The title implies a plan B and I don’t think that’s fair. Teaching is an important job. That line of those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach? It’s ridiculous. It’s common knowledge that the only way for anyone to be deemed as successful in today’s society is to be educated – yet, everyone just focuses on getting through the system to be renowned and wealthy forgetting the core people who work tirelessly in the background to bring forth education to us students.
Currently in the process of taking my last class to graduate, this summer has been spent with my parents constantly concernedly questioning me about what is next for me. Having been pulled out a year early because my second major was deemed unacceptable by them (English), I didn’t really have a plan. My plan was to spend my summer figuring it out.
I ran through all possibilities. Maybe I could make something out of my bachelors in psychology and do a masters or doctorate program in the field. Maybe I could focus on working my way up the corporate ladder in the YMCA having worked for different divisions in the company. I even considered doing my MFA in creative writing. But nothing was concrete. My parents were willing to invest in my future on one condition – that the road led to job opportunities. Having paid for three years of college for me to complete my bachelors in psychology, they weren’t thrilled that I had nothing to show for it. Rightfully so. But I chose to be a psychology major to be a better writer. I’d hoped that along the way, the subject – the only subject I could even deem slightly interesting to learn more about – that I would figure out where I wanted to take it.
I learned I wanted to take it nowhere.
I wanted to be a teacher in high school. I’d considered it. It made sense. My favorite series in middle school was The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin and when I landed my first baby-sitting gig next door, I was ready to shine as a responsible young adult. I volunteered at the child care at the YMCA before I started working as a swim instructor. I was a peer mentor my senior year. Everything seemed to tie in together insinuating what my future should be.
But my father worried. He didn’t think I would be able to financially independent as a teacher, not with the downtrodden economy. As an only child, his fierce over-protectiveness came off as overbearing at times when he acted like he knew better. Now, there’s a silent I told you so between us. I could have done the five year teaching program at Rutgers and graduated with a Masters. Instead, I graduated a year early than intended but I really don’t have anything to show for it. Other than doing what was expected of me by getting through all my required classes.
At Rutgers, I was an expository tutor and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to put my love for writing, discussion, ideas and words together while helping my students succeed. Paired with all my creative writing classes and English minor, I spent more time making an effort in those classes than my psychology classes. When I had to give the long overdue answer to my parents about what I’d made up my mind about, I remembered what I liked about the academics of Rutgers. I liked being able to express myself and my thoughts and I liked being able to help my peer/students do the same.
It’s something I believe is lacking in the current school system. This is not to say every school system. It could just be the public schools I went to. The last classes I remember being completely stimulated in were my middle school classes. That’s when I fell in love with math and English and history. (Science was my Achilles’ heel.) It was because the classes felt more than just following a curriculum. They were creative and engaging and relatable – because the projects made me feel like I was in control of what I was learning! It’s something that got lost in translation in high school when most of the core subjects got divided into levels – AP, Honors, etc.
I was prideful. I was very prideful to be in the upper crust, one of the “elite academics”. I stayed that course all four years in high school. But my sophomore year I realized I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore. I looked around and saw students comparing grades all the time. I’d come home and have my parents ask me why I got a B instead of an A. I’d be compared to cousins and friends and I wanted to be my own person.
So I stopped trying. Sometimes I do wonder who I’d be, where I’d be if I’d kept trying. If I didn’t stay up most nights watching Disney movies on Youtube or journaling. But that line of thought only remains for a fraction of a millisecond. Knowledge is what you make out of the information you process. There is information all around us! When you watch enough shows, you start to pick up on background props and music and how they affect the mood of the show. You learn about intonations and real life references and can begin to pick apart bias from objectivity. Sit in a park and you can learn about body language and facial expressions. Pick up a book and learn about word choice and round versus flat characters. Education in school teaches us what administration thinks students needs; it’s when students come to rely on that as the only source that becomes the problem. We learn through every reaction we have, every problem we solve, every task that needs to be completed. We learn about what we can do, what others can do, and what we can do together. The world is our school.
Of course, if we didn’t have any structure like we do in our formal education, we probably wouldn’t have made the strides we have made in medicine and technology and social policy reform, etc.
I want to be a teacher to remind students that learning in school is only the first step. Picking up a textbook and having to memorize a fact that may be long forgotten after the exam requiring it is the start of picking and choosing information by relevance to retain. it is when students do that do they start to have their own “specialty” in a subject. We ask students all the time what their favorite class, but we don’t make the effort to ask which class is the most applicable? Which class motivates them and inspires them and interests them to spend more time cultivating knowledge in that field?
Those are the questions I want to help my students answer by the end of the school year when I become a teacher.
I want to be a middle school English teacher. I believe my passion for the subject, the inspiration that I still have from my own English teachers in Woodrow Wilson Middle School and my desire to promote social analysis and self-expression through literary criticism and responses will help me succeed in this future I see for myself.
The road to this final decision has been a long one, but I urge those out there who have an inkling about what they want to do but are afraid – it’s okay. Life has a way of proving you will be exactly where you are meant to be.
The Alternate Route for Teacher Certification in New Jersey is a bit complicated. Through online research and a series of phone calls and a volley of emails to various personnel, here’s a bit about the program to any out there considering it:
For all those who have completed a bachelors’s degree at an accredited university can pursue this certificate. Depending on what grade you want to teach, you will have to take a 24 hour certification course (I did mine online through NJCU, K-12 certification) which includes a four hour classroom observation. There is a required state hygiene test you will be required to take if you haven’t taken a health and physiology class in college. The most recent test scores are needed; GREs are preferred for those who have been of college and the working world for years, but the SATs can be accepted as well depending on when they were taken. Another exam will be needed: the Praxis II Multiple Subject for Elementary Education. The requirements are added to if you want to teach in middle school. You need to have fifteen credits taken in the course you want to teach and a Praxis II Subject Test according to the grade level and subject. An additional element is the necessity of an adolescent development class.
Whether you want to be a teacher or not, if you are considering a different route for your future career – yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, it’s going to be scary leaving behind everything you were working toward. But it will also be exciting. Change is needed for people to be stimulated to be creative, to be diligent and happy doing what they are doing.
I had a friend who once told me she was afraid for her sister because she wanted to live to work. My friend thought working to live was a better option; it meant sustainability. But I agreed with her sister. I just do better with the things I like to do; I am more committed and determined to excel in it.
Paths are going to be diverted. They can’t all be planned. We have to adapt, backtrack, trek through – but if we face the journey with obstinate resolve to make it the best possible, we will always be the victor in the face of any daunting obstacles.