‘Oh wow. That’s really…impressive. Why would you want to do that with your life? Aren’t you nervous about the pay? Will you even be able to teach anything or is everything censored now? Did you hear about that student that physically fought his teacher? Are students even learning in schools 'cause I know I stayed on my phone all history class.’
That’s not something you really want to hear when you tell someone your future career. But I can guarantee that as a college student who has told people that I am going into education, I have received some variation of those questions.
And it doesn’t just stop there. It seems that every day on social media I see a new story that somehow relates to the education system, which has seemed to increase dramatically over the last few years. From the shooting of Abby Zwerner, to the ever growing number of teacher vacancies in the United States, which many teachers attribute to the lack of support from administration and the unfair pay for the amount of work completed, these stories are quite pervasive.
But even in the face of all this, I have decided to continue my career track towards education. It’s not that it’s the only thing I’m interested in. I wouldn’t be mad if I went into broadcast journalism or something in the politics realm. I think the reason I’ve stuck with education is the calling I’ve felt to it.
In some of my education classes, we’ve been asked why we want to go into education. It seems like a straight-forward question, but for myself, it’s something that’s rather difficult to explain. Becoming an educator is something I’ve always felt a call to. When I played make-believe games with my friends as a kid, I always wanted to be the one in charge and delegate tasks to others. When job questionnaires were passed out during my freshman year of high school, I could already tell that the job I would be most suited for was teaching.
I also come from an educator family. Both my grandmothers and my aunt are teachers, possibly explaining my career choice. Maybe I’m subconsciously wanting to continue the family tradition?
But as more and more media comes out about teachers leaving the profession in astronomical numbers, or getting personally attacked during school board meetings, I begin to doubt my field of study so far. I wouldn’t be able to number all the times I’ve had a mental crisis and completely questioned if I want to continue studying education. I’ve started having doubts in my ability to actually reach my students and form some kind of connection between them and the content.
As someone who is just naturally pessimistic, it’s hard to jump over those hurdles in my mind. I can’t just keep thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll find a school that won’t be affected by all this stuff.’
And while it is true that not all schools in the United States face these issues, it’s hard to remember the good when the bad is constantly shoved in your face.
It may be biased of me to say, but I do believe teaching is one of the most important career fields out there. And I also believe that more people should be concerned and outspoken about this. I know some may disagree, citing that there are other career fields that literally save lives and run the country, but how did those people get there? Nearly every person in our society had to have some kind of exposure to an educator. Keeping educators well supported and well paid is something that keeps a society functioning and producing successful individuals.
Now, it may seem like I’m stuck on this notion of pay. In my opinion, pay should not be the only aspect that drives people to work. However, for many teachers, pay and work typically don’t line up with one another. According to the National Education Association, the average pay for first-year teachers is almost $43,000, while teachers typically work an average of 53 hours a week.
And those hours aren’t just teaching. It includes lesson planning, grading, working dismissal duty, being a shoulder to cry on for some students and keeping up with all of them to make sure they’re passing the class. The work day for many teachers does not end at 3:00 p.m. Talking to many current teachers, I’ve found that leaving work with the dismissal bell is a skill that takes a long time for teachers to develop since they have the fundamental need to get all the work done in a timely fashion.
Reforming the education system is something that needs to be prioritized for us to see serious change and development for our society. And luckily, that seems to be a current course of action for many school districts. Even in Portland, the public school district is currently on strike and working on negotiations for a clearer focus on student support in classrooms. And earlier this year, the Los Angeles school district in California, one of the biggest in the United States, also went on strike to demand changes in wages and staffing. They were luckily able to reach a temporary agreement that would raise the minimum wage in the district and the yearly salary, with further details coming.
And while I may have mentioned that I am a natural pessimist at heart, it’s initiatives like these that give me hope. Going into the education field comes with many difficult discussions and topics to think about. But just from my short amount of time in field experience, I’ve already understood the joy in watching children learn. Watching students get that “a-ha!” moment is truly something special that is made even better when you also get to watch them progress to that point.
Hearing students say, “Oh, I’m actually starting to get the hang of this,” is like music to my ears. Knowing that I am helping educate and form the next generation is, of course, daunting. But it is what drives me to become the best teacher I can be. Students deserve teachers that work for them and their development, and I’m hoping that I’m able to develop into that teacher in the next two and a half years.
Teaching is quite a unique job that I don’t think will ever be wiped out due to AI or from stricter regulations on what can be taught. I know that because I’ve seen that teachers will always fight for their students to the end.
Molly Bancroft is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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