Education majors are no strangers to interesting reactions when we tell people our intended career path. From smiling condescension to undisguised horror, very few people seem willing to embrace the field of education, and even fewer seem to understand why anyone would want to be a teacher. Most of the time, those comments are ones that we have heard at least a dozen other times, from our relatives, from our friends and sometimes, dishearteningly enough, from our teachers. The following are ten things that education majors are incredibly tired of hearing.
1. "God, I hate kids."
Congratulations. I fail to see how that has anything to do with me or the career path I’ve chosen. Some people, including myself and most other education majors, actually really love children and enjoy working with them, which is why we’ve decided to pursue a career in teaching.
2. "So you want to be a teacher?"
…yes. It’s actually really alarming how many times I’ve been asked this question. I, an education major, want to be a teacher, just like an engineering major wants to be an engineer and a nursing major wants to be a nurse. It’s very simple.
3. "You’re not going to make any money."
Trust me, I know. Every single aspiring teacher knows that the profession isn’t going to make them a millionaire. That’s why we aren’t doing it for the money: we’re doing it for genuine passion, both for our students and for the subject that we’re going to teach. Not everyone chooses a career path for the starting salary or the excessive financial benefits.
4. "You know the education system in this country is tanking, right?"
It’s true, American schools are changing at a faster rate than ever before, and there are plenty of aspects of education that teachers don’t agree with — state testing and government-mandated standards, for example. But education majors want to be teachers to fix a broken system, and help the students who would otherwise be dragged down by it. Students deserve a classroom environment that incorporates a variety of teaching methods and fosters a love of learning, and without good teachers, that is never going to happen in the education system we have now.
5. "So you’re getting paid just to babysit?"
This is offensive on multiple levels. First of all, a teacher is not a babysitter. A babysitter is responsible for watching children, feeding them and taking them to soccer practice. A teacher is responsible for the social, emotional and educational development of every single student that comes through their classroom, and their work doesn’t end after the final bell rings. Second, plenty of teachers don’t want to teach younger students. I am a secondary education major, which means that when I graduate, I’ll be certified to teach grades 7-12. By the time students reach the older middle school grades, the behavior monitoring aspects of teaching have almost vanished, and teachers are responsible almost exclusively for the students’ academic wellbeing. Babysitting couldn’t be a less accurate job description.
6. "I guess you don’t think you can succeed in your field if you want to teach it instead."
Let me set the record straight: there are plenty of people who are passionate about a subject and are also passionate about spreading a love of that subject. As I mentioned before, with America’s education system in its current state, students need teachers who are well-educated in their subject area and are passionate enough to teach them about it. Students need math and science majors to pursue a career in teaching rather than engineering; they need English majors to follow the teaching route rather than become journalists. It’s a sad day when we expect the people teaching our children to have low levels of ability in the subject that they are being paid to teach.
7. "Your work schedule is so short!"
Ah, yes. Our schedule is so easy to manage when we get to school every day at 7:30 in the morning, and don’t leave until at least an hour or two after the end of the school day. Even if the bell rings at 3:00, most teachers stay after school for at least a few hours to grade papers, make copies or get a head start on lessons for the next day. If a teacher coaches a sports team or supervises a club, that time after school can get even longer. And unlike many other professions, a teacher’s work follows them home, between papers and tests to grade and lessons to plan.
8. "It’s so great that you get summers off!"
Except most of us aren’t able to take the summers off, especially at the beginning of our careers. Two and a half months of no income right after we’ve graduated college and are buried up to our ears in student debt just isn’t physically possible. Most teachers find themselves spending the summer working as camp counselors, nannies or find a few steady tutoring jobs. Usually the summer means some amount of financial uncertainty, because a camp counselor’s income is never going to be what a full-time teacher’s is.
9. "You'll get burnt out in about five years."
Strange enough, the reason why most of us are doing this is because we actually love it. So no, I am not going to get burnt out in five years, because I am following a career path that I genuinely care about and want to do for the rest of my life. And why does no other profession get told this?
Why am I teaching? Because I love kids. Because I love my subject. Because I want to ensure that students who come into my classroom are influenced by what I have to tell them and come out of my classroom feeling not just better educated, but that they've grown as people. I want to be a teacher because I want to help the students who aren't going to get help anywhere else, and because I know that in the end, even after all of the challenges that teaching brings, all of the work will be worth it.
All of my fellow education majors know the struggles of being told that our career is pointless, that our dreams our misplaced, that we're somehow foolish for wanting to be teachers. In spite of all of this, we know that our work is essential, and even if others doubt its relevance, we never will.
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