So, I was torn. On the horns of a dilemma. But then it solved itself and I’m almost disappointed.

A mass email to parents went out from my son’s school, asking for volunteer speakers for career day. For the first four years we were in this district, I always volunteered and would take some hands-on activities, and they were always well-received by the students and the teachers. But then last year — the manchild’s first year in junior high — I volunteered within a couple of hours of that email going out, and quickly heard back from the guidance counselor: “Thanks, but we have enough volunteers!”

And then for weeks after, there were further emails from the principal saying “We don’t have enough volunteers!”

So, I mean, to me that said the guidance counselor looked at my description of my job, and thought, “Ew, yarn, boooooring.” And at first I was disappointed and maybe even a little indignant. And then I was self-critical (but constructively). I spent a bunch of time thinking about… lots of stuff. Like how to describe what I do so that people are less disbelieving that it’s a career, or how to sound at least as interesting to a junior high guidance counselor as “I’m a hairstylist” and “I’m an insurance agent.” And for the past year, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about those questions, and whether or not I’d volunteer again this year, or just blow it off.

So here I was this morning, looking at the email requesting volunteers, trying to decide… when I actually looked at the date for career day, and realized I’ll be out of town. Working. At my career. Which on the one hand, is terrific validation for the fact that this IS a career, but on the other hand, means I definitely don’t get to do battle with apparently-entrenched guidance-counselor disrespect for whatever it is he thinks I do. So, dang. Like I say, totally mixed feelings.

But still, I think there’s a lot that’s relevant to career day discussion — because I’m self-employed, and have to hustle, and I created my own job, you know? So maybe I’ll ponder it all again next year, with the boy in high school. Or maybe not. So I guess I’m still torn.

11 thoughts on “Torn

  1. The fiber aspect of your job is very important, but what may be of most interest to the guidance counselor is that you are an entrepreneur, the owner of a small business or a start up. All those skills that allowed you to take your passion and make it be a career are applicable to any other passion and that may be what you need to focus on.

    Or perhaps the guidance councilor doesn’t want to encourage the kids to be free thinkers who blaze their own trail…

  2. Laurie, those have been some of my thoughts as well. I still think it’s an interesting thing to do, to try to explain how you make a job out of thin air… and potentially more relevant now than it has been for a while.

  3. I’m in complete agreement with Laurie, too. You are a strong woman who has made a career for herself and been able to sustain that throughout these years of a bad economy, a time when long-established corporations have folded! Cripes, that should say something!

  4. It’s also possible there was a miscommunication at the school and the counselor thought there were enough vounteers when there really weren’t. JUST SAYIN!

  5. And, when I got my BFL and didn’t know how to spin it, I said, “Hey, I think Abby did a tutorial on it” and I searched your archives because I knew as a teacher you are the best. How can someone who is in the educational sector not appreciate you as an educator. Yes, you educate mostly adults, and some of us gain knowledge in unconventional ways but REALLY… Not only do you have skills in the fiber arts, but a real grasp of business, computers, and how to co-mingle traditional and contemporary arts into a self sustaining business.

    PS I lost you during the move and just got you back today. Looking forward to your post a day!

  6. +1 to LaurieM, emphasize the part where you have made a wage-supported career in a difficult-to-do-that industry in an even more difficult-to-do-that time. That is valuable information teens need to know.

    Secondly, if you pitch yourself as a ‘textiles expert’, you could make your demonstration about more than just yarn. What does a large percentage of teen girls care about? How they look, what fashion trends they’re following, what clothes are on their bodies. Of that group, how many want to be come fashion designers? (Sure most of them won’t make it but at that age, it’s the trying that’s important, and besides, this sort of information can be very useful even if fashion isn’t your primary goal.) They’ll need to know about all sorts of different fibers, where they come from (plants vs animals), how they react under heat / water / detergent / cold air, how to care for them, what they are and aren’t good for. Silk is shiny but doesn’t hold heat. Wool is warm even when wet but has a strong tendency to felt unless it’s been treated. Cotton does, well, a lot of things that they probably don’t know about. A lot of kids that age don’t know that acrylic is plastic. Ask them to look at their tshirts, how much % is acrylic? Do they know they’re wearing plastic? Do they know acrylic doesn’t really hold in heat in the winter like wool does, and it mostly makes you sweat, then traps the sweat, then the sweat gets cold? Just think, you could influence a whole generation of anti-acrylic snobs : ppp.

