February 9, 2017

Dear School Guidance Counselor: My Daughter Is Making the Right Choice


Dear Miss X,

First, I need you to know that I think you’re fabulous. Parents who were already ahead of us in the high school game told us over and over that we were “so lucky” our daughter had you as her counselor by virtue of the first letter of her last name. “Miss X is awesome,” they told us, and they were right.  You are.

I know you want what is best for my Lydia, so we are 100% on the same page there. 

But I think we were on different pages in terms of what "best" looks like and where it might be found...

You know that my daughter is an A student who works hard for those grades. She's carrying a 4.0 GPA. She is dedicated, organized, polite, diligent, and respectful. Her teachers love her. She’s a skilled musician and dancer. She can do anything God wants her to do when she grows up.

And what she wants to do is work with preschoolers.

We have been advised that early childhood education(ECE) is not always regarded as an esteemed profession in our society. Friends and family have warned us again and again that “there’s no money in it.” We know some people think “anyone” can do it. We are well aware that when educators talk about the best and brightest students fulfilling their potential in the workforce and “being anything they can be,” this is not usually what they’re talking about. We’ve noticed that when motivational speakers list careers to strive for, they tick off engineering and medicine and science and law but never mention ECE.

But we also know this: apart from music and dance and family and God and friends, what Lydia loves are little children. She sees them in the grocery store and gushes about how adorable they are. She loves their little hands and their high-pitched voices and the way they pretend to make hot chocolate at the sand table. She teaches a preschool dance class, and at recitals, when she's leading her tiny ballerinas, I don't watch them: I watch my daughter. Her animated face. The way she saves the day when one of them falls down and Lydia tells them, "No big deal! It's okay! Keep going!" The group hug they all rush to give her the moment the music stops.

Of course you’re well aware that Lydia has been spending half of every school day hanging out with preschoolers as part of our area career center's early childhood education program. She has dreams of opening her own daycare or preschool someday, throwing in a few dance classes, and calling it "On Your Toes." (Which, Miss X, I am all for on account of her "Costume Corner" idea that might finally allow me to get all her old dance outfits out of my closet.)

When Lydia’s teachers ask what her future plans are and she tells them about her dream, this is what they say: "But why would you waste your time doing that? You're so smart." And I always think, "Really? We don't want the best students teaching our society's very youngest learners? Is that really how this works?"

I know you wanted her to "at least" go to the career center's "Education Academy" and pursue an elementary ed degree after high school. But Lydia does not want to teach even kindergarten, let alone a higher grade. 

My daughter loves to play and interact and pretend with 3- and 4-year-olds. She well understands that their play is their learning and that what they are doing when they make hot chocolate at the sand table is actually forming learning pathways in their brains. Pathways that might one day help them understand calculus or French or chemistry or robotics or violin.

But more than all that is this truth I wish you had the chance to see for yourself, a truth I finally had to step in and tell you myself because I could see that my daughter was too worried about being disrespectful to do it: Lydia loves working with little kids. It's how her heart beats. It's her passion. It's what she was born to do. It's what she is gifted to do. There are children who will need what Lydia has to offer. What Lydia can do is not something just anyone can do. That it may not be a high-paying power career in our culture does not make it any less Lydia's calling.

I know you see Lydia’s record and her potential, and I’m so grateful for that. But I needed to advocate for my daughter and let you in on deeper part of who she is that cannot be reflected by a grade report and any standardized test.

So Lydia is on the early childhood track, and she loves it. Her teachers at the career center love her. Her work experience supervisors love her. "Her" kids love her. And when I reported all this to you, dear Miss X, you told me, "You were right. I didn't know. But this is what Lydia should be doing, and I'm so happy for her."

Thank you, Miss X. I'm happy for her, too. Because among many other dreams I have for my daughter, I want her to be happy. And I know you do, too. It’s just that sometimes, the mom is the one who knows best what page that happiness falls on.

Sincerely,
Lydia’s mom



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8 comments:

  1. This is a great post. I really enjoyed it. Having a 3 year old granddaughter - I am so happy that your beautiful, gifted daughter will be teaching preschoolers. They need the best and the brightest to teach them.

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    1. Aw, thank you so much. What a special blessing you must be to your little granddaughter...and she is right at that age when so much is happening in her young mind! Blessings on you both...thank you for taking time to stop by!

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  2. Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club. Great blog!
    Have a nice day!

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    1. Thank you, Veronica! Once I get back into the full swing of blogging (post summer "vacation"), I hope to jump more fully into the Mom Bloggers Club! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  3. I was told not to waste my time or talent, so I went to college...several times...and earned 3 degrees in highly-esteemed careers (public health and nursing).
    What do I do now? I'm a stay-at-home mom with a boatload of student loan debt.
    You are correct that your daughter is doing the right thing. She's doing something she loves and something that helps others. This is more important than doing something that will be lucrative or prestigious.

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    1. Thank you for this reinforcement, Shannon! No doubt you will use all that education in many useful ways in the future, but your story does encourage me that I have not steered my daughter off-course. Bless you in your mothering and in whatever else God has planned for you down the road!

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  4. Wow, so insightful on your part and your daughter's! I think most of society sees school, whether it's pre schoolers or high school, as babysitters. The place we send our children, but we want to send them to the "best college" to get the "best career". All of that starts with the people who mold our children's brains, right from the start. Too many people forget that.

    I too did what I was "supposed" to do because I made good grades. Got the old college degree. That was almost 20 years ago. I am now, and for the last 20 years, have been a bail bondsman (woman). I'm my own boss and most people see it as a low level job. I have everything I could ever want....my happiness and I don't hate going to work everyday. That's the joy.

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  5. Oh my goodness...I could not love this comment more. I can't wait to share it with my daughter! She will heartily "amen" this--"All of that starts with the people who mold our children's brains, right from the start. Too many people forget that"--and be inspired by this: "I have everything I could ever want....my happiness and I don't hate going to work everyday. That's the joy." Thank you so much for sharing these words of wisdom and encouragement!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!