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Yesterday, in my daughter’s kindergarten graduation, each student had to say what they wanted to be when they grow up. My daughter chose a teacher. Initially, I thought, “No, not this job. Choose something easier. Choose something that pays more. Choose something where the system isn’t so broken.”
However, minutes later, I started rethinking this. My daughter chose this because of the profound influence her kindergarten teacher has had on her life. If she chooses to walk in the footsteps of her hero, maybe that’s a good thing.
I get it. My daughter is only 6. I have no idea what she will be when she grows up. She might choose to be an engineer or a doctor or an accountant or a teacher.
But if she chooses teaching as a profession …
It will break her heart. She will weep over stories of kids that she has grown to love. But those moments will make her more compassionate and empathetic.
She will run up against broken systems and broken people in a broken world.
She will be stretched psychologically. She might yell at her students. But when she does, she will learn humility. She will learn what it means to be broken in a good way and then to grow as a person and as a teacher.
She will be pushed mentally. Right now, as I plan for my graduate class tonight, I am struck by the sheer cognitive demand of learning the craft of teaching. It’s not easy. It is intellectually challenging; requiring a solid grasp of theory and a deep level of connective systems thinking. Yet this intellectual challenge will make her a deeper thinker.
She won’t get paid enough. But if that’s true, I will encourage her to advocate for better education funding and for policy changes. I will help her think through how she can be an artist and entrepreneur outside of the classroom. I will teach her some of things I never knew when I was younger — like how to make money with passive income or how to invest wisely or how to make money doing things you love.
She will run up against broken systems and broken people in a broken world. And when that’s the case, I will watch her find creative solutions and fight for the type of learning that her students deserve. I will see her tap into the ingenuity that she has at age 6 and that I hope she always retains.
I have no idea if my daughter will become a teacher. However, if she does, she will impact the lives of her students and they will change her world forever.
John Spencer is a professor, author, and maker. He believes that every classroom should be filled with creativity and wonder.