Sorry Everyone, Education Majors Are Not Doomed

A gasp. An eye roll. An exaggerated sigh. You have just told someone that you are an education major and the reaction is always the same. Some call it a death sentence while others sarcastically utter “good luck”. Although they raise an eyebrow to you, you deeply wish that you could raise an eyebrow to them.

I’ll be the first to say that I fell in love with learning before I really even knew what it was. I remember my awkward fourth-grade self-beaming with pride when my science test was returned to me with a giant, purple 100 written messily in the corner. I turned to my friend sitting next to me and searched her face for that same satisfied look. What I found, however, were a few tears that were quickly being wiped away by the sleeve of her sweater. “I studied so hard,” she whispered to me. “I thought I did so much better. I thought I understood.”

In the fourth grade, there isn’t much certainty in anything. You know that your mom or dad is going to pick you up from school, teaching quote 1 you know that you have to do your homework before you play with your friends outside, and you know that eating all of your vegetables at dinner is an unfortunate must. My ten-year-old self didn’t know much, but as I watched my friend stare in disappointment at her test, I knew that I wanted to help her. I wanted to help everyone. I wanted every single one of my classmates to get 100s on their tests and have their moms and dads proudly display them on their refrigerators.  I wanted my classmates to be proud of themselves, to realize their greatness, to embrace their intelligence and put their unique minds to use. I wanted to be a teacher.

At my high school graduation, that same desire to be an educator burned within me. I stared out across a vast ocean of faces as I walked up on stage to grab my diploma. So many teachers, both great and not so great ones, stared back at us. I wanted to thank them all personally for fueling my fire. Even the less than great teachers inspired me to work harder, to be better, and to never do some of the things that they did. I’m so proud of what I want to do, I thought, and it’s going to take a lot for someone to even slightly discourage me.

When I got to college, however, something changed. As I started to monotonously answer the question of what I was majoring in at least once a day, I was met with some quizzical looks and snarky responses. Some would laugh and insist that I was crazy. Others would simply shake their head and plead with me to reconsider. A majority questioned how I felt about making a rather low salary. A select few nudged me and said that they knew that I was doing it purely for the long summer vacations. Unbelievably enough, some of these comments came out of the mouths of teachers.

teaching quote 2I was angered by these comments then and I’m still angered by them now. When did an education degree become a joke? Why are teachers not taken seriously? Above all, what teacher would tell an aspiring teacher to abandon all hope?

With the less than impressive education system that exists in the United States, there is a desperate need for teachers who care about education. We need thoughtful, resourceful graduates who are fully prepared to enter a classroom and make every single student feel valued, intelligent, and inspired. Teachers have to want change and progress so badly that they are brave enough to strive for it in all subjects and in all grades. That undying want for change is why someone should major in education. That hope that you can inspire even one mind is why someone should major in education. It’s not for the summer breaks, it’s not for the recognition, and it’s certainly not for the salary.

Being a teacher is a rather selfless profession and it seems that some people, including current teachers, are quite bothered by that. They’re not on the forefront of the movers and shakers of society, but there’s no doubt that they play a behind-the-scenes role in the lives of these remarkable individuals. The doctors who heal our broken bodies found their love of medicine through their biology class in the ninth grade. The physicists that research the new phenomena of the world were first inspired by a high school physics project. The stories go on and on about lives being touched by a single teacher who dared to care. Teachers take no recognition for these success stories but know in the depths of their hearts that their small actions influenced these minds in an extremely big way.

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So, yes, I am proud to be an education major. I don’t consider it to be a death sentence because it’s anything but that. How could having the power to change and inspire the minds of young people be even remotely compared to suffering and torture? I will be proud to someday ease the mind of a frustrated student, like my friend in the fourth grade, and encourage them to keep learning, to keep trying, and to keep pursuing knowledge in all its forms. All education majors should be fueled by this same desire to bring about change despite the prejudices that they may face.

So, the next time someone scowls at you and tries to persuade you into being anything but a teacher, smile politely and say, “I think I’ll stick with it, because where would you be without yours?

