Story notes: This story was written while working with a group of elementary school children who were exploring careers. One child told me, “I am SOOOO sick of grown ups asking me ‘What are you going to be?’ How should I know, I’m just a kid. Help!” Here was the story that resulted from that conversation. It is mean to be interactive with either one child or a group. I have listed some suggestions for each category, but this is time to let your imagination go. The points isn’t getting “the right answer”, but rather encouraging exploration. Feel free to adapt it to use with children you know.
What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Once there was a little girl named Juanita who didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. It seemed like every time she turned around SOMEONE was asking her “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Sometimes she would try to say, “I don’t know.” Which sometimes worked, but sometimes just seemed to make people, especially grown ups, MAD.
So she tried to think.
“I like math, so maybe I could be a: ______________________” (who has an idea?) Mathematician, a surveyor, a chef
“I like music, so maybe I could be a:_________________________”
Musician, a singer, a composer, a rock star, a music teacher
“I like talking (she was always getting in trouble from her teacher from talking TOO MUCH) , so maybe I could be a:________________”
Talk show host, an actor, a teacher, a speechmaker, a politician, a principal
“I like to read, so maybe I could be a: _________________________”
Librarian, an author, a storyteller, a newspaper editor
“I like to do sports, so maybe I could be a: __________________________”
Professional athlete, a coach, a TV sports commentator, a sports writer for a magazine, a referee
“I like science, so maybe I could be a ____________________”
Scientist, an archeologist, a paleontologist, an inventor, a doctor
“I like to help people, so maybe I could be a:___________________”
Social worker, a counselor, a mayor, a nurse, a minister, a community activist
“I am afraid of animals, so I know I don’t want to be a:_____________________”
Lion tamer, a dogcatcher, a veterinarian, a bug exterminator, K-9 police officer
“I don’t like machines very much, so I don’t want to be a:______________________”
Truck driver, a car mechanic, a welder, computer repairperson
“I don’t like selling things, so I don’t want to be a _______________”
Salesperson, a telemarketer, a store clerk
“I hate cleaning, so I don’t want to be a ____________________”
Trash collector, a janitor, a maid, an owner of a house cleaning business
Sometimes Juanita got scared. “What if I don’t pick the right job? What if I never know what I want to be? What if I try a job and I find out that I don’t like it? What if I really like my job and then the business closes down or I get laid off?”
She started to get really scared. Finally she talked with her neighborhood, Mr. Sanchez, who gave her some really good advice.
“Juanita,” he said “Many people your age, and many people even a lot older than you don’t know for sure what they want to be. There are a couple of secrets I want to tell you. First of all, staying in school and getting good grades buys you something really important.”
“That I will for sure make a lot of money?” Asked Juanita.
“Not for sure…what it really buys you is more choices. If you study something in college and later on decide that you don’t want to do that you can always change your mind. But if you don’t go to college, or you don’t finish high school, some jobs that you might like and that you might even be really good at, aren’t even a choice for you because they need you to have a college education first.”
“But what if I want to be more than one thing? Or I change my mind later on?”
Mr. Sanchez smiled, “Lots of people have more than one job, or do something for a while and then do something else. And something else later on. Your job right now is to keep on learning and exploring the things that you like and are good at and the things that you don’t like or don’t want to learn how to do. The more you know about yourself, the better prepared you will be. Give yourself a break…and don’t let other people pressure. You will do a lot of wonderful things in your life. I can already tell!”
And Juanita felt a whole lot better as she kept exploring her options. When a grown up would ask her “the question” sometimes she answered with “I don’t know yet,” but sometimes people got quite a very long speech from Juanita as she explained to them some of her latest thoughts and possibilities. She stopped worrying so much and kind of looked forward to some asking her, “What do you want to be when you grow up.”