April 23, 2019

My Children Aren't Going Into Math or Science, But They're the Future, Too


I have two children, and both of them are good students who work hard at their studies. My husband and I do not take this for granted. 

Both have been able, with diligence, to achieve solid academic records in their classes, including math and science. But neither of them likes math or science enough to even take the entrance exam for our area's math and science center, much less pursue either field as a career.

My older daughter wants to teach preschool or early elementary students. Three- and four- and five-year-olds are her people.

My younger daughter wants to teach dance. Budding ballerinas are her people.

I've seen all the lists about "20 most promising careers for the future" and "30 college majors that will pay off" and "grads with these 40 degrees will be in demand in 2040." 

I know that "preschool teacher" and "dance studio owner and teacher" are not on these lists.

I know that math and science and students who are skilled at them and careers based on them and employees trained in them are essential to our sustainability as a society. I'm so thankful there are kids who are passionate about these subjects. They are the future.

But my children are the future, too.

I tell them this, because others don't. Teachers, counselors, relatives... a few of all of these have told my students they're wasting their potential or won't make any money or are just plain crazy to be pursuing their chosen career paths. I know these people truly have good intentions. They care about my daughters' futures and want the best for them...and maybe they know things we don't.

But someday, there might be a preschooler who could grow up to solve some unsolvable equation or cure some incurable disease but who, as a beginning learner, does not feel loved or valued at home and who acts up in class because of it. Maybe this child will need a teacher who sees past that behavior and gets to the root of it and shows this child he or she is loved and valued. Maybe my daughter will be that teacher.

Or maybe there will be a future leader in business or government who starts out as a student who doesn't fit in with all the usual teams and clubs at school and needs another way to create and express. Maybe they will need a dance teacher who can show them the power of music and movement with the passion of someone who knows that power firsthand. Maybe my daughter will be that teacher.

wrote Kate Douglas Wiggin in Virtue magazine, "there is the child who will paint the greatest picture or carve the greatest statue of the age; who will deliver his country in an hour of peril; give his life for a great principle; another born more of the spirit than of the flesh who will live continually on the heights of moral being and in dying will draw other to morality. It may be that I shall preserve one of these children to the race. It is a peg big enough on which to hang a hope." 

The race forward is being run by future doctors and chemists and engineers and teachers and musicians and dancers and electricians and mechanics and cooks and ministers and lawyers and managers. Together, they are a peg big enough to hang our hopes on.

So I'll drive my daughter to another dance class and delicate-cycle wash another leotard. I'll proofread another emailed paper on the importance of multicultural education. I'll preserve my children to the race they're running. And I'll be cheering the loudest when they pass every mile marker along the way to the future.

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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-old 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!