Sparks & Honey, a New York City-based firm of futurists, predicts that one of the top-ten new jobs in 2025 will be unschooling counselor. That's what I do now, and I can definitely see why many other professionals will soon be joining me.
My job offers all the best parts of teaching: supporting growth, creating access, inspiring minds... all the things that make working with young people feel meaningful and worthwhile.
Then I get to skip all of the unpleasant and draining aspects of teaching in schools like enforcing rules I don't care about, dragging students through curriculum they don't care about, and judging students on tasks that may not suit them.
I get to build relationships based on respect and collaboration. I do not need to bribe, praise, threaten, manipulate, or cajole. I am a resource. My students are not peers, but they are equals. My work is a teacher's dream come true.
My initial decision to work with students outside of school was a difficult one, because school is where the kids are. I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to create a different experience for students than the one I had as a teen. As an adolescent I needed more adults to see through my anger and apathy, to see the real me and my potential. As a teacher I wanted to be that adult.
Then just one semester into my graduate program and it was painfully clear that this wasn't going to work for me. High school wasn't a good place for me as a kid, and it wasn't a good place for me as an adult, either. I needed to find another way to serve.
I applaud and appreciate the legions of teachers who show up to school every day to pour their hearts into their classrooms. Our current way of life depends on this commitment, and I know that many, many students have positive experiences in that setting.
I know that there are rewards to teaching in schools, but I can also imagine how challenging it must be. I can see why more of you are going to start doing what I do instead.
I coach teens to leave uninspiring school experiences in favor of self-directed learning. I work with teens who excelled academically in school and those who did not, with teens who suffered deeply and others who limped along, with teens who have dreams that can't wait for graduation and with teens who have never dared to dream before. I connect with them as individuals and help them create a customized learning experience focused entirely on who they are and what they want, now, and in the future.
Already many teachers are joining me. I work for North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Hadley, Massachusetts, and there are now seven programs based on our model, all staffed by teachers who have left the system to work with young people in a new way.
Right now there are affiliated programs for self-directed learning in:
- Princeton, NJ
- Ottawa, Ontario
- New Haven, CT
- Portland, OR
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Canton, NY
- and Dedham, MA.
In addition there are many other similar programs popping up all over. You can see a map HERE.
I'm not at all surprised that Sparks and Honey identified this career as a future phenomenon. For me, that future is already here. I'm looking forward to meeting the rest of you when you get here.