It's a simple, quick, and honest question that I ask everyone. Repeatedly.
I ask people during the interview process.
I ask staff during professional development.
I ask co-workers, particularly on a day when I feel like they need a boost.
I ask myself almost daily.
I ask my husband frequently.
It's an important question that we sometimes forget to ask ourselves. When you were little, people probably asked your cute little 8-year-old self what you wanted to be when you grew up. In my case, I always said teacher. Then second grade teacher. And when I got my first teaching job as a preschool teacher, I said preschool teacher. Then quickly realized that I wanted something different. I wanted to make a bigger ripple in the education pool, if you will. I let myself dream of being an Education Coordinator and when I saw the need for stronger leadership, allowed myself to dream of being a Site Director. Let's be honest, no kindergartner is ever going to say "When I grow up, I want to be a Site Director of an infant-toddler center." Well, maybe, if their parent is in a similar position. But unlikely.
Dreams change. Goals change. The field changes. We change.
We have to keep reassessing our goals and passion. The more time I spend working with infants, toddlers, and twos as well as the adults in their lives (parents and teachers alike), the more passion I feel about ensuring that this age group has a strong foundation of support. I also want to make an impact in the area of teacher preparation. What I learned in college, though helpful, wasn't really enough to prepare me for the real world of early childhood education. What I really needed was a course in Head Start, which someday I would LOVE to teach. I'll tell you what's up. Anyone who wants to hire me to teach about Head Start, seriously, give me a call. I will make myself available.
When you set a goal for yourself, be realistic. Break that big goal of being a lead teacher into smaller steps. You have a CDA in preschool -- fabulous. Now what? Let's work on that associates degree in preschool so you can be in the preschool classroom as an assistant teacher, learning the ropes and systems within that culture. After a while, maybe you pursue your bachelors degree and perhaps (!!!) a teaching license so that you can be the lead teacher. Goals take planning and patience. Don't forget the patience. Insert "Rome wasn't built in a day" line here. And be open. It's possible that along your path to pursuing that bachelors or even your associates, you will change your mind. Maybe you will have an epiphany and decide that infants are your life's passion and you want to focus on that grouping. Go for it.
Setting goals will keep you moving and learning. It's when we stop learning that mold starts to gather and we get stale and bored within our settings. I truly believe that this is the root of teacher burnout. Keep going! Maybe you will be the kindergarten teacher who teaches for 40 years -- but maybe your goal will change. Maybe you'll have side goals that support your role as a teacher.
Keep moving forward --- no matter what.
Stay thirsty my friends.
Get it? Hahaha, clever, right?