I am now officially graduated from high school! Oh my gosh, you can't imagine the excitement, the anticipation, the thrills I've had over the last couple of weeks. I celebrated with three fellow friends and graduates at Simple Pleasure's Event Center and had an amazing time seeing slideshows of our lives, singing beautiful songs, eating delicious cheeseburgers and dancing the night away! Our mothers really outdid themselves and it was the best party ever.
Each of us showcased a "talent" of ours. William and Clara sang lovely songs, Cameron played a classical guitar piece, and I read an essay I wrote. I was really surprised with how much everyone liked my speech. Apparently no one noticed that my legs were shaking!
This is a slightly lengthened version of my graduation speech, I cut out three paragraphs for the actual presentation due to time constraints:
My Answer to the Inevitable Question
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been asked that simple, inevitable question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of you probably took the matter very seriously, returning a thoughtful answer. Others probably laughed it off. It’s really an intensely personal question, kind of like asking who you dream of marrying someday. Personally, I’m one of those thoughtful types who tries to calculate salary, location, and opportunity for advancement into my practical dream job.
When I was little I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up; I wanted to be a historical figure. Someone from the age of knights and fair maidens, or at the very least, the age of hoop skirts. Unfortunately, I was thwarted in these dreams very early on, so I had to resort to the only alternative: books. When I was about twelve years old I read a piece of historical fiction about the young Queen Elizabeth I of England. Then I read another. As the years went on I got quite a fixation about the Tudor dynasty, especially King Henry VIII and his six wives. I read books about them, and watched hours of ancient BBC history movies.
I took an interest in Joan of Arc as well, devouring numerous novels, thoroughly enjoying a very good movie, and even planning to write a large research paper which I never quite finished. There was the Romanov stage as well, when I, you guessed it, read more books, this time about the doomed last imperial family of Russia. I grew obsessed with gathering every available picture of the family (and the family dog), and spent hours online looking up photographs, eventually saving 764 pictures to our computer. Richard III came next, and after reading a defense of the much maligned king of old, I swore to uphold his honor against any vile slander I heard from that day on.
But since a career in medieval Europe was less than probable, I needed Plan B. For a long time I thought I could make a living writing the kind of historical fiction novels that I was always gobbling up, but I nixed that one after hearing one too many starving author stories. I thought perhaps I could be a museum curator, or one of those enthusiastic reenactors who dresses up in period clothing and regales you with the fascinating history of butter churns.
I was startled one evening when my parents sat me down and asked the inevitable question. I still didn’t have a concrete idea about a future job, but surprisingly, my mom did. Out of the blue she said, “I’ve always pictured you as a teacher.” That was a shock, I didn’t really see myself as teacher-material. Did I really want to spend the rest of my working life cleaning up after snotty-nosed kids and teaching evolution to high schoolers?
But then I began to remember times long ago when I would play school with my little brother and try to teach him his first grade lessons. Aaron was never very impressed, and I think I probably owe him an apology for that, but I came to realize that I really do love information and I love to share it with others. So though I wasn’t sure at first, the idea of being a teacher began to grow on me.
What truly inspired me to dig deeper into teaching were the writings of former public school teacher John Taylor Gatto. While reading one of his books I was shocked and challenged by the kind of education American children are being forced to have. I was inspired by Gatto’s dream of a teaching style which is historical and organic, and results in more articulate, well-informed and self-motivated adults. With my love of history I think I could teach the subject in a way that would inform as well as fascinate students.
To be certain that teaching was my true calling, I turned to the infallible personality test. 20 pounds of library books later, I narrowed the field to something between cartoonist and accountant, and decided that a teaching position might be in the realm of possibility.
However, there was one hitch in my dream of being a teacher: I have been homeschooled my entire life and have never attended a public or private school. If I was going to realistically pursue this career, I needed to see a school from the inside.
My parents and I decided that job-shadowing would be a great way to do this. I could get a good look at several different types of schools. To begin, I shadowed a friend of ours, Audrea Steele, in her kindergarten classroom.
I spent the day helping Audrea by doing such grown-up, teacher-ly things as cutting out a paper hippopotamus and coloring him with crayons. I got to try real cafeteria food for the first time in my life (it might sound a little weird, but this was actually one of the highlights of my day). I really liked working with the kids; some of them were frustrating, but altogether they were so sweet and funny and affectionate that it was hard not to love them.
The day ended with a sweet, old-fashioned read-aloud, and one of the children vomiting on another kid’s backpack. I truly enjoyed my first day of kindergarten, but something told me that I wasn’t cut out to be an elementary school teacher.
Next I shadowed Ms. Griffin, a history teacher at a public high school, and was able to study the younger generation in their natural habitat. Many of them seemed very normal, likeable teens, though a few had disturbing fashion-sense. I was able to sit in on deep group discussions and see kids interested in profound, thought-provoking questions. After hearing Ms. Griffin explain her work to me, I began to think that this might be my kind of job after all. I got excited thinking about new teaching methods and ways I could influence budding young geniuses.
I was already imagining all the future Nobel laureates I would inspire when I made plans to shadow one more high school history teacher, this time at a small private school called Providence Christian Academy. I loved Ms. Brinson, who taught in a way that made history seem real and important. As I sat in on one of her classes, I was suddenly overcome with a strange sense of eagerness, of yearning to get up and do something, to do what she was doing! And the thought struck me that not only did I like this job, but I would kill for it! At the end of the day I was on cloud nine, like I finally knew what I wanted to do with my professional life.
Does this mean that now I’m absolutely certain I want to be a teacher? Not at all. There are still many alternatives to be considered. Since my shadowing adventures I’ve done some more research and been drawn to several other occupations; entrepreneurship has a growing attraction for me. However, I have more confidence than ever in teaching as a viable career option.
I’ve always believed that God has a certain calling for each one of us. Every single person is a unique individual, corresponding to a unique place in history. You can serve God in many ways, through writing, plumbing, politics, selling ice cream, just about anything. So what am I going to be when I grow up? I am going to be a woman who will follow God’s guiding and use the gifts and skills that He has blessed me with. I will glorify Him, and through Him, bless the world.