Not where I expected to be


Grant Herbek

Faculty adviser Michael Gluskin, in his 10th year at Libertyville High School, did not anticipate becoming a high school English teacher.

I did not get all A’s in high school English. I struggled to provide more analysis than summary in my essays and wasn’t strong at decoding an author’s use of symbolism. In fact, if you would have told me I’d be a high school English teacher one day, I would have laughed (and probably made some sort of sarcastic remark).

But here I am, in a job that I love, getting the opportunity to work with talented, intelligent and motivated students every day. And one of those students, an editor for Drops of Ink, suggested I write a column giving advice, and the other editors agreed it should be published. This isn’t some shameless self-promotion attempt on my part; it’s the first time I’ve written something for Drops of Ink in my eight years as the publication’s adviser.

Over the last few years, it’s become especially prevalent that there’s a superfluous amount of pressure put on teenagers today, specifically when it relates to the future. You’re supposed to know which college you’re attending, what you’re studying there and how that will lead you to secure a high-paying job after graduation. On top of that, you should engage in a spiritual quest to “find yourself” and learn to pursue your truth.

While I never felt this same level of pressure — the inception of social media and societal changes have only increased our stress — I did have a plan: I would attend a college that had a strong journalism program, study sports journalism and become a sports writer.

And that’s exactly what I did. I went to the University of Maryland and got a great journalism education; after graduating, I remember thinking that I would never be in a classroom again (the irony!). When I got a job as a sports writer soon after graduation, I thought I was set.

But as I covered high school sports for a daily newspaper, I developed an interest in working with high school students rather than writing about them. So I stepped off what I had perceived to be my path and decided to attend graduate school to get certified to be a teacher — a social studies teacher. Aside from pursuing journalism in college, I also majored in political science. I did this because I have always enjoyed learning about politics and history, not because I expected it to benefit my career somehow in the future. I just wanted to learn.

Because of my undergraduate experience, I was qualified to pursue my teaching certification in either English or social studies. Based on my high school English experiences, I chose the latter. But when it came to applying for jobs, I sought opportunities in both areas to increase my chances of getting hired.

While this theoretically may have helped my odds, it didn’t seem like it after I finished my certification program and didn’t have a job; I struggled to even get interviews. A month before the 2009-10 school year started, a position at LHS opened up that was responsible for teaching several senior English electives, one of which was journalistic writing, which is part of what made me a good fit for the position. I also received a really strong recommendation from the man who was my ACT reading tutor in high school. I stayed in touch with him over the years, especially when I shifted careers to pursue education; his help, similar to my political science major, was another example of how my past actions and behaviors unexpectedly benefitted me.

The constants for me have been my desire to learn and pursue what interests me, not what others believe I should be doing. Looking back on the journey that’s led me to today, I clearly see how my path — despite its unexpected detours — has been paved by these attributes.

So, whether you’re a graduating senior or a freshman who just finished their first year, know that you don’t have to have it all figured out just yet. Don’t stress too much if you’re an “undecided” major or if you don’t have an internship lined up yet for the summer of 2020. Even if you think you do have everything perfectly planned, your life may go in a different direction than what you’ve meticulously mapped out. And that’s OK! Have trust and confidence in yourself and your decisions.