Carl Bosch wants his students to find the things they love and go after them.
Where’s the alchemy that takes a 13- or 14-year-old and makes him say, “I want to be a geologist, or a policewoman, or a cross-country truck driver, or an astronaut?” What set of attributes, aptitudes, experience, culture, influences, and temperament combine in the Petrie dish of personality to make an adolescent begin to think of what they “want to be?” What about someone who never finds it? What about the kid who doesn’t learn how to steer?
How did I ever decide that I wanted to be a teacher? Hell, I wanted to play keyboards in a rock-and-roll band. And I did, for a little while, in high school, when I was still trying on a bunch of different disguises, becoming the person I “wanted to be.” I was good at school, and I liked it. Maybe that was the beginning. I remember going to the Department Chair in my major at college and telling him I was thinking of becoming a teacher. The first thing he said to me, “You’ll never get rich.” Encouraging. After teaching for over 10 years, my father once said, “You’ll be a success when you become an administrator.” That was never going to happen. Never. I was lucky. The career found me, and nothing could persuade me otherwise.
Last week, our eighth-graders were welcomed to presentations from three regional magnet schools. In addition to our regular high school, they can join Agriscience, Aquaculture, or Global Studies high schools that are open to our students, free of charge. They can choose to study animal husbandry, genetic crop growth, the ecology of the Long Island Sound and boat design, or Arabic, Chinese or Japanese culture and language. I marvel at the opportunities that lay before them. Do they even realize that decisions they make now may define the remainder of their lives? But, of course, they’re making those decisions every single day, just without any awareness. Students run up to me, excited about this or that magnet school. I mirror their enthusiasm and push them to explore, research, and visit. In a few cases, I have my doubts and think to myself, “Really? Are you kidding yourself? How about start by doing your homework.” Who knows what to pursue at age 14? A dozen boys dream about being pro athletes. Girls sing into the mirror, imagining Beyonce. That’s all OK too. Lady Gaga, J. K. Rowling, and Barack Obama all sat in eighth grade somewhere, trying to figure out who they were and what they were going to become.
I don’t have the magical answer. I’m still searching for the test kit that shouts, “Eureka! You’re supposed to be a …!” That’s because there isn’t one. There really isn’t. Lots of youngsters can live happy, fulfilled lives doing all sorts of different things.
But here’s what I say to them, and I know that in this economically stressed and difficult time it’s almost irresponsible of me: search until you find that thing you love, and go for it. Give yourself to it. Work hard. Create your own energy and enthusiasm every day. I want the truck driver to love his job every bit as much as the policewoman and the geologist.