    So yeah, the yarn and the crafting is your passion, but there’s got to be tons of information you’ve got that is applicable to a wider area. Focus on the fibers, where they come from, how they grow, the history of those fibers in various areas of the world, how they get turned into the clothes the kids are wearing, what else can those fibers turn in to, oh here is yarn that I made by hand, there’s a whole sub-industry of this, and isn’t it awesome that the same sorts of things that can be made in a machine-filled factory can also be made by hand?

    So anyway, that’s a lot of talking from me. I think such a presentation would be very interesting, maybe not to every kid, but as they say, if you can reach even one then it’s been a success.

    This is making me wonder if the schools in my area have a similar sort of thing. I should look into that. Thanks for making me think about that : ).

  7. I find the guidance teacher’s response infuriating (not to mention stupid). I have a very traditional, professional career and have always done whatever I was told and expected and advised to do. Other than a lot of traveling in my life, I have always done the expected thing, and if it wasn’t for fibre and fabric and wooden tools, and people like you who choose to make their profession teaching and practicing and living an alternative way, I would be an unhappy, unfulfilled person. I could not do what you do. Partly because I am too timid, and partly because my staid, predictable, traditional profession is really a good fit for me, but your bravery and choices contribute immeasurably to the joy in my life. Sometimes the people who teach our children are really just children themselves.

  8. Generally where t-shirts are made of something besides cotton… it ain’t acrylic. It’s polyester. Two different plastics, and they serve different functions in clothing. Acrylic generally subs for wool. I might go even further and argue that acrylic is used as a sub for woolen spun wool, since you usually see polyester or nylon used to stretch wool in traditional suitings. Polyester is not quite so clear cut, but it’s frequently used as a cotton or silk substitute. It’s unusual to see a polyester/silk blend tho… where it is pretending to be silk, there won’t be any silk content. This also changes some with fashion, since there is always the current latest and greatest silk substitute that is supposed to really be like silk and no one will ever tell the difference. Usually within 5 years or so… they have found actually it isn’t so hot.

    But kids aren’t dumb, and they can read labels. If you tell them stuff that is wrong and they can test it? You just earned yourself an untrustworthy label.

  9. Hi Abby! As a middle school teacher (and okay, as a knitter/spinner) I have to weigh in on your topic: Most likely, the school DID have enough volunteers, and that’s when the counselor emailed you back saying they had enough. Then, most likely, as the date approached people backed out (because they’re career people and can’t waste a day talking to middle school kids!) and that’s when the principal said that they needed more … and if the guidance counselor didn’t have 300 kids on his case, and if he had saved the emails of parents that had emailed him volunteering to whom he responded he didn’t need their help, he’d have gotten back to you. As it is, working in the public school domain, I am always amazed at how little people understand about how many hours of work we need to do each day (generally 12-14) in an 8-hour day — yikes! I took the day off today to take my daughter in to oral surgery, and spent the rest of the day at home happily spinning and dreaming of fiber projects, but it’s a rare luxury that I even get to sit back and have thoughts …. my usual day is that I hit the ground running at work, and stop only when I rush out the door to pick up the kids. It’s actually the only reason I clicked on your blog today … 🙂 (Wish I had time to read blogs all day!) So, on behalf of the guidance counselor, I apologize, but only to say that I really feel like you can’t read too much into an email. I love it when my students are exposed to the many amazing things that people choose for careers, and I immensely admire your talent and skill, and the fact that you’ve made a real career out of it! I run a knitting club at my school and know that there would definitely be kids interested in what you do, because when I bring in my spinning the kids are AMAZED that not only do I knit (and knit more than scarves) but that I make my own yarn. I hope you still continue to volunteer!

  10. So Jenifer, I would buy that, and I even considered it as a possibility… except that the “no thanks” email came a few hours before the principal’s first ‘we still need volunteers,” and except that I did mail the guidance counselor back again the following day and say “Still available, let me know,” and got nothing back.

    I am so totally with you on teacher’s schedules. Even as a teacher of adults, without parents and an overarching system to contend with, and without the need for grades, every hour of in-class time for me is between 1 and 2 hours of outside-of-class prep time. I invest emotionally in my students’ successes and non-successes, and I promise that as a parent, I’m a very very very teacher-supportive one.

  11. Torn – It was about that age (when my son hit middle school) that I learned from my son that he would rather I not volunteer so much at school (I had done lots in elementary school). He said to me “Mom, at this new school, I would rather they know me more than they know you”….. which said volumes to me about his desire for independence – and I think that was a good thing. I still volunteered to do things to help out, but I became a less active volunteer than I had been at pre-school and elementary school.

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