Casey Hale

Contributor, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Major: Secondary Education: English Her heart belongs to: Bold lipsticks, experimental sushi, black clothing, inspiring words, pleasantly awkward people, every Taylor Swift song in the world, and floral patterned anything. Take her away to: Any random town where she can walk around and act like a complete tourist.

  1. I am a veteran teacher who still gets excited each August when school starts. I love my job, and I want each student to leave my class feeling valued and successful. Nearly all of them do. Unfortunately, though, I still hear these derisive comments from people in the community and even from a couple of my coworkers. It bothers me less each year because I learned long ago that my decision to teach was never really about me; it was about my students. Their success is my success, and that’s more than enough for me.

    1. We need more teachers like you, Chad! I’m sure you have inspired so many students with your dedication and heart. Indeed, we need to remember that teaching is completely about the kids, not the teacher. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I know the feeling you’re talking about! I will be transferring to UT Chattanooga next year and majoring in the same thing as you!! Secondary Education in English

    1. That’s awesome, Olivia! Future English teachers unite! Perhaps I will see you around 🙂 Thank you for commenting!

  3. This was the most elegant post on education I have read thus far!! I will keep this piece close as I finish up my degree and credential in the same field! 🙂 Thank you!!!

    1. Thank you, Elle, for your kind comment! I am glad that I could encourage you. Good luck with the rest of your studies and thank you for the read!

  4. As I sat down with my coffee this morning and saw this on my Facebook News feed, I was intrigued enough to read it just based on its title (and trust me, I am definitely not one to read long articles so early.) I have never wrote a response or a reply to an article like this before, but your’s is so beautifully written that I can’t help myself.

    I have felt every single feeling that you mentioned. Every smile, every grade, every tear from failure, every necessity to excell that resulted from my education growing up have all led me to recognizing my passion for inspiring the minds of others. However, what did surprise me was the fact that I could even relate to it given that I am not an English Education Major. I am an Instrumental Music Education Major, and that fact can be even equally if not more shocking to those who deem our passions “unrewarding” or “low paying”.

    I was inspired by my teachers growing up just as you were and it is nice to have someone who shares my opinions about education. Whenever I am up in front of a High School band, I feel more at home than anywhere else in the world. Thank you for such a wonderful example of what being an educator means to us. You are truly remarkable.

    1. Wow! Well I must thank you, Gideon, for reading and commenting on my article. I am so incredibly touched by everything you have told me. There is no doubt in my mind that your students are very lucky to have you! I appreciate your wisdom and kind words and I’m glad you enjoyed the read!

  5. Wonderful article! I hope I never complained too much and discouraged you. You were a great student, and I know you will be a great teacher.

    We just read this in class: “He who gains intelligence is his own best friend.” Proverbs 19:8

    Never be discouraged by negativity and what society tries to tell you is important.

    1. Mr. Newell!! Thank you so much for your comment. You were one of my absolute favorite teachers in high school and you never discouraged me at all. You play a big role in why I want to be a teacher today! I truly appreciate your advice. Thank you again!!

  6. I feel like this article came from my very own internship admission paper of why I want to become an educator. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in preschool. My mother said she never had to ask me what happened in school each day because I would come home and reenact the whole day! When I graduated from high school I was persuaded by many not to enter the teaching field. I tried nursing and found I failed at being a good nurse. I was not made for it. After trying to find my niche I settled for business. I had high hopes, but being that I am largely an introvert, and my job only pays for the degree you receive I decided to try to go again for what I truly have always wanted to be, a teacher. Being that I was 25 and still looking for that career, I was now faced with being an adult, paying my own bills, and trying to finish my college education. I finally found a school that would work with my schedule and I could still work a full time job to meet my adult needs and responsibilities. I started this journey in 2011. I am proud to say that I will be interning for my Elementary Education Degree in the spring of 2015. I have heard so many many people tell me I’m crazy, teaching is not worth everything you have to put up with, the money is horrible, etc. What others do not see is the fire I have in me and how badly I want to teach. Not for any reasons that people have given me that are “horrible” about the profession, but because I was made for this. I have a passion and a drive for teaching children, and I want to be a voice of hope for my students. I cannot wait to graduate and have a room of my own and have all those students’ educations in my hands because I know I’m ready. I will fall at times, I know I will make mistakes, but I will change a life one day, and that’s enough to keep me going. As for the money, what I make now is a little over half of what a new teacher makes here where I live, so the money is actually a welcome change for me. If we would all live within our means then we could do the things we enjoy. I really enjoyed reading your post. It reminded me of why I am pushing past all the negativity to become what I have always wanted to be, a great teacher.

