If you live in or around a major city, I bet you love Waze as much as me. I cannot count how many times it has saved me from being late to work this past year. But Waze is about the only roadmap I have for the future and, let me tell you, that is scary.
I did not realize that post-grad life was one big unknown world with so many turns and detours that pop up along the way. However, every year that college and graduate school become farther away, I am more comfortable with this journey I am on—even if I do not know what is next.
I just finished up my seventh year of teaching kindergarten. However, I am more than just a teacher. I am an event and project manager: I aid in the coordination of our field trips and delegate responsibilities amongst my fellow kindergarten team. Additionally, I manage the academic and social needs of my students from the first day of school to the last. This involves translating materials if a student does not speak English as his/her primary language or strategically having two students sit at separate tables because their personalities do not mesh. I go through the same balancing act as any project manager would in a different field. My project management skills are evaluated by the success of my students and the growth that they display from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
I am also a learning and development coordinator for both children and adults. When I am not in front of twenty-eight kids teaching them how to sound out words or solve addition word problems, I am facilitating the continuous learning of my fellow teachers at both informal and formal meetings during our breaks. I am communications specialist; I must explain information to parents, co-workers, my supervisors, and my students all within one day, and I have learned the most effective ways to get my messages across these various audiences. For parents, texting is vital, and for students, a lot of chants and animated movements work best when communicating a particularly tricky topic for the first time. These are the soft skills that you probably don’t think of when you hear “kindergarten teacher,” but through my reflection, on my career path, I have realized that I am more than my job title.
As you go back to school this fall, I have some homework for you: I challenge you to step away from the roadmap that you made for your career and be open to new detours that may arise. Maybe you do not land your dream internship, but you do get another, less appealing one—take it with an open mind. Maybe your data for your thesis is taking a completely different direction than you anticipated—take a step away and re-think that this means instead of trying to figure it out immediately. Take in each experience with a reflective lens so that you can begin to take stock of the new skills that you are developing. And if you want extra credit, download Waze—us teachers do not like when our students are tardy!