How I Got Here

The Container Store in Schaumburg, Illinois

Organization is not my strong suit!

“You can be anything you want to be!  If you work hard, anything is possible!”

It’s an exciting, encouraging message for kids – a world where the possibilities are endless and dreams are attainable.  But as those kids get older, shouldn’t we help them narrow the field down a bit from “anything”?   Because no matter how badly I might want it, I will never be a rocket scientist, WNBA star, or organizational consultant at The Container Store.  Not gonna happen.  Ever.  I’m not naturally good at math or science, I’m 5′ 2″ with no aim, and organization is one of those things that I’m constantly… ahem… working on.  Clearly, these professions are not the right match for me, even if I really wanted one of them.

Obviously, those are some extreme examples, but bringing it a little closer to reality, I think I accidentally stumbled onto a fulfilling profession, instead of deliberately choosing it based on my interests.  You see, I was a nerd.  I read early and often.  As a homeschooler, I would look at my reading assignments and truthfully proclaim that I’d already read all those stories.  My parents have a picture of me in 7th or 8th grade reading Shakespeare at a Texas Rangers baseball game. Whenever I could, I built my high school class schedule around my English courses, and one Barnes & Noble salesman saw me in the store so often he started giving me his employee discount on my purchases.  So naturally, when I thought about my future career, I assumed it would be literary in nature. 

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Finding Purpose in College Prep

English: A Harkness table being used at the Co...

Ok, here’s today’s question:  Could we be doing more to help young people answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I can tell a “college prep” high school education means helping teens get into college and giving them the academic skills necessary to survive college-level classes.  And I’m not disputing the importance of those things.  College prep programs do a lot of good and I don’t want to take away from that.

I do, however, want to ask “why?”

People tend to raise eyebrows at me when I ask that, because they assume I’m asking as a challenge, but it really is just a serious inquiry.  Why is there such a strong push to get teens into college?  The standard answers I usually hear are “people need college to get a good job.” “College provides life experience.”  “Students need to be educated to get ahead.”  Or the all-too-generic “Because college is important.”

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The Beginning of a Journey (Literal and Figurative)

Teens sharing earphones, listening music outdo...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Why do you like teenagers?

I was in my final weeks of college.  I and my fellow senior Secondary Ed. majors had been pulled out of our student teaching duties for a day of conferences about the practical side of teaching.  After four and a half years of education classes, this gray-haired principal sitting across the table from us boiled it all down to one, simple question.

“Why do you like teenagers?”

“Because you have to like teenagers in order to teach teenagers,” he continued, “So tell me why.”  He went around the table, asking each one of us for an answer.  I already knew mine, but as I sat there listening to my classmates give their answers, I was struck by how different, and yet how accurate each response was. Continue reading