The Singing Schoolteacher

Last night as I was driving home after picking up the girls from their grandparents I asked my 7 year old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up.  Her answer was “either a school teacher or a singer like Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus.”  Being the great father I am I made sure to tell her that she could be anything she wants to be, that she needs to do whatever it is that makes her happy.

I remember going through some old scrapbooks at my parent’s house a few years back.  I found a book my mom kept that chronicled my first few years of school.  I read the 1st grade page and next to the question about what I wanted to be when I grew up I had written, “A fireman to put fires away.”

There’s something special about a child and their thoughts about the future.  To them, the options are limitless.  Everything has the same probability of happening.  Being a school teacher and a pop star are on the same level.  We encourage our elementary aged kids to dream big, that the sky is the limit.  We tell them they can do anything they set their minds to.

Have you ever noticed that this changes as kids get older?  Sometime around high school most adults start steering kids away from the dreams they had in elementary school.  What was cute as a 7 year old has become seemingly impossible by the time kids are in their teenage years.  The kid who wanted to be an astronaut struggles in math.  The girl who dreamt of being a dancer realizes she has two left feet.  It’s no longer cute to hear the short kid say he wants to play in the NBA.

Some of this is natural, of course.  Children change their minds a lot.  They experience more, find new interests.  After all, few people end up with the jobs they talked about as a child.

I can’t help but wonder, though – why does anyone, especially our kids, have to lose that wide-eyed, optimistic, anything-is-possible outlook ?

After high school the pressure is really on to pick a college and a major that will lead to a good job.  Most people don’t pick their major based on what they love to study.  Sure, students naturally gravitate toward the things that interest them.  But within a general area of interest, many students slide into a predefined path built around the companies who are hiring that year.  This process works for some, but others struggle for a few years until they find their rhythm.

What will my daughter be when she grows up?  I have no idea, but my dream is that she’ll find something that makes her come alive each and every day.  If that’s as a teacher, singer, businesswoman, doctor or as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t really care.  I just want her to be happy and fulfilled in her choice of careers.

So what’s my role?

As I finished the drive home, I prayed that I would be an encourager to my daughter’s dreams.  I want to foster her sense of adventure.  Give her permission to try new things, to fall down and get back up.  Most of all, I want her to feel that she can follow her true passions in life without interference from me.

So the rest of the way home did I talk to my daughter about how becoming a teacher was the sensible thing to do?  Nah.  We sang the Star Spangled Banner (her choice) together at the top of our lungs – and pretty well, too.

Article image by: Arve S., SXC

This article originally appeared at


One Response to “The Singing Schoolteacher”

  1. Dan
    February 13, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Great article. I can completely relate to the idea of falling into line once I reached college. I wish I had had someone telling me not to choose my field of study because the job prospects are good, adn the pay is good. Sure, I am blessed to have the job I have now, and the benefits are very good, and I am not worried about losing my job, which is huge given the state of the economy; but I am certain that if I were to remain on my current career path, while I would have security, and decent compensation, I will surely regret the years I spent at my desk, wishing I could be anywhere else.

    I hope to one day instill in my kids the idea that, while pay and benefits are extremely important, sometimes it just isn’t worth it if there is something else that still provides a standard of living you’re comfortable with AND makes you happy at the same time.

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