Dream Job #4: Slice of Life #sol20

My first dream job was my very first job when I was still in high school: working at a bookstore. It was a mall bookstore, small, full of flashy commercial titles, popular series, and the occasional serendipitous discovery. I still remember the day I plucked Kendall Hailey’s The Day I Became an Autodidact from the Self-Help section as I was straightening shelves. The title included a word I’d only just learned the week before. I examined the cover, confirmed that it was inaccurately shelved, and set it aside to move to Biography. As I walked to the Biography section later, I opened to the first page and began reading. The book never made it to the shelf, because like so many other books, it came home with me. Employees were allowed to use the bookstore as a personal library as long as copies returned in pristine condition. Maybe The Day I Became an Autodidact first went home with me as a borrowed book. But then I used my employee discount to buy it because it had to be mine forever.

My second Dream Job was after I finished graduate school. I had decided academia was not for me, but I did like teaching. I thought I might do a bit more of it while I figured out what I really intended to do with my life. During the time that, emboldened by Kendall Hailey, I myself had been autodidacting between high school and college, I’d read a book about interesting volunteer opportunities, and a volunteer teaching position on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation had stuck in my mind. I no longer wanted to volunteer teach, but when I was distracting myself one day from my dissertation writing by searching online for literally everything I’d ever known or thought, I saw that the school in South Dakota had a permanent English teaching position open. South Dakota sounded like an adventure, and I decided to apply. And that’s how I ended up moving from New Hampshire to South Dakota and accidentally stumbling into the best job ever.

I discovered the existence of Dream Job #3 when I was assigned a student teacher to mentor. Her supervising teacher from the local college came to observe her several times, and we had wonderful conversations about teaching. I had no idea that teacher education was even a thing. It seemed like the best of all possible worlds–the good parts of academia (the schedule, the autonomy and intellectual freedom, the requirement to read and research and think) without the bad parts (writing about things that don’t matter to audiences of three people, all of whom are eager to eviscerate your thinking to bolster their own reputation). I remember thinking wistfully, it’s too bad I won’t ever get to have that job. Then two years later, the supervising teacher quit, I applied for her position, and I was hired.

After twelve years as a teacher educator, I am ready for a change. And that’s where Dream Job #4 comes in. I’ll be returning to high school teaching at an urban high school in Detroit. I guess I can’t say for sure that this is Dream Job #4, because it hasn’t started yet. But on paper at least, it’s everything I would want in a dream job.

I still have one other book that I bought when I worked at Dream Job #1. I’ve never thought it was as formative or life-changing as The Day I Became an Autodidact, but somehow its title always gives me courage to leap whenever I’m contemplating a big life change. Perri Klass’s collection of short stories, I Am Having an Adventure. And Dream Job #4 and moving to Detroit will certainly be that.





23 responses to “Dream Job #4: Slice of Life #sol20”

  1. Adrienne Avatar

    Congratulations and best wishes for this new adventure. Your post has me thinking about ways I can write about the jobs I have had.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I definitely skipped writing about the jobs that were not the dream jobs! (Clerical work, receptionist, and substitute teacher–though to be fair, I always enjoyed it when I was called in to sub for elementary teachers. They were so prepared!)

  2. margaretsmn Avatar

    I love the way you lead us to your Big news. Congratulations! I hope all of it is an adventure full of joyful moments.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you, Margaret! I’m so excited!

  3. glenda funk Avatar
    glenda funk

    Isn’t it interesting to think about employment as fulfilling dreams instead of as a means to survival. I enjoyed learning about your four dream jobs and the learning they offer. Even during the hard years I never wanted to do anything other than teach. I didn’t even know it was my dream job until I was immersed in it. I hope your new job fulfills lots of dreams.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I felt the same way when I first got into a classroom, Glenda. I never thought I wanted to be a teacher, but I loved it from nearly the first day.

  4. jumpofffindwings Avatar

    I knew you were moving based on your former posts, and that Detroit was your destination. I wish you all the best. Attitude creates “Dream Jobs,” so I have no doubt that this new challenge will prove to be one in-the-making for you. I remember learning about the word autodidact myself and thinking about the difference between curiosity-driven inquiry and “jumping-through-hoops” performance; one lasts forever, the other not so much. Thanks for this.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love this: attitude creates dream jobs. I’ve never thought of it that way, but surely that’s true of many things in life. I am sure there will be plenty of challenges and frustrations, so I will remind myself to adjust my attitude back to the positive!

  5. Fran McCrackin Avatar

    I like jumpofffindwings comment that “attitude creates dream jobs.” Your positive attitude loves these jobs that are each hard, hard work with great challenges. As is the next one! Best wishes to you as you continue your good work!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I appreciate your words! I was really struck by her comment too and had never before thought about how attitudes create dream jobs.

  6. arjeha Avatar

    How exciting. Sounds like each dream job was a building stone for the one that came after it. I really believe that each new position we find ourselves in invigorates us and keeps us fresh. I wish you well in your new position and look forward to reading about it in future posts.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you! I agree with you, and feeling refreshed and reinvigorated is a prime motivation for me in making this move. And I will certainly have lots of new stuff to write about soon!

  7. MegMcCormick Avatar

    I really love the notion of more than one job being a dream job and I loved the organization of your story. How neat that these books provide you with small comforts during transitions. I added both of them to my to-read list! Best wishes in Detroit!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks Meg! It’s good that there can be multiple dream jobs for our different times in life. I started writing this piece and didn’t have a connection with books in mind at all, but once I started writing, there it was!

  8. Completely Full Bookshelf Avatar
    Completely Full Bookshelf

    What a wonderful post! I hope that dream job #4 is as wonderful as your previous experiences have been! Thanks for the great post (and for making me learn what autodidact means)!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I appreciate your good wishes! I feel very lucky for having had so many dream jobs!

  9. movedtolearn Avatar

    Congratulations! I am very sad to see you go because I feel like you’re hands down one of the best professors I have had. Your students are so very lucky to have you and I’m sure your impact at the high school level will be huge.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Oh wow, thank you so much! That means a lot to me. It will be fun to have a new challenge, though I am really going to miss my students at CSC.

  10. BeReal81 Avatar

    Good luck in this new adventure. Your scenery will change, but I am sure there will be coffee shop cats and street cats and other people’s random cats in Detroit as well!
    I enjoyed the way you structured this post. And I always enjoy seeing what you are or have read.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you! I have no doubt I will find cats wherever I go.

  11. karpenglish Avatar

    Detroit will be a big shift from South Dakota! Good luck in your new adventure! (I hope the cats adapt to city living well.)

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Definitely a big shift! Still dreading the whole getting the cats there part. A 20-hour road trip with six cats, four of whom are super anxious and frightened about literally everything?!

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