It’s that time of year again at many elementary schools — career days! This is when students are asked to dress as what they want to be when they grow up, and I’ve always found it humorous to see what the children in our neighborhood choose. Just last week at the bus stop, I saw a movie star, a Target employee, a firefighter, a doctor, and a video game creator.
However, while this is usually a fun assignment to get younger students thinking about their career options, one particular British school’s career day policy has sparked quite the debate — with parents, teachers, and even an Olympian weighing in.
On January 18, before their “My World of Work Day,” the school sent a note to parents, saying:
“We know that some children would love to be professional sports people or pop stars or famous YouTubers in the future. These are great ambitions but so hard to achieve! Because of this, on this occasion, we’re not allowing these dress-up choices — instead, we’d like children to think of their ‘Plan B’ choices for jobs.”
Two-time Olympic medal winner Jack Green tweeted a photo of the letter and a response, which received over 6K likes.
Have a read of the ‘Special Note’ and then ignore it and let your children aspire to be whatever they want to be. Thanks mum and some of my teachers for supporting my aspirations when I was young! pic.twitter.com/fbfCPar12Y
— Jack Green (@jackpgreen) January 16, 2018
“Have a read of the ‘Special Note’ and then ignore it and let your children aspire to be whatever they want to be. Thanks mum and some of my teachers for supporting my aspirations when I was young!” the tweet read.
Many Twitter users then commented on Green’s tweet, expressing very strong opinions on both sides of the issue:
This is so sad to see! Those kids being asked to dream but not too big. They're kids! There's plenty of time for life to step in and trample all over dreams when you're older! Sheesh
— Róisín O'Shea (@ivegotthepower) January 16, 2018
The school are simply trying to avoid another glorified fancy dress day. They want the kids to really think about their choice and different jobs/careers. It's not legally binding! It gives children options ' what else would you like to be?'
— Stacey Burland (@staceylovesnoah) January 17, 2018
There is a danger of encouraging false hopes. Many of the icons that children aspire are unreachable for a massive percentage. Idolising individuals can become problematic for certain children. Children should be encouraged to become the best they can, but with realism.
— Time on Feet – Part II🎽 (@Lydiardsboys) January 17, 2018
I do agree with the spirit of Jack Green’s tweet, and I think that the school could have approached the topic in a better way.
However, as the mom of two girls with very big imaginations, I love that this school is teaching students to have backup career ideas. It is so rare that today’s kids are even told to consider a “Plan B.” Many of today’s adults were also raised on the idea that they can be whatever they want, do whatever they want, and have whatever they want. And we’ve all noticed that this is a problem, right? Because life isn’t just about what you want. It’s much more about what discomfort and hard work you are willing to sustain to reach your dreams and goals.
I mean, yes – I do sincerely hope that my older daughter gets her first choice of careers (a Princess Octonaut Pediatrician) when she grows up. She checks her favorite Cinderella dress each morning to see if an “octo alert button” has been magically sewn into it so she can begin working in her chosen field. And, I encourage my younger daughter’s extreme gymnastic talent by taking her to lessons and keeping a balance beam in our home. But, just in case, I’d like them to have a couple other ideas in mind. To teach a flexible, growth mindset-oriented career plan is a complete win in my book.
In my own professional career so far, I have been a nonprofit manager, event planner, fundraiser, stay-at-home mom/household manager, and writer. The key to keeping my family afloat and career going has always been flexibility, creativity, and having a backup plan — and I want this same mindset for my children.