You’ve heard it said, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” As a teacher, I used to cringe every time I heard it. For one, I know that being a teacher is a talent in and of itself. But I think what really bothered me most, something that I was so afraid to admit even to myself, is that it made me think “Well, what would I be able to do if I didn’t teach? What is my specialty?” Growing up, I was involved in tons of sports and activities. I was talented in some, not so much in others, but I’ve never taken anything to the next level. I tend to get obsessed with new interests and hobbies quite often, but then lose interest just as quickly. I pick up talents here and there. I can spin a basketball on my finger, juggle, and in college, I could play Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the harmonica after a great deal of trial and error (I’ll use this as a platform to formally apologize to my dorm mates now). I was athletic, artistic, and good at school growing up, but was never super passionate about any one thing. And so, I kind of just fell into teaching. I ended up truly loving it, but I often found myself wondering if I was capable of more.
Then, one day, I came across this TED Talk by Emilie Wapnick, and my world was rocked. In just 12 minutes, Emilie described every anxiety and insecurity I’ve ever had about not being specialized in any one thing, and then she made me feel proud for not being specialized in any one thing. She identified people like me as multipotentialites, or puttylike, those who have “many interests and creative pursuits,” not one true calling. And she gives us permission to quit when we get bored.
Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.
When it comes to new interests that emerge, our insatiable curiosity leads us to absorb everything we can get our hands on. As a result, we pick up new skills fast and tend to be a wealth of information. http://puttylike.com/terminology/
After the TED Talk, I immediately bought Wapnick’s book How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. In it, she gives unconventional career advice that does not include specializing or finding our one true calling. Instead, Wapnick encourages us to find a way to pursue all of our passions, and she provides several frameworks for doing so while maintaining a sustainable income. And I realized that teaching, both students and colleagues in my role as coach, is the perfect framework for me. It is never stagnate. On any given day, I am a teacher, a nurse, a counselor, an artist, a motivational speaker, a computer technician, and so on. And teaching has opened the door for the makerspace, an exciting opportunity not only for the children, but for me as well. As the students pursue their creative endeavors, I find myself learning new uses for materials, how to re-use everyday things, and how to use digital technologies as tools for creating.
I am re-energized this year as I look at teaching through this new lens. As a multipotentialite, I don’t know that teaching is my one true calling, but I do know it is where I am meant to be right now.