when i grow up

One of the joys of teaching 1st grade is asking the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I love the innocence, lack of fear, and pure dreaming in their responses. As I sit and listen I often think “good luck” or “we’ll see about that one”. The typical response ranges from a professional football player to a teacher to a president to a worker at McDonald’s. Although I typically don’t think they will be a professional boxer, but rather, something like a tax accountant I always respond with: you can do it! Kids already [at the age of 6] have a concept of what what they’re good at and not good at. It’s amazing really. Below are some of the most typical and atypical responses I have heard in my years of teaching.

Most boys who are found throwing a football at recess and then standing in time out because they started tackling want to grow up and play for the Chicago Bears. They even color all of their coloring pictures in blue and orange because someday they will be like Jay Cutler. These are the kids who rush through their seat work, getting half of the answers wrong so they can go and play at the math center and see who can roll the biggest number. Everything is a competition. And if we’re honest, they will probably grow up to be in some sort of competitive vocation, Chicago Bears or not.

The other response I hear most often is a teacher. Every kid wants to be a teacher. Why? Because they love their current teacher and they want to be just like him/her. These are the kids who leave me love notes on my desk everyday, give me hugs all day, and take their precious time on their work and handwriting so Mrs. Bohle is pleased. They strive to win their teacher over and stare at me all day long with awe and wonder in their eyes. These students are seldom in time out because they so badly want to please authority figures. Yes, they are the teacher’s pets. [Upon finding out that teachers have some late nights at school, I had a student tell me that he no longer wants to be a teacher because there is no way he is staying at school longer than he has too. If he only knew…]

President. This is the third most common job that the students desire to have. Again, I think if they really knew the role this man (or someday woman) had, they would choose anything but this. The student who wants to be president is the one who is standing in time out for bossing others around, telling the teacher what they’ve done wrong, and acting as they they need to solve everyone’s problems. This student is strong willed, smart, and sneaky. I can never really trust the child who desires to become president. Although, I would be quite proud if my one of my little darlings grew up and ensured that I received my appropriate amount of social security. With that, I will continue to tell my future presidents, yes, they the CAN do it!

Doctor. A lot of students want to be a doctor. I ask them why. And they say because they make a lot of money. They never mention they want to be a doctor because doctors help cure cancer, perform medical miracles or write prescriptions. They aren’t aware of the cost of medical malpractice insurance, the pressures and demands of the job, or the endless time they have to spend in school to reach this dream of theirs. My future doctors are taking their schoolwork home as homework because they spent too much time deliberating over the answer to 3+4. They are making predictions for everything, getting excited when the science books come out and have endless stories of what they watched on the Discovery channel the night before. As always, I tell them they CAN become a doctor, because hopefully, they will be writing my prescriptions for me as an ailing old lady.

This is the most unusual aspiration I have heard yet. An imitation of Lady Gaga. My first concern, why is a first grade following Lady Gaga that closely? My second concern is that this dream is not even remotely attainable. By the time this little one reaches an acceptable age to behave the way Lady Gaga does, every weird and strange idea will be taken. So my response was, “oh, that’s interesting”. My hope is that this student  finds another career goal within the next 12 years of her life.

Lastly, my heart breaks for the  insecure kids with little confidence who say they don’t know because they’re not good at anything. My prayer for those students is that they will see their strengths, talents, and God-given passions and go and make a difference in the world. Everyone is good at something. I always end conversations like this with a reminder that no matter what we do with our lives, we need to do it to give honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. He created us in a unique way and we will use our talents to serve Him and further His Kingdom. As I tell my students that, I find comfort as well. No matter where I am and what I am doing, I am doing it for His glory. There are some days where I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.


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