During last night’s (August 20, 2015) #lrnchat this question came up: What advice would you give a 13-year old to prepare for a future that doesn’t yet exist?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -- George Santayana
I reflected on this question at length afterwards. This morning over breakfast with Mrs I asked for her thoughts. We both came up with the idea that to get a clear picture of an indistinct future we should look to the past.
At 13 I was more or less clueless what I wanted to do for a career. I liked taking things apart and putting them together again. I remember being increasingly concerned about the Vietnam War. It was always on the TV news. I didn’t wanted to get drafted into the Army in five more years. There wasn’t much of a future for me there, I remember thinking.
Mrs and I recollected the technology we had at our fingertips at 13. For me this was in 1969. Transistor radios the size of a paperback book was it for portable entertainment. We had a color television in our home; it broke down a lot as I recall. At school there were overhead projectors and mimeograph machines. There were heavy noisy typewriters. We laughed at this, remembering what it was like having to load two sheets of paper into the thing and fumbling to get the mechanical tabs and margins and paper to line up just so.
Uncle Andres was a radioman in the Army during World War II. He lived some distance away from us so we didn’t see him too often. He’d bring gadgets on his visits. He showed me the first power inverter I ever saw. It was a kludgy thing with terminals on top (the connections were naked wire -- touching them could mean instant death). Car stereos: that was another entertainment device. I remember now why he brought the inverter: to power the car stereo inside my room. This is the first innovative act I can remember.
I had a couple of sisters who went to college. Stella was a teacher for a time. She ended up working for the Social Security Administration in an administrative and then later a managerial role. Avelina had a career as a nurse and later, after completing her Masters in Nursing, an educator. These jobs didn’t seem that interesting. The former involved working with the public and pushing papers. Nursing held little interest: antiseptic smells and those caps. The men in my life, Papa and my uncles, were workers: steel mills, cement plants, and manufacturing were where they worked. I guess that’s where I saw myself working too, when I was 13. The space race was going strong in 1969: July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I had no idea what it would take to be an astronaut so I resigned myself to being earthbound.
Looking forwards I have lots of questions. I am planning to retire soon. How soon is soon? I don’t know. That’s another question. I think I would like to get a teaching certificate. Not to teach though. The certificate would add credibility to what I think I most want to do: help educators with their professional development (PD). But do I really need to get a certificate? I’ve met lots of educators the last couple of years through EdCamp unconferences. What if I were to present at conferences ideas on how to engage teachers in thinking differently about their PD? How might teachers take ownership of their PD and not rely on what their schools and district offer? How much control do teachers have now regarding their PD?
So many questions!
To 13 year olds everywhere who should be thinking about their future selves here’s what I recommend. Start by asking yourself what’s it going to be like? Take a good look at the past. Take a really good look at your own past. What do you like to do? What brings you joy? Start asking questions of the people around you whom you respect and admire. Google questions like crazy. That’s the advice I would give. Ask many questions.
I started this post on my new Chromebook in GoogleDocs. The lrnchat graphic was snipped from TweetDeck using SnapChat. Not being sure how to use my blog's web interface I opened the document (it had been saved on GoogleDrive) in Desk on my Macbook Pro. There was a moment or two of fumbling getting the lrnchat graphic inserted. Desk is weak in that area.