    1. Kandace, I really enjoyed reading your story. Good for you for finally finding your perfect fit! I can tell by your words that you are truly passionate about educating others. A little passion can go a long, long way. Good luck with finishing school! Thank you so much for the read and your kind comment 🙂

  7. Music Education major here at the University of Kentucky, and I feel the exact same way! I can’t wait for my students to feel excited about music, but people would ask me why I would bother with music education! So frustrating!

    1. I know how you feel, Brian. I’m positive that once we get into a classroom and begin doing what we love, all of the turned up noses will be forgotten. Thank you for your comment!

  8. As the mother of a soon to be honor graduate of Early Childhood Major, thank you for putting into words how hard she works to make a difference in children’s lives. She was totally changed by the love and support of a former teacher so now she gives her all to her “babies”. To have that love met with scorn or sarcasm is difficult but she knows her purpose in life. Blessings to all who educate our youth.

    1. Thank you, Kristie! It definitely takes a special person to work with the little ones. They require a lot more patience and care! From what I have gathered from your comment, though, your daughter sounds perfect for the job. Best wishes for her! Thanks for the comment and read 🙂

    2. This article was fantastic. And, while I was reading this something came to me that has eluded me up until now regarding teachers’ pay. I believe that the lower income of teachers stems from the fact that teachers were generally female for a long time since colonial times (I believe). The one room schoolhouse teacher was always a young woman for example. It is possible that women’s wages and teachers’ wages go hand in hand due to this fact. Just good for thought and I wanted teachers to bring this up within their next discussion with colleagues.

      1. Thank you, Matthew! I’m glad you enjoyed the read. You have also raised a really good point. You are correct that women were, traditionally, the only teachers. In fact, women still dominate this field today! Thank you for your thoughts and your comment!

  9. I don’t generally read these types of articles, but it came up on my news feed along with a pic of Zooey Deschanel (love her), so I clicked over. This is my 13th year teaching in public education, and all of my years have been spent in the same school. I am very passionate about public Ed and I can tell from your post that you are passionate as well. Hold on to that passion. You’re gonna need it. I noticed a few things in your article that I’d like to point out, and I hope you won’t take these things as rude or snarky. First, you mention that you are upset by the fact that teachers and education degrees are devalued in our society. Then, you follow in the next paragraph with a statement about the sorry state of education in this country, and the need for “teachers who care about education”. You have bought into the lie. THAT statement right there is why education is devalued. You’d better believe that no one stays in education if they are not passionate about it. It is a grueling, exhausting, never-ending slog, and if you don’t care about it, you will not make it. That attitude, though, says that YOU believe that those of us who are already out here on the front lines don’t care about kids or their education. You can want to save the world and improve it. Idealism is a necessary personality characteristic of an educator. But you need a healthy dose of realism as well. Because once you get out here, you will quickly realize that all of the things that are wrong with schools, with children, with their family situations, with society as a whole will be laid squarely on your shoulders. All those politicians you see on television blowing smoke about how “great teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education” mean one thing behind that statement: “if this kid is not successful, it is YOUR fault. Not the fact that this child is homeless, or has a parent who is never around, or doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from…YOUR fault. Teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education.” You will need the help and support of veteran teachers to get through it, because loving kids just isn’t enough. I wish it was, but it’s not. I don’t want you to think that I am trying to discourage you from an education career. I would never do that. I love teaching. It’s the rest of the job that can be insufferable. And we need people like you, people who are impassioned enough to write blog posts about why we do what we do. But we need people like me too, who have been around the block a time or two, who may be disenchanted with the red tape and politics of education, but who still LOVE CHILDREN. Don’t come out of school with the attitude that you’re going to save the education system. It’s not broken. Come out as a warrior, ready to stand up with those of us who are already here against the injustices committed against children every day. I’ll leave you with this quote: “Welcome to the real world. It sucks! You’re gonna love it.” Good luck and God bless!

