Deciding what we want to be

By Greg Whitby, 20 November 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

This one’s for the kids who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up…and the grown-ups who still haven’t figured it out. Why do we still ask young people to tell us their career aspirations as a matter of routine?

Why indeed does the question about what a person wants ‘to be’ suggest that a career is an identity? In the olden days, many people got their names from professions they held for life: Miller, Baker, Smith. These days, if LinkedIn is anything to go by, this same process would result in some pretty ridiculous names and frequent changes too!

Little children sometimes give the best answers to these questions, confounding traditional job titles with dreams of becoming a nana, mad scientist or a favourite cartoon character. As students approach their senior years of secondary school, there remains an expectation that they prematurely commit to a career.

So kids, next time someone asks you what you want to be, tell them happy, strong, kind or even just human. Though there is much dignity in work, the contribution we can make has so much more to do with who we are as people.

This is why schooling has to be about the whole person, and develop values that guide a young person through life. We also need schools to focus on developing skills that will prepare students for what lies ahead, in all its uncertainty.

I know what people say about teachers behind our backs. Those that can do, those that can’t teach. Yet in the career of a teacher there is an honesty in recognising that we are always learning, becoming and growing (even the ‘grown-ups’).

When I was little, if you asked me what I wanted to be, I might have said a pilot. Maybe I should have answered, adventurous…though I never learned to fly a plane, I certainly hope that I’ve helped others to soar!

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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