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Written by: Virginia Macali
Date: December 3, 2015

Violin teacher

Violin teacher. Photo: Nathan Russell/Flickr

Parents, teachers, and friends often asked me this question. In second grade, the teacher asked us to make a construction paper cut-out of what we wanted to be when we grew up. At 7 or 8 years old, I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  So, my cut-out was a slim woman in a light blue dress with a book in her hand.  This was my answer to the question. 

My mother and aunt were teachers. I loved school and enjoyed the teachers I knew from pre-school to second grade. It seemed like the perfect choice. 

I wasn’t exposed to many careers for women as a child. Over the years, I learned more about careers for women. I knew two nurses in the neighborhood, a buyer for a retail store, and one neighbor who served in the Peace Corps and later worked in sales for IBM. In my mind, I always thought I’d be a teacher.

After taking the requisite courses at college in education, I embarked on student teaching in a rural middle school. I had high hopes as I prepared lesson plans, designed and graded tests, and taught social studies and history to 12 and 13 year olds. I didn’t end up pursuing a career as a teacher following college.

What I found after college was that I enjoyed adult learning. There’s always been an element of teaching in my work, no matter what the actual job title was. I’m drawn to learning environments, whether at the university level, workshops, seminars, professional and personal development, continuing education, and small groups gathering in living rooms. 

A dedicated life-long learner, I attend many classes as a student and many as a teacher, in some form. I enjoy supporting people to discover new perspectives about themselves, others, and their world. I enjoy tapping in to the wisdom that lives in a group. Adults prefer social, relevant, interactive learning, and immediate application. I find teaching and learning to be very enlivening to me as it feeds my curiosity and gives expression to my passion for exploring life with others. 

Chris Farrell, author of Unretirment:  How the How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life, says that most people who retire go back to work in some form within two years of retirement. Post-retirement is often an invitation to take advantage of past works experiences, explore new ways of working, contribute in ways that were not possible when working, create new ways of expression. Many people start new businesses, volunteer in non-profit organizations, or travel. Some pursue creative expression, find ways to leave a legacy, explore new worlds. 

The third act of life offers many opportunities for learning and teaching. Richard Leider, author of Life Reimagined invites us to reflect, connect, and explore new ways to work and live. This time of life may open an opportunity to ask the question again, and possibly find a new answer. 

Here are some questions to consider:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to learn?

What do you have to teach?

What wisdom and knowledge would you like to pass on to others?

What next step will you take?