Sunday Thoughts, Monday Mornings

By Troy Headrick

If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve stood at the front of classrooms and talked to a room of college students, I’d be rich.  Unfortunately, I’m not wealthy.  If only I’d been paid by the hour, in the way I’ve just described!

Most of those who know what I do for a living would call me an “educator,” and, in fact, I often refer to myself in this way.  In reality, I prefer to think of myself as an “educationist.”  There’s a subtle but important difference between the two terms.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m thinking about my life, about who’ve I’ve been, about what I’ve done to earn a living.  And about how and why I’ve made some of the choices I’ve made.  (These are the sorts of topics that come to one as he steels himself for another Monday.)

I’m not temperamentally suited to be up in front of groups in the way I often am.  I’m shy.  I’m often not comfortable being the center of attention.  I’m often beset by all manner of self-doubts. 

I never wanted to be a teacher either.  I’ve had some educators tell me that they grew up wanting to teach.  Such was not the case for me.  As a child, I wanted to be a professional football player.  I also spent a bit of time thinking about becoming an artist and a lawyer.  The truth be told, I don’t remember thinking a lot about what I wanted to do as work.  I wonder why that’s true about me.

I suppose I got into the business because I’ve had wonderful teachers—people who’ve changed my life.  I suppose I must have seen something in those individuals that pulled me in the direction of education.

When I was in grad school, I had a few amazing professors.  Dr. H. T. Meserole comes to mind.  He was a world-renowned bibliographer and researcher.  I had him for a class called Research Methodology. 

Meserole had a tonsure, a grey mustache, and was portly.  He also wore rather conservative suits that would have looked appropriate adorning the body of a banker during the 1950s.  Before every class I’d see him standing outside of Blocker Hall, near an entrance to the building, smoking long, thin, brown cigarettes.  He wasn’t much to look at, but boy, could he speak.

During the term I had him, he gave us about seven or eight research projects that came in the form of questions.  Each student got a different question so that no two students were working on the same assignment.  He told us the questions were going to be hard to answer—in fact, some were unanswerable.  The point wasn’t to come to a definitive conclusion, per se; it was to document the intellectual approach we took when attempting to solve our riddles.  Our essays were supposed to show him each intellectual footstep we were taking while thinking about how to answer the questions we’d been given.  I’d never been asked to be so overtly metacognitive before.  Meserole got me started thinking about my thinking (and about thinking in general) in ways that have changed my life.

Now that I’m thinking about him, I realize that Meserole was one of the most powerful and influential people I’ve ever met.  His power emanated from his incredible mind, and he shaped us by pushing us to our limits while expecting perfection.   He wanted to show me how I could tap into that power source too and to begin to demand more of myself than I heretofore had.  Thank you, Dr. Meserole, for all that you did for me.

I want to conclude by asking you to reflect on the work that you do and how you came to do it.  Please share your reflections in the comments section.  Thanks so much for reading.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.


31 thoughts on “Sunday Thoughts, Monday Mornings

  1. This was interesting to read because my experience was somewhat opposite. I didn’t have a super clear sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I was a bookish-sort and a lot of my first jobs were tutoring jobs, so teaching would have appeared a reasonable fit. Also, teaching and learning is so highly praised in Judaism and as an adult, I wound up living in a college town with a ton of academics, so I was in communities where teaching was seen as really praiseworthy. In the end, I pursued a Corporate America profession that was Not Teaching, but due to network connections and so on, I found myself with a second job as a co-adjunct professor for an online course.

    And I discovered that I didn’t really like it. Interacting with the students was fine, but I didn’t like lesson planning, coordinating with the university or the other instructors, grading, or literally anything else about teaching. It was so odd because I really expected to. I’m still doing it, but I don’t care for it and I think I will stop after this semester.

    1. Here’s something I’ve always thought was odd. We ask very young people to declare majors in college or know what they want to be when they grow up. How is such an inexperienced human being supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they don’t even know themselves or anything about the world of work. I’m not actually surprised that you didn’t like teaching even though you expected to. We never really know what something is going to be like until we do it. I mean, we have all sorts of preconceived notions, but they have no basis in experience. There is no wonder that so many people ending up finding that they’ve chosen a path that’s not right for them. Do you like your corporate job, if I might ask? Thanks for sharing your story.

      1. We also tell young people that they should expect to find fulfillment through their jobs, when in fact, it could be valid to have a job that pays the bills and find fulfillment through other things outside work, eg. Family, hobbies, travel, etc. I do think that putting the expectation on young people that they need to choose a fulfilling career path at a young age when they don’t know what that will ultimately mean is a lot.

        There are aspects I like about my corporate job and aspects I don’t like. In that sense, it’s not so different from any other job. Thanks for the prompt.

  2. Awesome read. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    Most of the time, it is the small differences in approach to solving a problem that defines probability of success over failure. Thank You for sharing this experience.

  3. Life is dynamic and the opportunities are raging if we don’t put a concrete plan on what we wanted to be and just let life blooms naturally this is what happened. You have bloom in a person you didn’t realize that you are capable of and I am so happy with your growth.

