When I Grow Up…

When I was 7, I wanted to be a dentist. Age 10- hair stylist.   Age 13- a neurosurgeon. Age 16- missionary doctor.  At age 24, well I’m a teacher/Realtor/businesswoman/meandering young lady.

How does a 17 year old determine the course for the rest of their life?  Is it based on some far-fetched dream of owning 3 sports cars, 2 luxury homes, and picking whatever career path might provide the financial means to make this dream come true?   Or is it based on family tradition; are you a fourth generation lawyer and must keep up the ‘legacy’?   Maybe you are the first person in your family to attend college and move out of your community; a career path might be chosen based on a cool job that you saw on television.  Are any of these options truly tapping into the specific skill set of that individual?

My sister changed her major 3 times.  Marketing to nursing to accounting all within 2 semesters of college.  She, age 22, has since graduated and is currently managing a real estate office with dreams of going back to nursing school.  My best friend, age 24, graduated from the top Journalism school in the country, made a flip in life plans and completed a 1.5 year teacher certificate program and is now a middle school English teacher.  Is there anything wrong with making these switcharoos?  Not at all.  Life happens, people change.  Visions change.  But just ask and they’ll tell you that if they had a little more guidance, exposure and experience they could have saved a few thousand dollars and headaches to get to the same destination.

It is key to expose our youth to a variety of experiences and help them zone in on their specific passions and skill sets.  As a science teacher, I love to show video clips and complete labs on everything from ecology to chemistry.  These are the experiences that inspired me to major in Biology.  If only every middle and high school student was exposed to a passionate entrepreneur, exciting accountant, or engaging historian…then maybe our youth could get reenergized about learning these subjects and pursuing careers in these fields.  At age 17, your life switches from a set high school curriculum to an open door.  The cure for cancer and next big tech product won’t be created until we expose and excite our youth instead of allowing them to settle for the familiar.

Erin Burns

Erin Burns is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who teaches Biology at North Mecklenburg High School.  Erin graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Biology and minors in Education and Entrepreneurship.  A recent addition to the team, Erin looks to channel her creativity and passion for education-reform through the SKoolAide initiative.  Find her on LinkedIn, email her at erin@skoolaide.com, or follow @eburnsye on Twitter.

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