practiced how to give an effective speech.
- In my classroom they learned that most people in American today don’t just change jobs, they change careers several times in their lives.
- They learned to listen for negative self talk and replace it with positive messages to themselves.
- How to use the power of persistence to accomplish anything you want to achieve.
- We practiced writing a resume and being interviewed.
- As a group we learned how to survive when someone you love turns their back on you. (Believe me that is an important skill needed in a classroom full of teens. If you don’t think so, look at teen suicide rates).
- They learned how to create a persuasion presentation.
- We talked about the importance of living their lives with balance and how to notice when your own life is out of balance.
- They learned how to express themselves through the written word. Boy did they learn that!
- There was hardly a day in my classroom when I didn’t orally read a small piece about how someone who is now successful overcame obstacles in their lives.
In short, we talked about every aspect of life…even when they thought they didn’t need it or want to discuss it.
You know what scares me? Given our country’s current preoccupation with test scores, scripted education and the push to cover pages 74- 79 today, how many teachers will never get around to the important stuff? If I had chosen to teach only about teaching, I would have probably realized something like a 20% failure rate. But instead I feel like every time a kid I’ve taught finds their passion and has the courage to pursue it, I can count that as a “win.”
Most of my former students will be amazing teachers. The rest of them will be equally incredible at whatever they choose to pursue. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of all their lives.
Josh, who isn’t becoming a teacher, has already promised to mention me in his acceptance speech for the first big award that comes his way. I know this is going to happen. If you know anyone who is hiring a writer or is working on a film, I suggest you hire Josh immediately. That way you can also look back and say as I will, “I just knew from the very beginning, he was going to be a success.”
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TEACH…To Change Lives
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