1. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always, for as long as I’ve been aware of the concept of a career, wanted to be a teacher. I tossed around the idea of being a nurse for a while, but then changed my mind; I have the compassion for it, but I’m not sure I could survive all the puke.
2. Did you ever pursue that career?
I am a teacher. I never bothered to pursue the nursing gig once I figured out all the science involved.
3. If you are not in that field, what changed?
I AM in my field, and I love it.
4. What is your current job?
I am an English teacher in a small (80 student) charter high school, and I’m an adjunct professor at a four-year university during the September term.
5. What’s the best part of what you do?
The interactions I have with my students. Every single semester, I really connect with at least one or two kids for every one I can’t reach. As long as I get to keep that ratio going, I’m going to consider my work a success. I love watching them make connections, understand something they didn’t see before, and start to trust that they’ve got the chops for the work I ask them to do. What’s really gratifying is to have a kid who didn’t like me when I was her teacher come back to me later to tell me that she thinks differently of her experiences now that she’s had some perspective. That doesn’t happen often, but it makes all the frustration worth it when it does.
I also love that I get to be a student for my whole career. My association with peers and colleagues and instructors allows me to keep learning. I joke that I’d be a professional student if I could be. If I stop to think about it, though, I guess I kind of AM a professional student. I get to go to workshops, read books, and engage in conversations and investigations as a part of my professional life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
6. Do you have plans to do something else down the road?
I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. In fact, Organic Mama asked me, this weekend, what I would be doing if I weren’t doing what I’m doing, and I didn’t have a ready answer. I love my professional life, and I plan to stay active in it for as long as I love it.
7. How did you get your present job? If you are a stay at home mom, how long did you need to plan that move?
I got the charter school job because my daughter is friends with the director’s daughter. One afternoon, I brought Punkin’ to this new friends’ house and met with her mother (I call her Carrie here). We exchanged idle chit-chat pleasantries in the kitchen when I mentioned that I’m an English teacher. Friend’s Mom lit up like a beacon, but nothing ever came of it. About six months ago, I literally bumped into Carrie coming out of a middle-school band presentation that both our girls were participating in. She fixed me with a very serious gaze and told me that I NEEDED to send her my resume, like, TONIGHT. I did, I interviewed a couple of weeks later, and I got the job a few weeks after that. It’s part time right now, but the promise has been made that it’ll be full time next September. I can’t wait.
I got the college gig a year or so ago. The director of the Freshman Writing program is the man who acted as my academic advisor while I was a graduate student and I adore him. It seems that he holds me in pretty high esteem, as well. Basically, I wrote the man an email and told him I was interested in picking up a couple of first-year writing classes. Given that the University is experiencing some pretty serious financial issues and there have been edicts handed down from on high that costs are to be cut in all departments, I didn’t expect to hear anything back. About a month later, he called me and offered me a job. I’ve been teaching freshman writing every September since.
8. Did your parents influence your choices of jobs over the years?
My parents were best for their negative examples, really. I knew I wanted more out of my life than what they settled for (and then continually complained about). Mr. Chili has perhaps been most influential about my job choices; he’s encouraged me to seek the work I WANT by providing that I don’t HAVE to work outside the home. That he’s able to provide for our family with his job means that I don’t feel pressured to stay in a situation that doesn’t suit me. That I’m happy at work means that I’m able to carry over a lot of that happy to home, too; it’s win-win.
9. What advice would you give your children on careers?
Find something that you love. I know that there’s a quote out there somewhere that says something like “if you figure out what you love to do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” and I believe that. Don’t let other people tell you what you’re good at – or, worse, tell you what you “can’t” do; find out for yourself. Remember that money is important, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in choosing a career. The most important part of your professional life should be that it feeds your whole self; do something that is in line with your values and priorities. The rest will fall into place.