    In my case, I have dreamt to be a nun when I was little and as life goes on I have realized I wanted to provide care to people. I felt like I was born because I needed to have an impact to the people I meet everyday of my life. Yes I do care about the money but the smiles and the relief I see with the well and sick people I see everyday it is priceless.

    1. I’m fascinated by the fact that you feel like you were born to help people. People who have such a strong conviction and then find a way to live it out are truly fortunate. I’m happy that you seem so happy with the work you’ve chosen to do. May your happiness always continue. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I was a financial patient rep. at a major hospital until I married my second/current husband. I loved what I was doing. Yet, the job was not the one I had in mind when I was a kid. Like you, I didn’t think a lot about my future. I was too busy enjoying every year without a thought about what I would have or what I’d be doing as an adult. I didn’t think about such things until I hit high school. Then I wanted to be a flutist and, maybe, be an English teacher, knowing I’d probably never make much of a living being a musician. Unfortunately, when I became disabled the summer right out of high school, how I thought of my life changed, of course. I find it peculiar that I was able to switch gears about my life so easily.

    1. The truth be told, you’d probably make more money playing the flute than teaching English. Here’s something far too few American teachers understand or take advantage of. If you want to have a wonderfully adventurous career as a teacher, go abroad. I spent two decades of my life teaching overseas. They were the best (and most lucrative) years of my life. Your comment about being too busy living to think about work hits close to home for me. I think that must have been true for me too. I must have been too much into the moment to have been concerned about what tomorrow was going to bring. Thanks for the cool comment!

  5. Though I considered many careers and worked at many jobs, I think I always wanted to become a teacher. Among high school students at that time, teaching was an unpopular career choice. I married right after high school, and with a job and family, I went back to school part-time, becoming a teacher at age forty,

    In retirement, I have pursued my interest in writing and, to a lesser extent, art. No regrets…I have enjoyed a very full, diverse, and interesting life! From reading your posts, I think you feel the same way about the varied experiences of your life.

    Have a great week, Troy! <3

    1. Hi, Cheryl. Yes, I’ve had a very interesting life. I’ve done many varied things and have felt enriched by all those crazy and disjointed experiences. I’m so happy to hear that you always wanted to be a teacher and ended up living your dream. Far too few people can make such a claim. Like you, I have few regrets despite that fact that I likely would have chosen a different kind of work to go into if I could do it all over again. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I had a history professor in high school who gave us a choice between and exam or 100 ? questions? to answer. I loved this assignment. One of the questions was “what is this ***** ? Just the five asterisks. O managed to find it. They were the sign for a secret society during the Civil War.

    1. Your history professor sounds like a real character. I can honestly say that the quirkiest professors left the most lasting impression. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from so many wise and interesting people. Thanks for the comment.

  7. I love the sentence ” I’d never been asked to be so overtly metacognitive before.” This post reminds me of the advice from Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

    If I think about my career choices, I realize that I have followed that thread of what makes me come alive. But it’s tricky, but what makes me come alive changes over time so it’s an evolving process and awareness!

    1. What makes us come alive during a particular period may leave us cold at another time. For example, when I was an undergraduate, I became very politicized and wanted to right all the wrongs I saw going on around me, so I decided to become a lawyer. Today, all these decades later, I can’t imagine working as an attorney. I’m still very political but I’m happy I didn’t end up going to law school. The secret is learning how to reinvent yourself from time to time–developing courage is a big part of that. There have been several versions of Troy throughout the years, and now, I’m looking to do that again. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Your thoughts made me to remember my professor during my PG in UK. I was always an Internet savvy person and she was the one who guided me to start reading books. I owe her for nurturing me academically and she inspired me to choose a thesis based on my interest and allowed me to be myself. I am still in touch with her through FB and thankful to have a compelling and encouraging educator.

    1. It sounds like the professor you’re speaking of was a great mentor and guide. We need such people in our lives from time to time. Thanks for sharing your story and commenting.

  9. I have had some wonderful teachers, including my parents and my grandfather who have taught me invaluable lessons throughout my life.
    An empathetic, youngster- – a dreamer, going to a university, I knew I wanted to be a social worker and somehow eradicate social injustices from our world! After graduation, I started working at a remand home for juvenile delinquents, I realized I was too young, too naive, and too emotional to work as a social worker.
    I went to work in the industry but was miserable. I wanted to work with people, especially with children and not computers.
    Fortunately, I found a deeply satisfying job that I loved. As an educator, teaching in an integrated classroom for diverse students with special needs, regular ed, and gifted and talented.
    I finally achieved my dream of equality, awareness, inclusion, and empathy for all children.
    Truly blessed!

    1. I’m so happy that you’ve found work that does such good and is so personally fulfilling. Like you, I wanted to find work that would provide me with the opportunity to right wrongs. As a matter of fact, I almost went to law school so that I could help the poor and oppressed. Growing up in a household headed by a single mom who made very little money politicized me at a fairly early age. I began to look around me and saw how the entire system was rigged in favor of the haves and against the have nots. Thanks so much for sharing your positive and uplifting story. May your good work long continue! Thanks.

