The first thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher. Inside my bedroom, I made displays on the backs of my wardrobe doors, had a small collection of exercise books from the local stationers, and I sometimes transformed my room into a 'trip', where I'd laid out non-fiction texts and guide books from places I'd been with my family.
As I grew up, I went through a series of other professions as my target. In many ways, I think I am lucky to have returned to my original idea of becoming a teacher; it gave me a path to follow and a clear end goal. It also meant, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had an obvious answer.
But what are you to do if you're not sure? Rush into a decision? Lie? Say you don't know?
I like to think I would have gone for option 3, but I suppose I'll never know. At what point do you need to choose? At what point are you allowed to change your mind? Would we become greater successes, with more time to plan ahead, to make our options?
With this in mind, a teacher at my school wanted to open our children's minds to the sorts of jobs out there, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever been part of. It wasn't an occasion to pigeon-hole them into a job at 10 years old, but a rare opportunity for them to speak to a huge variety of people about what on Earth they do all day!
It all started with a simple letter to parents, asking if they'd be willing to volunteer their time to speak to our Year 5 and 6 children about their profession. We waited for the exact details of how to organise the event until we knew the sort of response we would get.
A few weeks flew and we received just over 20 replies, all from a wide variety of industries. The response was so good, our teacher decided to hold the event across an entire day. We split the volunteers across 4 classes (5 in each) and the children rotated around each room for each lesson of the day. It was fantastically organised - with a throw-back school lunch thrown in too - and our children gained so much from the experience.
We had a foster carer who explained the 24/7 nature of her job.
A few people from banks, customer service roles and international companies.
We had a midwife, who explained the reason for her profession was to help other mothers.
We had a globe-trotting businessman who explained how his schedule impacts on family life.
There was a publisher who's recently worked with a famous British Vlogger.
A professional footballer who explained his plan B after a career-shattering injury.
A couple of firefighters, a policeman and a few engineers.
We had a clinical psychologist and an occupational therapist.
A student teacher, childminder and Civil Servant.
In a spare hour between meetings, our Head Teacher even came to sit with a group!
Our children were totally inspired. As an anchor, we prepared a small booklet featuring the names of all our volunteers, with space for the children to write questions and make notes. We started the day with what they'd like to be, if they knew, and ended the day with the same question. It was not expected that they changed their mind as a way to 'show progress', but it was interesting to hear how many of them came up with 'but if that doesn't work out...' or had a clearer idea of a route to help them get to where they wanted.
Qualifications, experience and further education are all very samey from your teacher's voice. It verges on nagging. But to hear about the value of effort and hard work, from a wide range of different people, was invaluable.
The day was a complete success; the product of a teacher's work, another example of supporting our learners. I'd recommend you try it yourself. We will definitely repeat it, although maybe spread it across a few half-days; our volunteers essentially had the same conversation 20 times, which can be tricky.
Thank you to our teacher, who masterminded the whole thing, and thank you to our volunteers who I don't think will ever realise the impact they have had.