Yesterday in my first period reading class, we read about the guy who designed Central Park.
"How'd he get that job, Ms. Flower?" D asked. "He just decided he wanted to build parks, so he did?"
"I guess so, D," I told her. "That's what most people do."
"Did you?" she asked.
"Yeah, did you always want to be a teacher?" H asked.
"Well," I began, "even when I was a little girl, I liked to play school, and I liked to read and do educational activities. I didn't really start thinking about teaching until I got to high school."
"I've been thinking," said D. "You know how you told me to go to law school?"
"I think I tell you that every day."
"Yeah, but I think I might really be a lawyer some day."
"Really," I said. "Well, you'd be good at it."
"I never really thought about it before," she said, "not until you said that. But I think I might try to go to law school for real."
She asked me a ton of questions about law school and kinds of law. I told her everything I know, which is pretty close to nothing. Although, in my first semester of college I briefly double-majored in English and Political Science, with plans to go into law, then politics, and then teaching (after I--voluntarily--ended my political career). I remember my advisor asked me what kind of law I wanted to practice.
"I want to be a public defender," I said, "because I think people who can't afford it deserve a good lawyer."
"Oh, Mei," she sighed, and covered my hand with hers. Bless her, she didn't say what she was thinking, which was probably something like, "Here you are, getting a college education, and you are actively pursuing a job that is lower-paying and less-rewarding than being the greeter at WalMart."
Probably she would have said the same thing if I'd said, "I want to teach high school English." She certainly would not have been wrong.
That's my typical MO, though: squandering my money-making potential because I want to "make a difference."
Most teachers will tell you that they went into the education field because they, too, want to change the world; all of us can point to teachers in our lives who inspired us, who did indeed make a difference in our lives. We want that; we want to BE that person, and we have actively pursued a job that IS lower-paying and, many days, IS less-rewarding than being the greeter at WalMart. Shoot, some days I realize that the single best thing that happened during my day was pulling my Diet Coke out of the soda machine.
But yesterday, a student told me that I'd changed her path, that I'd opened her eyes to her potential, that I'd changed HER world. And all I could think was, "I've finally done it! I've made a difference!"
Now, thanks to me, the world is going to have ... another lawyer.