Being an elementary school teacher for many years, this is a common and essential question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
This can be a fun activity at any grade level, but generally the younger you go the more creative and unique the ideas.
An Octopus trainer (really??)
A Doctor that Builds Bones
A Baker that creates a new sprinkle
An idea man (I think many people have actually tried this profession…they are called couch potatoes)
The 5 year olds really have this thing down. They think about it really hard and then are very specific about their chosen profession. There’s no such thing as just “doctor”, “lawyer” or “teacher” to these little minds!
Do you remember when you were young and someone asked you this question? What was your response? My mom actually saved every piece of work I ever brought home, I think. When I moved to my first house, she started clearing out her attic of all of my stuff. Every time I’d see her, I got a new bag of report cards or papers or programs. By the time I moved into this 3rd house, I think I’ve finally gotten it all. One of the things she gave me was a flip book that I created in kindergarten of What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up. And do you know what it said?
A music teacher.
Definitely not as inventive as the kids I’ve taught, but to the point and direct for sure. Along the way, I remember debating about law school or becoming a writer or even a professional singer. But I always managed to come back to being a music teacher.
Now that I work as an Arts Integration Specialist, I get to use my skills as a music teacher in a very different way. I get to explore all of the Arts and also be a part of the general education classroom. This is challenging and exciting and I love it. But I’m not a music teacher…which kind of makes me a little sad. Have I lost my childhood dream along the way?
Not only that, but I find myself questioning what I want to do next.
There is a great pull for me to stay home and be a great mom and wife in a way that I can’t do now simply because of time. I’d NEVER thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom, but that inner feeling is very strong right now. Is that the path that’s next for me?
Or maybe the next step is to become an Assistant Principal in an elementary school. I have my certifications and a real passion for teacher development. Plus, lately I’ve been feeling like I haven’t had a direct enough impact on students. As an administrator, I could have a direct impact on a whole school of students. Perhaps this is the direction that I am supposed to be headed…
I guess it turns out that what we “Want to Be” changes as we Grow Up. And since we’re growing up until the day we pass from this earth, we’re always evolving and changing our life plan. Throughout this journey, I’ve noticed that I have come to foster this exploration in the young students that I work with even more than before. It’s important to let them dream and discover what talents they want to use. Because later on, it will be much harder to think beyond reality.
Let yourself dream a little today and think about what you’d like to be when you grow up. Who knows? Maybe an Octopus Trainer is in your future!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.