“What’s your major?”
As I’m a sophomore in college with a set career path, you would think this question would be a cinch. “I’m a…” I always start to say. But then, I pause. Because while I am not a double major, my classification is not a simple matter. I want to be an English teacher. So am I majoring in English? Or education? Or both?
Of course, both departments have their own labels for me. While in my education classes, I’m a secondary education major, and English is my content area. While in my English classes, the tables are turned; I’m an English major with a concentration in secondary education.
So which one is right? More importantly, why is this such a big deal?
Truth be told, it’s a relatively minor detail in the grand scheme of things. But each time I am forced to define my career aspirations, I feel myself making a choice. Which piece truly defines me—the English, or the education?
You see, in my English classes I become absorbed in reading and writing and analyzing the works of great authors of the past. The friends I make in my English classes are all very likeminded; we talk about the books we love and the things we write and the different ways the professors interpret the text. The focus in these classes is solely on English. Many of my peers want to go into journalism, or write for a marketing company, or become a published author. My plan of teaching (especially in a school with a relatively small number of English Education majors) is different. I don’t quite fit all the way in there.
Then, I have my education classes. There, the focus is on the students—adolescent development, psychology, special education, learning support. I’m learning how to make lesson plans and to shape my classroom into an inclusive environment. The emphasis is placed on how we teach, not what is taught. Many of my friends are early childhood education majors, and they talk about how cute their kids are in field placement and the different games they play. It’s a wonderful, fulfilling environment there. But it’s not completely me, either. I’m not just a teacher. I’m an English teacher. And, sometimes, that sets me apart.
I struggled with this question for most of last year. Do I want people to know me as the English student, or as the education student? Would it be wrong to classify myself as an English major, because that basically discounts the career I will have for the rest of my life in education? If I say I am an education major, will that diminish the passion I feel for English? Will people see me differently depending on what I choose to call myself?
In the end, I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter. The simple act of stating my major in one way or another doesn’t have to define my whole persona. I know one thing to be true: I am passionate about English, and I love exploring new texts and writing in a wide variety of genres. And I love it so much that I want to teach the next generation to love it, too. If that makes me an English education major, or an Education major with a focus on English, that is fine with me. My title doesn’t matter. It is what I choose to do with my education that will define who I am.