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School is In: Career day musing

— I recently made my annual appearance at Roberts School’s career day. It’s an enjoyable event where seventh and eighth graders have the chance to talk with people who have pretty good jobs and learn that even successful people have had to struggle in one way or another to get where they are — a valuable lesson in itself.

As a photographer, I brought along a few cameras, a portfolio and a computer slide show. Students came to my table in twos and threes, watched the slide show, checked out materials and asked the usually predictable questions about why I chose this job (it chose me, I say), did I have to go to school for it (no, but I did to be an English teacher) why I like it (it’s creative and I get into ball games for free) and the like.

The Q and A was going quite well (and predictably) until one student asked: “What is your muse for your job?” I thanked her for asking a truly great (and original) question. I told her she was the first ever to ask it. I surmised that she must be a poet or an artist to ask such a thing. She said she was neither. I realized I was dodging the question — that I had no good answer for it. I also realized that I owed her an answer.

I showed her a photo of a red panda and told her that for that photo, the panda was my muse. The rose was the muse for that photo, as was the building reflected in the puddle, the old woman in Rome and so on. She was satisfied with my responses which were truthful and honest and accurate, and I was glad that I had been able to answer her authentically. But — she had planted a question in my mind. If she assumed that there would be a muse attached to someone’s job, then what muse inspired my teaching career — or any teacher’s career?

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