It was career day at school. Don't you just love a good career day? I remember back in high school - I think maybe my freshman year they invited an embalmer to career day. She brought some props for us -- embalming fluids and whatnot. It left a strong impression. I know about 20 seconds in, that I was NOT drawn to the field of embalming.
My brother-in-law graciously offered to come speak to our students and he was a big hit. He is a rather talented artist. His work is all around us. He currently works for Orchard Supply Hardware Company - so if you've been in their store you've seen his artwork. He formerly designed the boxes for video games which pretty much blew out students minds. I heard a couple of boys after school saying, "And they sent him the games to try -- FOR FREE!!!" They couldn't imagine anything better. The Girl didn't mind one bit that it was Her Uncle that was the Very Important Person with the Coolest Job Ever. She's not one to shy away from the residual shimmer of her Uncle's greatness.
I was also very fortunate to have two of my former students join us for career day. They came in through video conference. And it was the coolest thing ever. They talked about their jobs and their path to career success. They did a wonderful job, and the kids were impressed. "I never knew that was a job." I heard one kid say to another as they left the classroom. "She does like stuff on snapchat. For like work."
I love that. I love showimg my students something they have never seen before; never heard of; never even thought about. It is like a window opening. There is something out there that you have never seen before. It reminds me of my 7th grade teacher, leaning close and saying to me, "But, you are a writer! You didn't know? I mean, your spelling is, well, you don't spell words right often, but that doesn't matter. You are a writer." And it felt like there was the world was full of possiblities. Maybe that was the moment that I decided I wanted to be a teacher, too; I wanted to say the same thing to a girl who had only ever been told that her spelling was horrible. I wanted to be the one who saw beyond the way things were spelled to the stories underneath.
So there I was, a MILLION years later, in a room full of students listening to some of my other students, all grown up and amazing, talk about their careers. I had this moment where I was watching as my current students leaned in to listen to my former students, and I got kind of choked up. I mean, I could see Trenise and Aziza as little second graders -- I could remember them in my freshman English class, and now here they were - beautiful and strong; independent women, successful and content in their career. It was just yesterday, that they sat beside me reading a story or looking up at me with giant eyes, as I handed out birthday cupcakes. It was just yesterday, and now they are grown.
And the thing is, seeing them today, it feels familiar. I had no idea, way back when, that I would still have the tremendous good fortune to still know them, and be in touch with them all these years later, but seeing them poised and confident - that was no surprise to me. I could see the glowing light of their greatness even on the playground at recess. I knew that they were destined for great things. It wasn't just that they were bright, intelligent second graders -- it was more than that; more than just them.
It is the possiblity and hope that exists in every child. My students have a future living inside them that is completely unknown, but it is there. They all will walk down many roads after they leave my classroom, and whether I teach them math, or writing, or computers, there is a spark inside of them that will take them into the future. It is not just content that I have to pass on to them, but more importantly, I have to fan the flame of that spark. I must be the voice that says, "Yes. You can do this. Keep going. Listen to that voice inside." That is really my only job.
So, all of you; You can can do this. Keep going. Listen to that voice inside. I know you can do it.