  10. I would like to respond to your question about how you came to be a teacher even though it wasn’t something you dreamed about. I didn’t become a teacher in the traditional sense but, I have found myself teaching in all sorts of jobs throughout my lifetime. I believe those that are driven to teach are one’s that have it instilled in their spirit. We cannot out run it. It is part of our makeup and we must follow it even if we do something else to put food on the table. Thank you for this post. I really enjoyed it.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I was always a curious child who loved learning, so I guess I was sort of destined to enter the classroom in the way that I have. I really appreciate your inspirational comment. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  11. It is so true that some teachers really change our life! I had one teacher from 3rd to 6th grade, teacher Molly, who instilled in me her passion for the environment, recycling, and so many other concepts that in my town were kind of abstract, especially back then. Her teachings still have a strong influence over my lifestyle and the things I care about.

    I also never wanted to be a teacher… And it was so frustrating whenever I told someone that I was an English major, and they would immediately (and so innocently) ask “Oh you want to be a teacher?” Haha. NO. Yet when I have taught, I feel like it is something I could be good at, and I would love nothing more than to instill good (or at least what I consider good) values in a group of young minds. How one could change the world from a classroom.

    I’m a translator at the moment. It’s not something I’m super passionate about… But it allows me to keep grammar and writing skills fresh, as writing is what I really wish I could do as a job. I am fluent in two languages, and I wanted to create an opportunity for myself in a town with so many monolingual individuals in my language pair. I have also considered teaching languages on the side — I actually think about this a lot.

    1. And you write well too. I think you’ll find a way to make money by writing in the future.

      Would you mind if I gave you a bit of advice? Have you thought about going abroad to teach English?

      I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the past and was sent to Poland a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was paid very little money, but it was a transformational experience.

      After that, I returned to America and worked on my PhD in English. But I’d been bitten by the travel bug at that point, so I left America again and ended up living in the UAE, Turkey, and Egypt.

      I got to see the word and made a very good living. (FYI: American teachers of English get paid very well overseas and can actually save money, invest, and do the sorts of things that set them up financially for the remainder of their lives.)

      Do you blog? If so, post a link to your site here. I’d love so have a look at your writing.

      Take care.

      1. Thank you, Troy!! I appreciate your advice. I would actually love living abroad, i always wanted to travel and see more of the world… I feel like I’m getting old so fast lately. I’m starting a job with the school district in my county in November and i expect to be there at least a couple of years… I also want to have kids and a family and i feel like my time is running out for so many things I want to do. **Sigh.

        I do have a blog. I only started it last year as a way to boost my work websites SEO, but I ended up really enjoying it. I’ve thought of starting a separate blog that allows me to talk of different subjects more freely (because I try to keep this one work and career related) but again, i feel like time is just slipping through my fingers D: Lol sorry for such a somber reply…

        If you’d like to check out my blog, I’d appreciate any feedback if you have any. My website is joneslewistranslation.com

        Thanks for your kind reply 🙏

  12. I hold a position of Creative Graphics Animator in a media house… I’m basically a Graphics Designer, still at my first Job… well I like terming my self a visual artist for the kind of abilities I have for script writing, photography, art, design, 2d & 3d animation ( I have knowledge about all these) and fascinated about exploring all these…
    I honestly grew to love this after high school but initially, wanted to be a pilot, had thoughts of being a health worker, almost joined nursing school…
    But here I am now, a visual artist…
    And the beauty about what I do now is, I get to picture People’s ideas and bring them to life… Marketers have crazy ideas that some are close to impossible but interesting…
    I love doing this and looking forward to polish up my abilities for better results and clear problem solving for my would be clients …

  13. I have several things that I do for work, not all I get paid or rewarded financially, but there are other rewards.
    I’m a mom and a wife, however I won’t tell you how the first came about, because I’m sure you were already told by someone else about the birds and the bees. I met my husband at the office I was working at, and we dated for 1 month before marrying. And we’ve been married 20 yrs since April.
    During the day, Monday through Wednesday, I’m a dental assistant. I’ve been doing this since 1997. I spent a very small amount of time in college, because I didn’t want to go to school anymore. And then I needed a job and some direction. I had a friend that went through this dental program through the community college, and he really liked it. He was going to work for a lab. And that’s how I got into my job.

  14. “I never wanted to become a teacher either.” That sort of sums up my thesis as well. I have two masters degrees, but I am delivering food for Grubhub. I have contemplated writing my autobiography, explaining all the choices I’ve made in my life. Our educational system puts a premium on learning “reading, writing, and rithmatic.” And there is SOOOOOO MUCH PRESSURE to perform well at standardized tests… Is all this drilling in math, physics, chemistry, biology, and foreign languages going to eventually produce warm, empathetic, caring, communicative, effective, and inspirational teachers❓ My efforts landed me in a noncompetitive college, with an idea of becoming a lawyer… Well that didn’t happen. Anyway, sorry… No, not sorry for the extensive comment.

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