(Our host for this week's Fun Monday can be found sipping a cuppa over at the Irish Coffeehouse and waiting to hear about our careers, then and now. What did we dream of being when growing up? Did those dreams come true? And, what about now? If we could work at anything, what would it be? My own career path could be described best in this way: once a teacher, always a teacher.)
Long after finishing my formal education, I still think like a student . I prefer an academic calendar that begins with July or September. In my mind, these months are the real beginnings of a new year because that's when we start the all important business of learning for yet another year. And, about now I begin to look for the catalog of adult education course offerings from the local liberal arts university. I'll eagerly look through it--what could I sign up for this semester? A writing course? Intermediate watercolor? Meditation? Digital photography?
I enrolled in a teaching college in the mid-60s. At that time students got very little career guidance. This was not a problem for me, though. I always knew that I would be a teacher. I loved school from the first grade on. Getting new books and just right school supplies was an annual thrill. And then to spend most of my waking time with a kindly, for the most part, adult whose job it was to teach me about the world beyond my home was too good to be true. I wanted to be just like them.
After four years, I earned a degree in English and home economics with certification to teach English at the high school level. In those days a major in English qualified--loosely--you to teach literature, grammar and reading. This leeway was fortunate for me in every teaching situation because I always got the remedial or struggling readers. Before I could teach literature, they had to learn to read. So, I taught basic reading for middle and high school students for two years, followed by three years with elementary students in the West Indies.
You know how an unexpected, seemingly minor, experience can have a major impact on your future career path? This serendipity happened to me. In my first year of teaching I also inherited the job of teaching basic adult education language and reading improvement skills at a local community college in the evenings. What an unexpected honor it was to help another adult learn to read or earn a general equivalency diploma(GED). After finishing a master's degree in American literature for my own interests, I returned to college on several occasions to do post-graduate work in adult learning and non-profit leadership development. This post graduate work helped me secure a variety of teaching positions working directly with adults--adult learning center director, English as Second Language teacher, coordinator of a regional homebound adult education program, consultant for a state department of education, and volunteer leadership training director.
It was in working with adult learners that I found my true career niche. The wonderful thing about adult students is that they come to you with built in motivation. They want to learn to read so they can share a book with their child. They want a high school diploma so that they can get a better job. They need to speak English in order to blend into a new culture. They want to be a more effective board member for their organization. They want to get rid of the shame of not knowing what the rest of the world seems to know. Hopefully, I helped many adult learners achieve these goals.
That was then. As for the "now", I'm mostly enjoying being retired and just pursuing a variety of interests. However, I just started reading this book by Ann Patchett, author of an all-time favorite novel Bel Canto. What now? Such an intriguing question, no matter what your personal crossroads may be--graduation, new career, or other major life transition. I'll see if that question is easier to answer by the end of this book--discussion to be continued. In the meantime, head over to the Irish Coffeehouse to find out about careers now and then for other Fun Monday participants.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.