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Choosing education, the ever-changing profession

We welcome Middle Years Program (MYP) graduate of Shanghai Singapore International School Rebecca Vasconcelos to reflect on her decision to pursue a career in education.

Rebecca Vasconcelos

By Rebecca Vasconcelos

Do you recall any great detectives or scientists from books you have read or series you have seen? Did you notice how they solved the great mysteries by asking questions? Have you thought about how great philosophers contemplate on the importance of deep questions? As a student, I learned how to ask better questions and inquire as part of my experience in the IB programme. I learned that questions are the best way to gain deeper insights and this attribute is ultimately what has helped me with my career-related decisions and what keeps me excited in my role as an educator.

“I chose to be a teacher mostly because I feel I can strongly collaborate and contribute to a better world”

Ever thought of becoming a teacher? Is education a career you would consider? If you are even slightly inclined to follow this path, I invite you to reflect on a few questions along this text. Believe me, the quality of the questions you ask yourself, and how deep you take them, make all the difference. What comes to mind when you picture a kindergarten teacher? A high school teacher? An international teacher?  Within the past centuries, education has changed in so many ways. If you’re reading this and you were born before 1990 you may clearly remember chalkboards, sitting in rows, textbooks and even the teacher’s red pen on your handwritten piece of work. You may also recall riding a bike outside, playing on the street or even writing a secret love letter. For sure, we still encounter these environments today, in the year 2020. However, we are living in an ever-changing society that is increasingly diverse, technological and multidisciplinary—as is the profession of teaching.

As modern fields arise, research tells us we should be preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. So, what is the goal of education in this scenario? Perhaps inspired by the IB learner profile, I embraced the idea of a life-long learner, always in the attempt of self-improving within the attributes of inquiring, communicating and reflecting while keeping an open mind. I chose to be a teacher mostly because I feel I can strongly collaborate and contribute to a better world, which I believe begins with change inside of us. What difference do you want to make to this world? Do you feel human relationships are part of your nature? Will the job in mind allow you to lead the kind of life you want to have? In terms of financial satisfaction, will the job support your basic needs?

I faced obstacles and discouragement from day one when I started telling people I wanted to become a teacher. In many countries, it is still an undervalued profession that offers low incomes; in others, it is highly prestigious. The field is vast. Search within yourself where your source of fulfillment lies. Are you purpose or money-driven? Can we balance it? In what kind of environment do you see yourself in?

“Be the detective, scientist or philosopher of your journey.”

From my recent experience in the field of education, being a teacher in the 21st century means being part of a fast-changing career which requires a significant investment of time to stay updated. So, if one is really curious about taking a specific direction in the field, I would suggest you take action on the learner profile attributes: Inquire about the profession and keep an open mindset as to purposefully see it from the multiple perspectives there are. Be a competent communicator, reach out to different kinds of professionals, from different environments, countries, backgrounds, ages … use your curiosity and research skills! Finally, and not at all least, reflect critically about opportunities and challenges regarding the career path and develop self-understanding in the process to promote positive ownership of your choices in life. Be the detective, scientist or philosopher of your journey.

To conclude, I would say that choosing a career brings about uncertainty, even more so when it is a career that seems to be rapidly and ever-changing. Because teaching is such a volatile scenario for teachers, it is also the right place for the nurture of initiative, curiosity, creativity, empathy and multidisciplinary thinking. The whole uncertainty aspect may lead to obstacles, that if faced with a growth mindset will only strengthen your self-identity, leading you closer to your interests at heart, possible passions and purposes. As Dolly Parton would say, “find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Now that I am a teacher with a found purpose in what I do, I realize that asking questions, inquiring and reflecting is undoubtedly what allows our inner agency to generate our voices and ownership over who we are and the choices we create for ourselves.

R Vasconcelos600

Rebecca Vasconcelos is an international teacher, currently teaching in the Primary Years Programme (PYP). She completed the Middle Years Programme (MYP) at Shanghai Singapore International School in Shanghai—China, continued her studies in U.S. and Brazilian high schools and is now a Master in Education. When not involving her students in decisions about their learning through authentic inquiries, you may find her gathering friends for a game evening on weekends. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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