Mrs. Sammons peered over my desk earnestly, clearly interested in how my “career day” poster was coming along. I looked back to her, waiting for some kind of affirmation that my fourth grade aspirations were not without purpose. In the section where it asked, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?” I had written in red ink “A good person.” Now, with the teacher peering over my shoulder the part of me that felt so sure and so big inside began to dwindle. I remember thinking how stupid it must sound. I began to wonder if my teacher would make me start the flyer over but in true Mrs. Sammons fashion she did not leave me feeling small. “Anna, this is one of the best answers I have seen today. Be sure to include what kind of things you will need to do in the corner section so that I know what it will take for you to become a good person.” With that she was gone and I was left feeling sure, this is what I wanted to be when I grew up, a good person.
Fast-forward 15 years and here I am. By most standards I am considered a well-educated individual with a wide scope of potential careers. It is interesting though, after 5 years of college, a degree in education, endorsements, and a minor in philosophy I was never explicitly focused on “academic excellence.” Ask anyone who went to college with me, I was always chatting away with someone. Be it friends, professors, administrators, strangers, I was/am a communicator! Along the way I managed to maintain strong grades and professional rapport, but really, I just enjoyed being in community with others. Currently I am not using any of my degrees, and to be honest I’m tired of explaining to others the “Why” behind my choice.
Well don’t you want to be a teacher? You would be an amazing teacher!
Are you thinking about going back to school then?
Would you ever be interested in doing the kind of work your mother does?
I know a really great principle in Montana that could use your skill set.
What is it you are hoping to do next?
Obviously I need to have an income. I realize that the world does not simply pay people to be good. Nor am I implying that you can’t be both a great person who lives in community with others AND an astounding professional. What I am insisting is that in general I (and I’m sure many of you) experience that instant underlying tone in conversation that links your worth as a person with your career or lack thereof. Single mothers get the same foreshadowing of shame all the time. Oh, so, you’re just at home with your son for now? No. The stay at home mom or dad is raising a child. They are building a little humans spirit from the ground up. They are laying down a foundation for which their child can stand. They are instilling morals, empathy, balance, and being present for the needs of their child. For the record, it’s also okay for no one to stay home, but why do these tones enter the conversation either way?
Again, it is because the world links our worth to our work, and it is a lie.
Let me tell you what it is I do want. I want to be like Mrs. Sammons one day. I want to work with children in the most open and efficient way possible be it through means of teaching or another career. I’ve considered pursuing a Masters degree in Counseling and related fields. I believe that one day I want to teach in juvenile prisons. I yearn for the moments I’ll spend with kids addressing the whole person and not the percentages plastered in red on exams. The simple yet profound truth that is often said “You can’t ask a fish to climb a tree” resounds with me on every level. Do I want to teach? Maybe. I’m not sure yet. Do I want to work with children and youth? Absolutely. But, I want to be like Mrs. Sammons. I want to be the adult that can look at a child and foster their intelligence. I want every kid I work with to know that their perception of who they are and what they are capable of is far beyond what I can do for them. Building children is the necessity, testing them is just a hoop we’ve created along the way. Whoever you are and whatever it is you do, be the Mrs. Sammons of your career.