    1. I am not offended, Cristi, as I appreciate all sorts of comments and feedback. Thank you for your reply! Although you seem to be a very passionate teacher, which I commend tremendously, I have had several teachers who have lost that passion to educate. It wasn’t always a guess, either, that they did not want to teach anymore. Some would blatantly question their choice to be teacher in front of the class. I have also experienced teachers like you who are fully in love with what they are doing and the difference they are making. So, I have personally experienced both ends of the spectrum. I would never assume that all teachers do not care about their students because I know that is not true. This article is simply written to inspire future teachers to essentially be more like you; passionate, determined individuals who are willing to risk it all for the benefit of their students. I will most definitely look up to veteran teachers for help and guidance. Thank you again! 🙂

    2. I like Crisi have now been in education for several years. I started as a high school math teacher and have recently entered the world of administration. I agree with everything Cristi challenged you on and would add one more: We ARE the movers and shakers- and if we aren’t, we need to be. It is education that changes lives, breaks down barriers, and allows kids to dream (and then live!) the what ifs. Education is the single most important thing we can give a child. I am seeing teachers challenge the traditional teaching methods and dare to find other ways to educate students who are ready to drop out or have been disengaged for years. Tweak your thinking of the profession and begin to see yourself as a mover and shaker because we can affect societal change more than any other public institution. We have the opportunity to teach and mold almost every mind in the country!

    3. I too, like Chris, have been in the field for many years. I would like to restate exactly what he said. If you are in the teaching profession, you want to be. Passion and practicality have now been intermixed. You, too, one day will sit at your desk in years, head down, and Heston why you ever went into this profession. That you could have done anything you wanted. Why did you pick teaching. You will be screamed at, you will get emails that make your cringe. You will sit through meeting after meeting and wonder “what happened?” And the very same teacher, who is sitting next to you, years into the job, who, to you, has simply questioned why you choose this. Who, to you, seems unmotivated and unpassionate, will sit next you you, on your darkest day. And tell you…. Hang in there. You got this. You’ll do just fine. And , how can I help. Yes, you may meet one or two teachers who truly should not be in the field. But that questioning, the seemingly snarky remarks…. It’s not a non-passionate thing. We’re not going anywhere. Drop out rate for teachers now is less than 5 years. Look at it from this point of view. They’re simply setting you up to succeed. There real question, what they’re really looking for, behind the fancy rooms and the new projects and organized color coded binders….”can you handle it?” And if the answer is yes, then those seemingly un passionate people…. Ur new best friends.

