Educator’s Regret: Timing, Future Thought, and All that Jazz

I know, its already the 15th of the month (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MLK!) and this is the first post of the new year for me. I’ve been a bit under the weather (I dislocated my knee in October and have been in various levels of pain ever since) and have made the conscious choice to do nothing more that go to work, teach and go home.  Having free time to consider my mortality, pain and life, I’ve been reflecting on my career as an educator.

I like being a teacher.  It is possibly the most fun I’ve had as a working member of society.  I may never know how I have truly impacted the world by teaching science to students.  I may never know my role in promoting the use of technology in education.  Yet, I know what I do is important, necessary and appreciated… by someone.  This makes me happy.

I only have one regret…

I regret I didn’t start teaching sooner.  The last 12 years have been great, but image being an Edtech geek 15+ years ago… as the very beginnings of the “technology in education” movement.  I think about teaching science in the midst of the Space Shuttle program (I had a great year with 6th graders when the Mars rovers first started poking around the Red Planet). I wonder if I would still be in the classroom if I’d started sooner or if I would have a different role in education. I consider if my masters degree program would have even existed then.

Yet, timing can make all the difference in the world, can’t it?  The time I spent as a safety engineer gave me the opportunity to see first hand how workers respect science and what their levels of scientific literacy are.  Its been fun seeing how technology was just beginning to be a game changer in industry, with more computer operated machinery and software that changed the way we do work. There are things happening in all sorts of industries that depend on a clear understanding of STEM topics and the changes made in education reflect those changes.  The way we taught then and the way we teach now are different because they need to be different.

We hear all the time how new skill sets are needed for employees.  Many people are going back to school to learn new things to change their careers and become part of the new economy.  School aged children are quickly learning they can create jobs that don’t exist yet; jobs they will fill.  I found an article by Thomas Frey on jobs that don’t exist yet.  How do educators prepare students for these careers?   We make sure they have the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic), instill in them an appreciation for the humanities (arts, sciences and history), and they guide them toward the future with technology (computer science, digital citizenship, critical thinking and researching).

I have no idea how to do that last one.  No educator really does.  That’s the exciting part of all of this… going bravely forward knowing none of us really know what the heck we’re doing…but doing it together. Working WITH the children to visual what they image their world will be like.  So very different from what even their parents know of their world. Definitely different from the world I grew up in during the 70s.  Its exciting.

Perhaps I don’t have regrets after all.  I’m in the right place at the right time in education.  I just need to dig deeper into the “future thought” of what is yet to come.  I am up to the challenge.  Are you?