Posts Tagged ‘Mathematics’

A couple of days ago, a young student approached me and asked me for some career advice. The student wanted to understand a little more about what banking and finance is about, and how it measures up in terms of their “dream job“. I was very impressed with this young student, because unlike many of their peers, they were actually trying to look at their future and start planning. This student, to be fair, is part of an advanced group of students. They get tutoring as part of their regular school day, they have additional instruction in note-taking and other study skills, and they are in advanced Math and English classes. They have a leg up over many students already. This young person seemed to have a leg up on even this group.

There was another teacher in the room at the time, who had worked in a similar field in her younger years, and we both shared some of the upsides and downsides, many of the really funny incidents, and some of the sad, sobering, almost depressing parts of our former jobs. See, no job is truly perfect. There are some good parts and bad parts, and much of adult life is about learning to deal with the bad parts while preparing for, waiting for, and whenever possible working to create the good parts.

And while just that much would have been a good enough lesson, that isn’t the main point of this post.

If you have been doing your job as a parent or concerned party of a young person, there is likely to be a point where they will ask you about career advice themselves. How you respond, what you say and how you say it, and your timing are crucial.

Once a young person asks your advice about future careers, they are putting the trust of their future in your hands!

So how do you respond?

“Follow your bliss!”

Some parents think this is great advice. They want their children to be happy in whatever they do. I’m not going to say that this approach doesn’t have any merit because I know that all parents want their children to be happy. Hell! I’m not even a parent, and I want other people’s children to be happy in their career. Happy people generally don’t make as many mistakes, and tend to do their jobs much better overall than their less happy peers. If that’s all it takes to be able to go to Taco Bell and not get my order screwed up or just ugly, then follow that bliss.

But there is a slight downside. For many kids, their bliss is playing video games or taking obnoxious pictures of themselves for Facebook. True, with a little creativity and some luck, you can make a career out of either of those, but neither has that ring of career aspirations that would make a parent proud.


 

“Follow the family!”

Okay, if “the family” is really The Family, I’m staying out of this argument altogether! But assuming that we’re talking about parents like my mom, who truly believe that following in the family business or doing the same job as your parents is a good thing, there’s a lot to be said for this method too. There is nothing wrong with upholding the traditions of your family, taking advantage of the skills and training from what may be generations of people who have done a job with love and with pride. I kind of like to believe that I’m in my family’s business as a teacher because my grandfather was a teacher in his home country. I get that I’m probably stretching a bit, but it makes me feel good.

But what if, like me with my mom, the family business just isn’t a good fit? Even if I went into my mom’s business of nursing and caring for the sick, that isn’t me either. One of my brothers works construction. He has three daughters that all together probably don’t have the upper body strength required to do what he does, plus it isn’t a very feminine job, and his daughters are very feminine girls. Should they, and I, have taken a job that we don’t enjoy? Even if it means that we will suck at it and embarrass the very people we were trying to please by doing the job in the first place?

“What’s important to you?”

The way I approached my student was to ask what was important to them. What are they looking for in a career? We also talked about what skills they felt they might want to strengthen. As we talked, I was able to throw a few different ideas their way, and as what they said changed, I was able to change my suggestions to fit their evolving priorities. Keeping in mind that this student is very young, and their priorities will change several times between now and when they become an adult, it was more important to get them to think in terms of what they want out of a job than it was to try to stuff them in a hole that might become a bad fit later on.

Is there a downside to this? Sure, I guess that the student might have felt a little unfulfilled when they came to a trusted advisor with the hopes of getting a concrete suggestion. I guess that walking away from a conversation where you hope to get answers with nothing but more questions can be annoying. I’m okay with that because this student needs the opportunity to decide things about themselves before they are going to be ready to plop down for a career that might last them the rest of their lives.

I don’t know why, but as I was having my conversation with my student, I kept thinking that someday they’d be alright.  Of course, one of my favorite songs about someday is this one, and while it is a sad song, and possibly a little depressing, I’ve always enjoyed it and I hope you do too.  Enjoy!

 

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Let me start by apologizing for this being a longer post. I’ll try to keep it short, but I am covering like 30 years of history, so I beg a little grace from my awesome readers!