  10. Being an international studies undergraduate who five minutes earlier was sitting on his bed, surfing through Facebook simply to prolong the amount of time before I needed to study for finals week, I found myself moved to the brink of tears by your deeply insightful account of what it is like to major in education. As the boyfriend of a beautiful individual who is currently majoring in English secondary education, your words gave me an even deeper appreciation for the person that I love and the teachers who invested their time and energy in me as a student. Your words have reminded me of the great privilege that I enjoy and often take for granted as I am able to study at an institution of higher learning on scholarship. As a fellow college student you surely understand the pressure that the college atmosphere can, in its most difficult times, result in a hint of resentment toward that particular class or assignment. However there is also a great chance that your love of learning allows you to see past such petty emotions and to understand that there is meaning behind most of what we do as pupils. My particular career aspirations are fairly similar to yours, as well as all the other education majors; I just want to help people and wish to do so by pursuing my passion in life. The power of words, public speech in particular, has always captivated me. This began in the classroom as I was writing a speech that three days later I would give in front of the student body, asking for their support of a nonprofit organization that I had come to love. I was sixteen years old when I gave that speech and while I acted on my own accord, it would not have been possible without the influence of one of my favorite English teachers, Mrs. Hendricks. While the punctuation errors and run-on sentences persist to this day, she helped me discover my passion for social justice. She did far more than the required teaching of vocabulary and Shakespeare. Through her teaching, I learned to organize my thoughts into coherent arguments. She helped me polish my speeches and edit my college essays. Words cannot express how thankful I am for the work that she and all of my other teachers did for me. Mrs. Felton managed to see past my incredible number of disciplinary infractions in elementary school and was ultimately the reason I was evaluated by a psychiatrist. He later determined that my behavior was a combination of boredom produced by the incredibly standardized public school system, the fact that I was fairly intelligent for my age, and a solid case of ADHD that, in time, I learned to control. This comment was not intended to become an ode to the teachers of the world, but that is indeed what is has become as you’ve reminded me and everyone who has read this article how lucky they were to be in their own Mrs. Hendricks’ class. While it is obvious that you aren’t an individual who needs another incentive to pursue your current profession, I hope that this serves as some measure of assurance that you and all the other education majors out there, are going to have a great impact on future generations.

    1. Wow, Gordon, I am so moved by your comment. I am overjoyed that you were able to be taught by some wonderful teachers throughout your life! I wish you and your significant other success in all you may do! Thank you so much for your kind comment and for the read 🙂

  11. Beautiful article, Casey. Thanks for saying what every education major feels in their heart. I’m getting my masters in education right now (secondary math) and I get the same looks everytime I tell someone what I’m going to school for. It’s a shame that educator isn’t seen as a noble profession anymore in the United States.

    1. Thank you so much, Somer! I’m sorry you receive such quizzical looks, but at least you know now that you are not the only one! Good luck on getting that masters degree (you are brave, math is my worst enemy) and thank you for your comment!

  12. Casey, you said it all. I wrap up my final semester in a college classroom next week, and head to my student teaching placement in January! I’ve got fourth grade, so hopefully I’ll be able to ease the struggles of some student like your friend! 🙂 We have a career to be proud of! So glad to see others who feel as passionately about teaching as I do!

  13. My son is in his junior year in vocal music education. While I have always encouraged him in his choice of career, my concern has always been his ability to find a job in his chosen field. It seems that if schools have cut backs, the first thing to go is art and music.

    This is the only reason I might question his or anyones choice to be a teacher.

  14. I absolutely love everything about this! I have always wondered my whole life what I wanted to be. I’ve been in college for 3 years now just taking random classes to hopefully spark something. I have thought of teaching before, but a lot of things about it scare me and the reason is because of everyone’s response to it. When I tell someone I want to teach, I get the same responses you but unlike you, they actually get to me. I instantly become frightened that I will be a horrible teacher, or that I will hate everything about it once I start. People make it seem like I’m headed to prison. A few months ago I decided to pursue teaching anyways, and I’m so happy I just came across your post here. I feel a sense of reassurance now. Thank you for posting this, and thank you for being the type of person this world needs!

  15. In love with this article. I am a Secondary Education English and Special Education Dual Major. I remember being so frustrated when the Assistant Principal of my high school tried to talk me out of becoming a teacher. He just kept shaking his head at me and said, “Don’t do it!” Unfortunately some people are so defeated by the system. I pray that all future teachers never lose their passion for change and learning despite all of the testing we are put through to attain certification. Thank you for this!

  16. I am so happy to see this article on my newsfeed this morning. I am a 21 year old who would LOVE to teach elementary or high school English. I have never pursued because of the fear of not finding a job and the low income. Reading this really makes me feel education might be the best option for me.Thanks so much for the inspirational read

  17. This is exactly the sentiment of the article I wrote for my hometown paper when I was an undergrad. I was full of happiness and sunshine about teaching.

    I taught middle school two years before quitting. The hours are long, the pay is low, and no one appreciates what you’re doing. My life improved considerably after I left teaching.

