I have said for a long time that we need to talk more to our kids about the work we do and the careers we have in order to foster their thinking about the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” In fact, this was a suggestion that I came up with as a result of the research I did for my dissertation about community college students who are pursuing careers in manufacturing.
As a community college administrator, I consider myself a knowledge worker. I do not make anything with my hands; I work on a computer, attend meetings, and talk on the phone. During the pandemic, I can easily do my work from home unlike others in the workforce. I lead faculty, I create and maintain programs, I communicate with business and industry partners – that is my work.
There are many others like me out there and many of you, who are teachers, are also finding yourselves working from home.
There have been many conversations about what working from home is doing “to” us and the struggles we are dealing with on a daily basis. Shoddy Internet connections may interrupt our productivity. Having to deal with our own young children who are learning from home poses a challenge. Maintaining some type of work-life balance may be difficult as we find ourselves working more hours because we can never escape the laptop looking at us from the corner of the room.
Those are all very real challenges, and none are easy.
However, if you have children who live with you (be that your own, grandchildren, or others) there is an unintended consequence of working from home that is actually a positive: the young people in your care get to see you at work.
I am fairly certain that outside of knowing where I work and maybe my title, my own children really had no clue about what I did day to day. Now – for better or worse – they get to hear me on conference calls and phone calls and can look through a slightly open window into my world of work. They can begin to understand the job of a community college administrator, even if it is in bits and pieces as they are navigating their own daily lives of online school.
I cannot help but think that this strange time in which we are living has some positive aspects, even if they have a perceived negative outcome as in my children possibly saying, “Ugh. I don’t EVER want to be a community college administrator!” As I often tell college students, even finding out what you DON’T want to be when you grow up is a good thing… eliminating possibilities takes you to a narrower road that may lead you to what you DO want to pursue as your career.
So while you are working or teaching from home, don’t hide from your children. Use the opportunity to talk to your kids about the work you do, why it is important, and how you hope that more people follow in your footsteps, as hard as I imagine that can be lately. I say this especially to CTE teachers because we need more of you. We need the next generation to understand that while you are all being asked to do the nearly impossible in this environment, that your work is important and necessary to our future workforce. After all, teaching is the profession that creates all other professions.