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, 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.
I 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.
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?”