Brad Wilcox shares his first thoughts on teaching as a career choice

A priest or a rabbi—those careers were suggested after my high school aptitude test. That wasn’t good news for a Latter-day Saints kid! After serving a mission in Chile, I entered BYU and couldn’t decide on a major. I loved learning about everything! I felt equally passionate about English, history, music, art, Spanish, journalism, and the list went on. Finally my dad said, “You ought to take one of those career exploration classes.”

I responded, “Those are for the people who don’t know what they’re doing.”

My dad just smiled.

I signed up for the course and was soon taking another aptitude test. I told the instructor, “It’s just going to say I should be a priest or a rabbi.”

He replied, “This is BYU. We took those options out.” When my test results came back, the top suggestion was elementary school teacher. It felt right. I jumped into education and have never looked back. My choice has provided the opportunity to teach with variety, work with children, be a professional, and make a difference.

In education I have enjoyed great variety. Pursuing multiple interests has always been encouraged. In my classroom I was teaching literacy one minute and social studies the next. I got to teach music, mathematics, and art. I even ended up teaching the maturation clinics!

In education I get to work with children. I never quite know what is coming next. The first year when I was teaching sixth grade, a student came late—not five minutes late, but four hours. I asked, “Where have you been?”

He said, “Sorry, Mr. Wilcox, but this morning I got this thing stuck in my nose and I couldn’t get it out, so my mom had to take me to the hospital, and they finally got it out, but they didn’t know whether they got everything, so they took an x-ray of my head, but there was nothing there!”

Working with kids means lots of ups and downs, but my wife, a nurse, reminds me that when you get hooked up to the heart monitor, you don’t want a straight line. It’s the up and down lines that let you know you’re alive. Working with children keeps me young and vital.

Education allows me to make professional decisions. I didn’t want to spend my life following teachers’ manuals. I wanted to write them. I didn’t want to just learn what teachers are supposed to do. I wanted to discover how to do it more effectively.

A professional sees needs and meets those needs—whatever they may be. It doesn’t take long in a classroom to realize that some of the greatest needs are not academic. Where in the curriculum guide does it address how to reach out to the child who just moved in and doesn’t have any friends, or the girl who was grieving because her father passed away? I have yet to see a question on a standardized test that covers the sixth grader who is devastated because his parents divorced, or the boy who is fearful about his upcoming heart surgery. These concerns affect the learning and lives of students, and teachers must help.

This opportunity to make a difference is the main reason I chose education as a career and stayed. I love knowing that what I do matters. Years ago when I declared elementary education as my major, some of my friends were surprised. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t choosing a career with more prestige and higher pay. However, now those friends and I are middle aged, and a few of them are in mid-life crisis because they feel like their careers lack significance. I don’t have their bank accounts, but I sure have a life full of significance. I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I don’t have time for one. I am too busy changing the world!