Professional Football Player
Professional Soccer Player (“like Cristiano Ronaldo”)
Professional Video Gamer
Professional Youtuber (I wasn’t fully aware this was a thing)
Growing up, I wanted to be an archaeologist, professional baseball player, professional golfer (which is ironic because I’m a terrible golfer), or a rock star. It was so fun to have these dreams. I’d picture myself hitting a grand slam to win the game as a professional baseball player. I’d have daydreams of myself on stage rocking out with my guitar. However, I was also encouraged (by my parents and teachers) to have more realistic dreams in addition to my utmost desire to be the next Eddie Van Halen. For instance, after visiting Springfield as a junior high student, I became enthralled with politics. I was encouraged to consider a career as a lawyer and then to enter politics. Looking back, I’m so happy that I was encouraged to have a “Plan B Dream” in addition to my ultimate dreams.
At this point in the school year, I get to go out to all the schools within my district in order to learn more about our 6th grade students. I get to interview 6th graders, which affords me the opportunity to get to know them so much better. These students are amazing. They’re smart. They’re funny. They’re shy. They’re nervous. They’re kind. They’re caring. Some are quiet. Some are more talkative. Some really like video games. Some really like animals. Some really like the Chicago Bulls. But, most importantly, they’re all 6th grade kids with wide eyes and incredible dreams. Many times, those dreams consist being a professional singer, an actor in Hollywood, a reality TV star, or a football player for the New England Patriots, just to name a few. I’v heard students say they wanted to be every single one of those things in the list at the beginning of this post, and then some.
As educators (and parents as well), I think it’s important to embrace our students and their dreams, and to also encourage our students to have “Plan B Dreams” in addition to their ultimate dreams. These “Plan B Dreams” tend to be a bit more realistic or like “regular jobs” as one student described. That’s not a bad thing. Having a backup plan is important (I may be biased because I’m a habitual planner). Some people take issue with the phrase “Plan B Dreams” because they claim it implies that we’re discouraging students from pursuing their real dreams or that we’re “dream killers.” If you don’t want to call it “Plan B Dreams,” fine. Don’t. These “regular job” dreams can go by another name. However, I think it’s essential that kids are encouraged to have these “regular job” dreams. Being real about future careers and opportunities is so important. What is more, I think it’s important to help students and their parents research future jobs and understand their skills and potential. As I got older (high school), I remember taking aptitude tests or skills tests that would help identify careers that would be a good fit for me. The results of these tests were always so narrow. The results almost always had to do with a public service position like a law enforcement officer or a teacher (nothing wrong with either of those professions). That being said, it’s our job as educators to show kids and their families that there are so many other opportunities out there in this world, in addition to their ultimate dream jobs/careers and in addition to the jobs/careers that may be identified for them based on the results of some test.
We’re not dream killers. We’re not crushing the dreams of our students. Encouraging students to have realistic dreams in addition to their ultimate dreams is not killing their dreams or discouraging them from pursuing their ultimate dreams. We just want to ensure that the children within our care (whether our own kids or the students in our charge) have a variety of dream jobs/careers and “Plan B Dream” jobs/careers, have the knowledge and ability to one day pursue their dreams, and understand that just because their ultimate dream job/career may not have come to fruition, that doesn’t mean they’re not or they won’t be successful in life.