TEACHER FOR A DAY: Shaping Young Minds & Crushing Dreams

Right before school got out for summer break, I was asked to speak at a local middle school.

My friend, Jessica, was teaching a career investigations class, and she thought I could provide some insight to the 7th- and 8th-grade students she was molding.

HER: “Please help! They’re tired of listening to me!”

ME: “Seriously? Career investigations? I’ve had seven different jobs and five career changes since graduating college.”

Then it hit me like a inside fastball.

ME (quickly changing my tone – almost excited): “Yeah, I’ll do it.”

I realized my career path – one that has taken me from the newspaper biz to the football field to the wild and crazy world of entrepreneurship – was the best guidance/advice I could provide a 14-year-old.

THE PREFACE: Whatever your dream job is right now – it WILL change.

THE MESSAGE: That is perfectly fine. (Actually, it’s normal.)

I started each presentation by having the students tell me what they wanted to be when they grew up. We had  doctors, lawyers, a PR rep, and a graphic artist; there was one missionary; a couple pro athletes (obviously), and a whole lot of “I don’t knows” (which I said was OK, too).

I did a little demonstration by having everyone stand up. I walked around the room, tapping each one on the shoulder and having them sit down. When I was done, there was one student left standing.

ME: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

STUDENT: “Fashion designer.”

ME: “Congratulations. You’re going to be a fashion designer. Out of every student in this classroom – your dream will come true.”

The rest of the class looked defeated – especially the future NFL stars.

ME: “For the rest of you…your dreams will come true, too. They’ll just be different dreams.”

I quickly reinforced my point.

ME: “It’s perfectly OK to change your dreams and do something else with your life and/or career.”

Then I shared my story.
In college, I wanted to write for Sports Illustrated – but went into newspaper design instead. Abandoned that after two years and a 1,900-mile move to Oregon. Worked in college admissions for two more years, before deciding to be a football coach. That got me to TCU, but made me hang up my whistle after three seasons. Then I was climbing the administrative ladder in collegiate athletics….insert crazy business idea.
ME: “See I turned out OK.”
I couldn’t tell by their stares if they understood or thought I was a loser for switching jobs every 2.35 years.
STUDENT: “You mean I don’t have to be a nurse because that’s what I told my parents when I was seven years old?”
ME: “Nope.”
STUDENT: “Good – I don’t like blood or urine.”
I think they understood.
Other discussion items: (BTW: 50 minutes goes slooooowwww when standing in front of 20 prepubescent teens.)
• I made them write “MONEY” and “FAME” on another sheet of paper. Then I had them wad it up and throw it in the trash can.
POINT: If these two things are your motivation – you will NEVER be happy. Do something that you love and these things will come.
• I asked them what tugs at their heartstrings. Some said underprivileged kids, had a few abused animals, a couple said homelessness.
POINT: Never stop giving back.
• I told them the story about the salesman who heard his alarm clock go off for the first time in years, and how his boss told him it was time for him to get another job.
POINT: If you don’t love what you do – something that makes you jump out of bed in the morning – DO SOMETHING ELSE.
When it was all said and done, I had given my presentation three times, sweat through most of the clothes on my body, and gained a new appreciation for middle school teachers.
Of course, I internally critiqued every performance. I was really questioning my “teaching methods” until I received the homemade thank you notes from all three classes.
I know. I know. My friend, Jessica, MADE the students write them, but there were a couple that stood out and the entire experience worth while.

Time for another career change? Professor Myers?

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