Works and Days

Montgomery High School: Jeannette Phan, Winter Shadow 2016

When I first considered doing a Shadow, I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires. A great many things happened to me during that semester, and just about as many questions, too, about where I’m going to be and what I want to do after Reed. Wondering how I was supposed to utilize and mold my Reed experience into something conducive to my future. Even the answer to what sort of field I wanted to go into was up in the air. These questions have only become more dire as I have been embarking on the last half of my undergraduate phase. So upon hearing about the opportunity Reed was offering students to shadow Reed alumni, I thought, what better way to help me examine this dilemma.

I didn’t know what kind of shadow I was looking for, besides looking for one where the person I would be shadowing could advise me on how to navigate the murky and amorphous decisions that I would soon have to make.

I had always thought of a career in teaching as an option; sometimes as my one an only option, and at other times as a backup should I never find anything better. As it were, at this point the playing field was level for all possible careers. I just wanted to know what careers were available and how one gets there. How do careers happen? For surely they are not always dependent on the linear development of one’s schooling, from grade school and higher education. Clearly, my problem was a simple lack of exposure to the realties of a career beyond the fanciful notions of stability and mundane complacency.

I suppose those are all the reasons that Steve’s offer appealed to me. Steve is an experienced high school teacher with a Reed degree, and has worked for 14 years as a RN. There was story to be told there, from a career path that had accumulated a lot of experience. A story I was hoping would contain career and life advice.

Steve wrote that he would to showcase the teaching profession, not only by shadowing him, but also by interacting with other colleagues and observing nearly every aspects of what goes in to working in high school education. And I can say that he really did. From seeing over a dozen different teachers instruct in various subjects and with different learning groups, it was enlightening and a comprehensive overview. It was also a little reminiscent of my high school experience, but this time, I had my eye out for more than my own personal experience.

From this Shadow, I definitely gained the insight I wanted about what a teaching career entails. But I think the Shadow taught me a lot more than that too, and I daresay even has made clearer the sort of maneuvering I will probably have to do to find the kind of work I will want to do post-Reed. What I learned (I think) is that, for lack of more eloquent wording, there is not necessarily a right way in which one can pursue a career if a career has not yet appeared. At risk of sounding even more philosophical in this blog post, I think I learned that it’s okay to not know the exact end point, but do keep on moving. You might not know the precise destination but by product of knowledge accumulation, experience, and just experimenting, you’ll be okay. As long as you are in a good space where you have what you need, it’s okay. As I understand it, there are very few people who find the one singular thing they were meant to do and will stick through it until the end happily (and I’m sure there’s some sociological evidence that can attest to that somewhere). So, I guess what I mean is after doing this Shadow, I am more okay with the idea that where I end up career-wise right after graduation, as long as I don’t just give up, doesn’t have to be the be-all end-all for my career choices. It’s never too late to learn something new about yourself, or to change what you want. Maybe one day, I will find the teaching profession calls to me in a way that makes it feel like it’s exactly the right next step for me. Maybe not. Careers can last a long time, but they don’t have last a lifetime.

Tags: winter shadow, externship, education, high school, career, alumni