"What are your plans after college?"
"I'm going to be a high school English teacher."
"Oh, really? That's it?"
It sounds blunt, but I have had this conversation more times than I can count. Don't worry; I am not offended by the comment. In fact, I would have said the same thing a few years ago.
So why teaching?
I think my case will be best explained by telling you why I am on the path that I am.
I first began to consider a career in education in my junior year of high school. I had a phenomenal group of teachers that year, all of whom loved what they taught and loved their students even more. Classes were filled with rants on how bad the "Gatsby" characters really were, quick recaps of what had gone down at the game the night before, and the kind of mentorship only the most caring of teachers can truly offer.
They made teaching look easy. It was not a job they had just taken because nothing else was available. No, it was something they loved doing, something they had sacrificed higher-pay, adult interaction, and the lack of chaos to pursue. Along the way, I found I related to their excitement.
Since elementary school, I have had an incredible love for all things literature. I have a red pen on me at all times to correct any mistakes I find throughout my day, whether it be in a textbook or on a flyer. My bookshelf at home is overflowing to the point where half of my collection is split into stacks on the floor. Long story short: I just love English!
This is where you say, "So why don't you become a writer or a professor?"
Well, *takes a sip of tea* I'm glad you asked. Writing is a lonely job filled with constant critique. Being a creator for Odyssey has opened my eyes to this. If your work is not popular, then it might as well not exist. And where is the writing done? Let's take a look at where I am typing up this article.
Sure, my roommate is at the desk behind me (and giving me weird looks for taking a random picture of my desk,) but there is no real interaction here. There is no hum of conversation or creative brainstorming taking place in the background (you know, like they show in every movie about any journalist ever.) Instead, I am in my tiny dorm, trying to block out the rap music coming from the room next door, and attempting to ignore the weird smell wafting in from the hallway. Glamorous, right?
As for the professor job, do you realize what a career like that requires? You don't just lecture at a few classes of students and get six-digits thrown at you. Joining the faculty of a university comes with the expectations of published work, mentorship of students, and on-going research. Summers off? Yeah, right. When do you think the bulk of the research is done?
So let's revisit the job of a high school teacher. It is far from all sunshine and roses, but it is filled with people and the hope of a better tomorrow. And if you really think about it, don't you agree people should be treated as one of our greatest investments?
My eleventh-grade teachers did.
And so God led me to where I am today. The dreams I thought I had of being a powerful businesswoman or unshakable attorney were nothing compared to the excitement I now feel as a future educator.
I have physical dreams of being in a classroom. My free time is filled with ideas of how to relate crusty old literature to a group of fourteen-year-olds. I watch movies like "Dead Poets' Society" and "Mona Lisa Smile" numerous times as I wait for the day when that will be me. And I physically cannot help myself from smiling when I set foot in a classroom.
I realize the students will not love literature as I do. I realize they will refuse to learn the curriculum placed in front of them. I realize I will be criticized and belittled on a daily basis. I realize they may hate me.
These thoughts do not scare me, or tempt me to run away.
Instead, they push me to try harder.
No matter how many eye rolls and complaints the students bless me with, I will continue to smile and ask them how they are doing. A lot of people underestimate how much of an impact that one little question has.
Want to see a change in the future? Try starting with the teenagers who will one day step into Congress, med school, or a classroom such as me. More importantly, focus on the ones who don't want any of that. We need brick masons just as much as we need another engineer. It's time to start acting like it.
So to answer your question: yes, I do really want to be a high school English teacher. Roll your eyes. Make a comment. Talk up your more challenging degree.
If you need me, I'll be in the classroom, talking books and solving problems with the future of America.