Currently, we are studying Careers with my Grade 6 Health and Career Education students. The students have done a number of activities for the last few weeks. One of these activities was completing an interest inventory in which the students went through a number of items describing skills, attitudes, likes and dislikes. Upon completion of this online inventory, the students were given a list of occupations for which they may be suited.
We talked again today about these attributes and interests and how important it is that they decide on a career which they are going to enjoy. I could tell that some of my students looked rather skeptical when I told them that they could do anything they set their mind to. If they make goals and have a dream, they can accomplish that dream. Again, some eyes of disbelief stared at me.
Then I told them a story about a “friend”. I described her as coming from an abusive home – both physical abuse and emotional abuse. Both of her parents didn’t go past a Grade 8 education. In fact, none of her entire family graduated high school. I told them that both of her parents were alcoholics (we later talked about Alcoholics Anonymous when a student brought up a treatment that his father was currently going through). I went on to tell them that this girl went to many schools – 8 school in her 12 years of public education. We talked about how her parents finally divorced after many years of fighting and abuse.
The students were all incredibly engaged throughout the story. When I finished describing this girl and her childhood, I asked them if it was possible for this girl to accomplish dreams she may have about her future career. The students were eager to provide me with their answers and did so in a respectful manner. Most of them said that it was not possible for her to achieve her goals. When asked why not, I heard things like, “she hasn’t had a good role model”, “those who are abused, abuse others”, and “her parents don’t know how to support her”. They were adamant that it was impossible for her to achieve her goals.
Then, there was Nathan (not his real name). He bravely raised his hand, with a bit hesitation. He said, “Yes, she can achieve her goals. She is not her parents and does not have to have them define who she is or what she will do in her life.” Clearly, he had “heard” me when we had talked outside on supervision the week before when he told me about his dad being in rehab. Those are some of the words I said to him. He is a survivor. And, so was the girl in my story.
To the surprise of the class (and to myself), I told them that the girl that I was talking about was me. All of those things described me growing up. Each of my students looked at me with their eyes open wide. A couple of students actually started to clap. It was really quite sweet. Then, one of my most challenging students said, “Mrs. Henriksen, can you tell us that story again, please.”
We went on to talk about how they can achieve their goals. They can choose a career in an area that they love (like I did) and they can be successful in whatever career they choose. They can. They don’t have to let the experience of others define who they are or what their future will be. They now looked at me with eyes of belief. Eyes of trust. Eyes of hope.
I would never have thought I would have shared this part of my story with my students (or with the world through this blog), but I am glad I did. It is important for them to know that I believe in them. It is possible. Anything is possible. They can do it!