 

When I was young, from a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I was GOING TO BE A TEACHER. This might come as a bit of a surprise to many of the teachers when I was in school, but I knew that someday I would be among them as a peer, and not as a student. Because I liked to read, was good at writing, spelling, and grammar, I was sure I would be an English teacher. Like I said, my teachers didn’t have as much faith in my ability to become a teacher as I did, but more interestingly, my parents would frequently throw out alternatives to try and tempt me away from following my dreams. My dad was an X-ray technician who transitioned into being one of the very early MRI technicians when the technology was just becoming available. My mom would encourage me to follow in his footsteps, regardless of how loudly or excitedly I would protest that I wanted to forge my own path. I guess old habits are hard to break, because it was only in the last 4 or so years, when it was obvious that I was actually, no-kidding around, for reals, becoming a teacher, that she stopped with her brand of “encouragement”.

When I left high school, I was a little disillusioned about higher education or the prospect of being a teacher. I figured it would happen, but I was young and I wanted to take a little time to enjoy being outside of a classroom before I committed myself to being inside one again for the rest of my life. So I went into the exciting world of finance. I took a brief (15 or so year) sabbatical from my childhood dream, and I kind of dug it for a while, until I didn’t. Then I went back to school and was convinced that I was going to be a teacher again.

A strange thing happened during those 15 years. I got to enjoy other subjects. I was into economics of course, but tied in with that was government and history. I still say that each of those three have to be taught in tandem in order to be taught correctly. Currently our school system teaches one at a time, and almost in a vacuum, which has a chilling effect on the interest levels of students. But that’s another argument for another time. I decided that I didn’t really want to teach English after all. I decided that I was going to teach economics.

Over the past three years, I’ve had some very interesting teaching assignments. I’ve been able to teach incarcerated youth; I’ve taught in regular schools; I’ve even taught at some alternative schools that would break most peoples’ hearts (mine included). I’ve taught every subject, including subjects that I wasn’t able to pass when I was in school. I wound up avoiding those classes in favor of teaching subjects that I was good at.

Except one.

Never in my own academic career was I good certain subjects. I sucked at Woodshop, a fact that those who know me well understand. But worse than my ineptitude with carpentry was my absolute idiocy when it came to math. I could not do math. It was my worst subject ever. People used to ask me when I was in banking how I could do that job and still be bad at math. Luckily, there is this thing on top of most desks, called a computer, that does the math for me. Once, by pure luck, I was assigned to teach a math class at a school. Apparently, I did something right, because teachers at that school and others in the district have been passing my name around as a great math teacher because of the way I teach. It has gotten to the point where many people in the district think that I actually am a math teacher, and not a history, economics, government, or whatever teacher like my credential says. So I’ve made the decision to do what I need to do to actually become a math teacher.

I told my story because I hear from people every day who tell me that they are in situations that they never thought they would be in. They had a view of what their lives would be like when they grew up that wound up not matching reality.

I also see people with their noses stuck in books written by some very intelligent financial advice sales people. They make all their decisions based on what they believe this writer or that TV personality would suggest. They do all this to the exclusion of everything else that is going on in their lives. For some, it works as they hoped. For others, like those who try fad diets, fad financial advice is a round trip proposition. You get yourself into the position you planned on getting yourself into, only to relax back into your old habits. This leads to you getting into a deeper hole than the one you started in.

The answer is to be open to different paths while still keeping your eye on your overarching goal.

Is your goal to be able to send your kids to a college you couldn’t afford for yourself?

How about to be able to retire and live out your remaining years in a bungalow in Disney World?

Maybe your goal is as simple as being able to pay off your credit card and possibly taking your kids to Disneyland during spring break. It is important to have a plan, but when something comes around that messes with that plan, you have to be able to reevaluate your plan from the new point of reference instead of the original, where you started.

Whatever your goal is, life will sometimes get in your way.  Sometimes your own decisions will get in your way, and sometimes the decisions of others will be responsible.  Whether or not you make your goals depends in large part on how you react, on what decisions you make, and on your own ability to assess and deal with changes as they come up.

Whenever I think of my life, and all the twists and turns it has taken over the years, I think of a river.  Whenever I think of a river, I think of this song.  Because the original is somewhat sad and this is a weekend, I’ve also included a more up-beat version that always makes me laugh.  Enjoy!

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