  18. I recently just switched majors to Secondary English Education and it was all because of teachers that I had in High School. Everyone keeps questioning why I would leave being a journalism major for being an education major, and I tell them: “Social media will one day replace journalists, it practically has already. Teaching will be something that isn’t going to go away with social media.” Once they look at it that way, they get it. I have always wanted to do something where I could inform others, and help them learn. My options were journalism, where I could tell people about what is happening in the world, or education, where I could shape and influence the young minds of our society so that they could go out and make more of a difference in our world. Education is going to be something that will be needed for centuries to come, and I am so thrilled to become one of the people who will shape our country centuries from now!

  19. i graduated in 1980 with a degree in education and retired in June 2014. I loved teaching and I still enjoy helping children learn and build confidence as a sub. My son majored in history and wanted to be a highschool teacher. I discouraged him. Why? Because teaching has changed so much in the past 30 years. Near the end I was spending so much time in meetings and on paperwork, I wasn’t in the classroom as much. I missed teaching. I didn’t want that for him. Lately I have been getting messages from students I taught 20-30 years ago. They shared the impact I had on their lives. It made cry with happiness. So now, I want that for my son. I believe he will be an amazing teacher! But please be understanding of teachers who said don’t do it! Burnout is very real! I never thought I could support my son in this…

  20. I am more than happy that somebody wrote an article on this topic. I am a junior, majoring in elementary education, and have been hurt by such comments about my major. There have only been a handful of people who have congratulated me on wanting to become a teacher, while there are about four times more people who have made discouraging or sarcastic remarks about my choice. I switched my major from accounting, and I can honestly say I am already happy to have made that decision. I have volunteered with three different teachers and grade levels for a substantial amount of time each, and nothing has made me happier in my college career than being able to see those bright faces after they are inspired to learn more. While I have, of course, witnessed less than motivated students, I only take it as a challenge to help them learn in a way that motivates them personally. I do not believe I have made a bad career choice. I also do not believe I will be “hating” my life due to this career choice. I DO believe that I know what is best for me, and that I know what I will enjoy. It is SO inspiring to read this article and know that there really are others who understand the negative comments and want to change education for the better! Thank you, for putting this inspiration and reassurance into my mind as finals draw near.

  21. I am in school for Early Childhood Education. I loved reading your article! If I had a penny for everytime someone has told me not to go into Education, I would be rich enough I wouldn’t need a job! (Although, I would still be a teacher!) The sad truth is that a lot of teachers that I talk to about going into the field have told me if they could do everything over again, they would not go into education. Not because they do not love teaching, but because state standards are unresonable, they have little to no support from students families, and they feel that they have to “teach to the test”.

    I, however, went into the field for the complete opposite reason as you. I hated school growing up! I hated everything about it. I had a very difficult time learning and as a result I felt stupid. Homework almost always resulted in tears. Test and quizes might as well have been written in a different language. In high school I was failing math quite miserably when I decided to get a tutor. The tutor showed me how to do the math in a different way than I was being showed in class and everything clicked. My math grade came up 37 points after going to that tutor!

    I do not ever want another child to feel “dumb” or “stupid” because they learn differently than another student. I truely believe everything happens for a reason, and I believe all those years of struggling through school taught me how to understand what a student is going through and to have a little bit more patience for students who struggle like I did.

    So thank you! In a society that doesn’t value their teacher as they should, it’s always nice to hear that what I am going to school for IS going to make a difference and IS going to be worth it in the end.

  22. I love this entry. I don’t usually leave comments, but I wanted to here. This is beautifully written and your passion for education is so clear. I didn’t major in education but I always got the same kind of comments because I was a French major. I even once had someone ask me if I was majoring in French because it was the easy way out. I loved what I studied though and it made such an impact on me.

    However, when I was in college I also thought I wanted to teach. I loved the idea of making a difference in someone’s life. A lot of what you said reminded me of what I used to think. When I actually got into the classroom though, I realized it wasn’t for me. The role of disciplining and babysitting that goes along with being in front of a class of young people upset me. I had tutored and taught small groups of my peers, but it’s not the same thing. By the end of the year I knew I needed to find a different career.

