It’s the famous interview question, isn’t it? But also, surely, pointless? The only correct answer can be ‘I don’t know.’
What is wrong with answering the question with that frankly honest answer? Where do I want to be in five years’ time? I’ve genuinely no idea. And that’s not a bad thing.
I am a (reasonably) well-rounded individual yet I am often pressured by friends, colleagues and (sometimes) people I’ve only just met to start thinking about my next move as if what I am doing now is only a stop-gap to something significantly more worthwhile. (Just to clarify, I love my current job!)
It is this kind of insistence on systematic forward-planning which prompts people in their mid-20s to fret at the thought that they’ve been teaching for four years and have not yet attained that much-coveted TLR. In their 20s! Imagine!
Now, it’s important to clarify that I think striving to be better and achieve ‘more’ – whatever that means – is an important characteristic and I am constantly trying to improve on things I do (which is one of the reasons I set up this blog) and look at things I might be capable of achieving in the coming days, weeks, months, etc. But I certainly do not beat myself up about not having done X, Y or Z, because quite simply I don’t see the value in it.
My biggest fear is that we impose this ludicrous mindset on our pupils from an increasingly young age, constantly asking them what they want to be when they’re older – a simple re-wording of the interview classic.
There are so many reasons why this is flawed. I will only explore a couple here. For the first, I will make reference to the numerous incarnations of the Shift Happens videos, but particularly the most recent UK version (which is still a significant number of years out of date), embedded below (If you haven’t seen it then it’s certainly worth spending six minutes of your time on):
In particular, I should draw attention to the point that we are currently in the process of preparing pupils for jobs that don’t exist yet. If they don’t exist how can we possibly begin to suggest pupils choose them now, aged 18, or 16, or 11? How??
In addition, the suggestion that by the age of 38 people will have worked in an average of 10-14 different jobs, must beg the question: ‘Just which future are we preparing our pupils for?’ If they are to work in numerous jobs, quite possibly representing numerous professions, surely the question should be: ‘How are you best preparing yourself to respond to your changing future?’ (Or something more pithy!)
Surely, therefore, our job as educators must be to help equip pupils with a ‘toolbox’ of transferable skills which can be applied to different professions, and to inspire and stimulate a genuine passion for learning and self-improvement. What better gift to leave someone with as they enter adulthood?
The second point I wish to address is the insanity of trying to make children pick jobs from the incredibly narrow group of jobs to which they are likely to have been exposed by whatever age they happen to be. My adult self is only aware of a relatively small number of potential jobs which are available to me, so our pupils are quite probably less informed still. So why, sat in your Careers Advisor’s office aged 14 should you have to choose between the narrow range of options you’re currently aware of? You don’t know what you don’t know, which is why I inherently support any project or initiative which broadens children’s experiences and opportunities to explore the world around them, including enterprise and ‘formal’ projects such as professional School Councils, such as this stunning example from Bowling Park Primary School (although I work there I have no direct involvement with the School Council and so don’t feel too boastful in recommending it).
Ambition is important, but I think that forcing people to make choices under too much pressure stifles ambition and creativity, something which is unforgivably irresponsible.
What do you think? Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?