… Was a Fireman or a Cowboy, to Begin With.
Then I Decided to be a Guidance Counselor
[but that didn’t happen either…]
By Jeff Salter
In my over-simplified juvenile world, firemen got to ride around in big red trucks and cowboys got to ride around on horses and shoot bad guys. Like Patty (the Monday Fox), I found it interesting to re-visit my blog of two years ago when we were on a similar theme.
In that earlier blog you’ll learn more about my aspirations to be a gunfighter or sheriff, an athlete, a teacher, a guidance counselor, and a writer. You’ll also learn about my detours — several years in the field of photo-journalism and nearly 30 years in librarianship.
But today, I want to enlarge upon a dream I’d had since I was about high school age. By that time, having given up the notion of cowboy or fireman, I had decided I wanted to write and teach. Several wonderful English teachers had directly encouraged my writing, most specifically these three: Mrs. Theresa Fleming (8th Grade), Mrs. Rosalie Sherman (10th Grade), and Mrs. Erlene Howser Ward (12th Grade).
As a H.S. senior, I worked several hours per week (for one or both semesters) in the office of the guidance counselor, Ernest O. Welch. I no longer recall what I did, but it must have been typing and filing and could have even included answering the phone. Mr. Welch was so earnest and interested in the kids; he did everything in his power (within that somewhat inflexible school bureaucracy and its rather limited resources) to nudge students toward careers and endeavors which matched their interests and aptitudes. I was sincerely enthralled by that notion.
It struck me that previous generations likely had either of two extremes in their selections of careers: (1) many simply did what their father/mother/parent did — whether that was farming, construction, retail work, or whatever, or (2) many (who had survived the Great Depression) took the first paying job that became available and made the best of it. How marvelous to not only have numerous options in one’s career choice, but also to learn (more-or-less “scientifically” through multiple-choice questionnaires) which fields were more suited to our deeply felt interests! And Mr. Welch facilitated all that. It was an honor to work with him.
I had not originally intended to include this brief anecdote about Mr. Welch, but after I stumbled into contact with a member of his extended family this week, I thought it appropriate to feature my recollection here after all. If not for those many months I helped out in his office, I may not have ever gotten to know Mr. Welch, personally. But when I was phoned (at home) by the recruiting officer of Mercer University – who said he would be in the New Orleans area (in his private plane) the next day and was thinking about flying into Covington to meet me – I rushed into Mr. Welch’s office the next morning to tell him my wonderful news. He smiled broadly and said, “Well, they wine and dine great athletes. So why not great students?” I think he was almost as pleased as I was.
Mr. Welch and I discussed my intention of doing what he did with the generation that followed me. Alas, to get into guidance counseling required becoming a teacher first. I thought I could manage that, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. To get a teaching certificate, I’d have to survive all the education courses in college. Back then I did not even realize that I’d also have to take additional classes in psychology and whatever… and that I’d have to wait for a G.C. vacancy (and then compete for that vacancy).
Well, to make a long story short, I later became disillusioned with “education” classes and during the four years I was out of college (for my military service), I had time to re-think my career plans. While briefly entertaining a complete career in the military (on one hand) or teaching English in a small college somewhere (on the other hand), I eventually decided to go to graduate library school instead. That was 1976.
Fast-forward 40 years and I’m now writing “full-time” (though that is a misnomer, since authors have so many other demands on their time besides the writing itself). But I still want to help kids. To that end, I’ve worked in my church kids’ programming since 2008. The age I most enjoy working with is first and second graders — they’re so much less jaded than even the fourth graders I worked with for one of those years.
Well, I guess I’ve veered a bit from our assigned topic. But I believe you can see how things evolved from me being a horse-riding sheriff in the Old West.
When you were younger, what did YOU want to become?
[JLS # 318]