    Don’t get me wrong. Teachers are so important. They deserve much more respect than they get and they changed my life so much. Both of my parents are educators. I just wish that education programs required classroom experience immediately because until someone is teaching a class, they won’t really know what it’s like. For all I know, you’ve already done this. But too many people I know spend years studying education without this absolutely critical experience.

    In either case, as someone who received endless criticism for studying something I was passionate about, I think it’s great you’re following what you love. Just make sure you do it with both eyes open.

  23. I found this article to be accurate. I am currently studying to be a preschool teacher (BSE) and I cannot wait!

  24. I value quality educators and learn much from them, adapting and revising my practices to capitalize on their insights.

    If education *majors* want more deference from me, as future selfless heroes worthy of admiration, then they need to stop treating every class they take outside the education department with derision, impatience, and contempt.

    We have to track a lot more student data now that we’re engaged in inter-departmental advising. Since tracking, so far I’ve had 141 education majors as students (about 11% of all students I’ve had). About 10% of them (15) were very good students. Their grades ranged from A to C, and many of them struggled, but they took advantage of available resources, and they genuinely demonstrated a want to learn and “get it right.” They’d do their homework, follow up with me when they got stuck, and ask questions trying to tie concepts and skills together (‘So could we apply that rule here too?’) They showed me notebooks of notes from class and from the book, and it was clear they invested energy and effort into the coursework.

    The rest — even the couple dozen who earned a solid A in my class — were very rude and presumptuous students. Their attendance was poorer, they were more combative and demanding about class policies, and their requests for special favors and grade changes, when met with any resistance or qualification, carried an unconcealed anger and offense.

    In general, I can’t count how many times I have heard “I’ve never had to study” or “I’ve never had to learn from the book before” from students, but it’s mostly the education majors who say that as a criticism of the course rather than as a request for help. I respond to such statements with an offer to assist, and sit down with the student and the textbook (or lecture slides) and discuss ‘how to learn’ strategies. We talk about mindfulness, time management, critical reading and self-evaluation.

    It never ceases to amaze me that ‘how to learn from a textbook or teacher presentation and actually remember and retain the material’ is not a skill taught in K-12 school. Still, it was nice to be able to teach some of those skills to receptive students. Most of my engineering and life sciences majors ate it up, and later told me about how they had used the skills elsewhere, or shared with a dorm roommate, etc. The business majors mostly reluctantly followed the instructions, and were mostly relieved by a moderate improvement.

    In stark contrast, the vast majority of education majors vocally resented any attempt to teach them new study skills or learning practices, showed no evidence of trying any suggestions, and expressed satisfaction with their level of understanding, even when it was very poor. They wanted better grades, not better skills. Admittedly, most students want better grades, but most can be coaxed into believing that training their skills is how to get a better grade, not arguing with the instructor about every point lost on each assignment, or the fairness of class attendance policy.

    For a long time, I thought it was just Math. Through inter-departmental comparisons, we discovered all gen ed course instructors had similar experiences. Now granted, well over 50% of the education students I’m talking about basically failed out of all their gen ed requirements and never saw a third year of college.

    Future teachers who don’t know how to study and don’t know how to absorb information from a textbook are future liabilities for the students they will have to mentor and assist.

    So don’t just, like, inspire your students to become inspirational teachers themselves. Inspire students to learn good learning habits and practices themselves. Inspiration is only helpful if a student has the learning skillset to capitalize on it!

    I hope, in ten years, as our departments reflect on practices and adapt, I will be able to say we’ve found the solution to the ‘education major who hates educating themselves or being educated’ problem. But please understand, if professors and professional educators seem leery of education as a major, it’s because so many education majors openly express they’re in the field because they “like kids” or “liked school” and even more openly express that they hate having to work at learning in order to succeed.

  25. I come back and read this post once in a while because it is SO. SPOT. ON. Casey, you have truly captured the feelings and frustrations of ed majors everywhere. It’s never a fun thing to be told that you are wasting your intelligence by becoming a teacher, or that your job will be “easy.” Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I still love this article! Us education majors need to stick together and change the world!

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