Svetlana StroganovaI think I speak for a lot of teachers when I say that I chose this career because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.  I love seeing children’s faces light up when they start to understand a concept, but even more, I love seeing past students and learning that my teaching had an impact on their lives.

I believe that everyone should be encouraged to pursue those passions, and with kids, that starts with identifying those passions and then being told that they have the ability to reach the stars. Here are some things I’ve learned about encouraging students to pursue their dreams.

Identifying Passions

There are a lot of ways to help find what people are passionate about, and one of the most simple ways is to ask. Here are some questions that I ask during group share time to get kids thinking about the future.

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • If you could do one thing every day, what would it be?
  • What activity makes you happiest?
  • What kind of job do you want to have when you’re older?

I think it’s important to not ask leading questions, as it could make kids think that they can only make a living in a very narrow set of ways. Sometimes, when the answers have nothing to do with actual jobs, I ask follow-up questions like “why?” and “how?” This helps get their brains flowing and really thinking in depth about the topic.

Show Them Their Options

I try to bring in classroom visitors as often as possible. Once I know what some students think they want to do, I’ll try to find guests in those careers, as well as people in jobs the kids may have not even considered. This can range from firemen and police officers, to local business owners, artists, authors, restaurant workers, even janitors and kitchen staff from the school. I think it’s important to show a wide range of careers, to demonstrate that there are a lot of different ways to make a living and be happy.

I also make sure the guests talk about how they ended up where they are. Some kids have been told that they have to go to college, or that they’ll never be able to go to college, or other things based on their family history and not the child’s individual desires. So I bring in guests from all backgrounds, some who went to college, some who went to trade school, and others who have no higher education. I bring in people who have changed careers several times, and people who have wanted to do what they’re doing since first grade. I try my best to show that the only limits are the ones that we place on ourselves.

My goal when I focus on careers in the classroom is to inspire children to identify and follow their dreams. I don’t want any child to leave my classroom thinking, “Well I’d really like to be an explorer, but that’s not possible,” or, “I’m not smart enough to be a scientist.” Whether they end up going to technical school for welding or starting their own internet marketing company, I’m always happiest when I hear my former students are doing something they love, either as their main career or in their hobbies.

By: Katherine Gredley

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