I was very fortunate to participate in some fabulous training today by the Stanley H. King Institute. As part of the training, Sam Osherson (firstname.lastname@example.org) told a story which I’ll paraphrase the gist of:
Growing up in Westchester County, I went to New York City a lot. And as I would walk down Park Avenue, I would think: I want to work in one of those office buildings. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in there, in fact, I had no idea what I might do, just that I wanted to work in a New York City office building. People would ask me “what do you want to be when you grow up and I couldn’t really answer them.”
And apologies to Sam, but I don’t know what came next because I had an a-ha moment. If you’d asked me in elementary school, what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said one of the following: President of the United States, rabbi, or archeologist.
By high school, I’d added actor, writer for Saturday Night Live, and stand-up comedian to the acceptable choices. Needless to say, I’m not any of those things. And that's ok. I like my life, and I'm happy with the choices and accidents that led me to where I am now.
I’m disturbed by the whole conversation in our present moment. It might have been cute to ask an elementary school kid in 1976, “what do you want to be?” Now it feels like another high-stakes test. Pre-professionalism pushes into lower and lower grades. Our national conversation around education has moved to the point where we can write parody articles about kindergartners not having their act together. We waste all this time talking about “preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist” and other predictions that we miss the main point.
I’m 47 years old. I’m a father and a husband, a scholar and a teacher.
I may be a grown-up, but I don’t think I’ll ever finish growing up. What do I want to be?
My answer, indeed what I have come to realize is the only acceptable answer, is: “Good. I want to be good.”
I’d like to think, I’m part of the way there. Anybody who has ideas on how to finish the journey, leave them in the comments below.
Thanks to Sam for encouraging me to blog this.