A few days ago a school counselor came into my fourth grade class that I am student teaching in and began the speech about saying no to drugs. She went on about how saying no is cooler than saying yes and that just because all your friends are doing it doesn’t mean you should. She even threw in the good old saying about if all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it? I laughed a little wanting to question back well how deep is the water and which of my friends are doing it. I even heard some of the kids mutter “well…” under their breath, already beginning to understand the plan we have laid out for them all. The point of this all is that they were all given out packets where they were asked to fill out information, information regarding short and long term goals. Realistically a long term goal for a fourth grader is something that they will do within the next hour, so as you could probably guess these goals were a little askew.
What stunned me out of all of this though wasn’t their short term goals of high school and college (such a commonality now these things are, as if they are engraved to write these), but instead their dream jobs, what they wanted to be when they were older. I got asked to spell a technologist, what a technologist is I am not sure, but you know what Sally, yes you can be it! I got asked to define what the job was that decorates cakes and cupcakes for a store (pastry chef I am guessing). I was left puzzled when a young boy asked me what the equivalent of a warrior on the Walking Dead would be in real life, but before an answer left my lips he yelled “SWAT team!” I think this is an accurate fiction to non fiction connection. I was even asked by a boy what he could do because he wanted to work with kids (well if you are 9 what is your actual definition of a kid), but at the same time he wanted to do something where he can see real life “guts and stuff.” I shuffled him towards the idea of being a pediatric surgeon, too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.
I walked around the room getting answers from future engineers, surgeons, physical trainers, and pastry chefs, but what I never found was any shred of doubt. These are kids, but at the same time they are humans, only been alive for 9-10 years, and in that time no one has told them no yet, no one has told them the reality, no one has taught them to hesitate. They didn’t want to be a veterinarian because they thought the income would be sufficient and that owning their own practice was a plus and in this economy people can still afford to pay for vet visits. Can you imagine a 9 year old spewing all of that bs out of their mouth? Well I for one cannot. They want to be things because they want to be things. Magic right?
Imagine waking up and deciding to do things because you wanted to, and stopping things because well you didn’t like doing it anymore. Welcome to the life of kids. I would like to say that I follow my heart in most aspects of my life, but after working with these kids, I am so very wrong. They don’t double guess, they don’t measure the impact of this event or this choice compared to the rest of their life, they simply do and if they mess up and realize it was a mistake, well then they just don’t do it again.
So many times I have looked toward choices and wondered will this help me in the future? Will this help me get to where I want to be? But what if for a few of these choices, we just did them, just because we wanted to. The passion these kids have for their dream jobs is not faulty, it is indeed pure. They want to help animals. They love food. They love playing video games. They like babysitting. I often laugh at the simplicity of their ideas and the things that come out of their mouth because they say what they feel when they feel it.
Just today students were preparing for a music recital for their parents and they were switching instruments with their peers (each student gets their mouth piece, remember coodies still exist) and one student refused to play. The teacher called on the student and asked her “Why aren’t you playing your instrument?” Her response “My mouthpiece smells like poop.” The instructor plucked the mouthpiece out of her hand and told her “It smells no different than mine.” Her response “It smells like poop to me.” She stood her ground, didn’t even hesitate in the face of a teacher. Bold I tell you. I had to turn around the avoid the students from seeing me bust out laughing, but also the complete shock on the music teacher’s face was something I keep replaying in my head. She was honest, and he had indeed asked her for the reason why she was not playing. It turns out the mouth piece smelled like the cleaning product he used, no different from the rest of the student’s mouth pieces, and for the rest of the recital she played with a pinched nose. It’s simple really, to say and do what you feel, but we often complicate it. I am lucky to learn everyday from 9 and 10 year olds, the few members of society who still feel the power they have and the limitless opportunities. Is it the same for all of us too? Do we truly have a limitless world? To be optimistic, yet realistic, I believe we do, but in the end I believe its us that gets in the way. The worrying, the future, the past, the what ifs. We were kids not too long ago, what’s stopping us from bringing back some of these good habits we have broken over time?