Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. -Harriet Tubman
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. -Christopher Reeve
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. -John Lennon
Dreams often possess an intangible quality, because some are always changing and others float in and out of focus during different stages of ones life. When we are young all dreams are at our fingertips, and as we get older–even though we possess more knowledge and ability– our dreams seem like a glimpse of a small sailboat moving beyond the horizon. At times, dreams can be a source of inspiration, power, and what seems like limitless energy. While at other times, dreams may intimidate or be labeled as unrealistic.
When I was younger, even though I played “school” all the time with my younger sister, I never actually said “I want to be a teacher.” Instead, I wanted to be a famous singer, doctor, designer…the list goes on. As I went through school, I made comfortable choices, based on what I knew. I decided to play the flute during grade school, because my mother had played the flute, and why not? The bassoon didn’t exist in my world until high school. If I had known, would I now be a famous bassoonist?
When I went to college, even though I had written essays about becoming a graphic designer/journalist/writer, I decided to pursue science because I was good at it and wasn’t I supposed to be a doctor? While my twin sister was taking The Chemistry of Art and Color at Columbia College in Chicago, I was enrolled in General Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. (After high school I was too afraid to move away, and even Madison, Wisconsin with a population of roughly 220,000 seemed too intimidating.) I eventually made it to Madison, finishing out my degree in biology and taking full advantage of the vast opportunities in science the University of Wisconsin had to offer.
Following college graduation, I still didn’t have what I considered big dreams…or if I did, they were buried and blocked by who knows what. I developed an interest in bioethics and considered the possibility of becoming a law professor like Alta Charo who teaches, lectures, and writes at length about various current topics in bioethics. This time, I got as far as taking the LSAT and applying to several law schools. A week later, I immediately withdrew all of my applications out of fear and anxiety. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I could do it. I knew I could. I just knew, I couldn’t pursue this big dream…maybe it’s not my big dream.
Finally, after working for four years in a laboratory on campus, I decided I would dabble with the idea of becoming a science teacher. I really enjoyed working with the graduate students in the lab, and I had always loved learning but could never quite identify one topic worthy of four to five years of graduate school. I had a strong desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others, and I needed a career with a creative outlet. My mother was a high school teacher, and while everyone told me I was a mini-female version of my father, I thought why not at least investigate the possibility of a career in education. I started slow and took a few classes spending time in middle and high schools. I was quiet and introverted–but I wasn’t fearful, and I didn’t freeze. I just kept moving forward, because I knew this was my path in life.
Even though my heart was on board the teaching train, at the time my mind kept wondering whether teaching was a big enough dream for everyone else in my life. It took me awhile to realize that it isn’t the perceived size of the dream or whether the dream is valued by others, it is your own personal gut feeling about the dream and its ability to make you feel complete and content.
I think about this feeling, and it is a feeling I want for all of my students. I want them to realize their own dreams. I want them to know that they do not need to have life figured out, and that those numbers and letters on their transcripts are extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of life. There are so many fascinating paths in life that lead to success. There are rewards and challenges along any path, but if you’ve chosen a direction for the right reasons, the vigor and creativity that real dreams provide will result in any challenge becoming an opportunity for growth.
Dreams are essential to success and happiness, and we need to encourage our students to dream big, whether that dream is to become a teacher, rapper, or doctor. This need in education today is best captured in a TED TALK I stumbled upon by high school student Laurence Lewars, (Questions Every Teenager Needs to be Asked). In the talk, he examines how society impacts student views and perceptions of future dreams and career choices. Please share with all your students who are dreamers! Remind them that dreams are at your fingertips if you choose to reach for them. The sailboat is not a glimpse on the horizon, if you have learned how to sail.
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We live in a world where dreams take a backseat to job security, and passion comes second to production. -Laurence Lewars