Dear Future Teachers,
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to speak on a panel made up of current Education majors/future teachers in college. The audience was composed of high schoolers looking to go to school to become teachers themselves. The high school students had a LOT of fantastic questions surrounding our experiences as college students studying Education, which gave me an opportunity to share my story with them as well as reflect on my experiences so far (this was a surprisingly emotional process)! I wanted to take this week to share some of the questions the high schooler's asked, as well as my personal answers in case there is anyone looking to become a teacher and wanted to hear directly from a current college student!
A visual representation of my mind as I shared my journey with the panel:
"Why did you choose to become a teacher?"
I first expressed an interest in teaching when I was in the 2nd grade, although my career interests fluctuated until my junior year in high school. I always knew that I wanted a career where I could help people, especially one where I would feel involved in the community. When I got to high school, I had several incredible teachers who challenged me, pushed me to grow, and made me feel seen. I just knew that I wanted to have the same impact some day, so I thought to myself: "Why don't I go into teaching?" I began working at an after-school program with elementary students, which showed me that I enjoyed working around kids. I applied to several education programs for college, eventually choosing UNC's School of Education, and my classes solidified my desire to become an educator!
"Why did you choose the grade level/subject area you are studying?
Choosing a grade level was pretty easy for me. I feel really drawn to working with younger students, so I am preparing to become an Elementary Education teacher. I feel that I have a very bright and bubbly teaching style, letting myself get silly and animated to engage students. There are challenges to working with younger students of course; the students are just learning how to read, write, and express themselves, which takes more patience on the part of the teacher. On the other hand, middle and high schoolers might not take to my teaching personality as enthusiastically. I currently work with middle schoolers, and I love them with my entire heart, but secondary school students come with their own sets of challenges that are harder for me to navigate.
"How did you choose your program?"
I applied to four different teaching programs (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University, and UNC-Charlotte). I had heard great things about each program, and they were all unique to each other. I narrowed my choices by only looking in-state for financial reasons. Interestingly, I chose the school that doesn't have an Education major.
I chose UNC for its Human Development and Family Studies major, mostly because I had heard so many stories of people who changed their mind about what they wanted to pursue after going to college. I wanted a major that didn't tie me down to teaching, but still provided career paths for me to work with people. My major can lead students to become teachers, counselors, child life specialists, social workers, etc. I did stick with teaching, but another reason I felt that UNC-Chapel Hill was a good choice for me was for it's 1-year Master in Arts of Teaching program. UNC students who pre-affiliate with the M.A.T. program during undergrad are able to take classes for the M.A.T. during undergrad, saving me a few thousand dollars in the long run!
"Do you have any regrets?"
This was a heavy question one of the participants proposed during our panel. Outwardly, I have been very excited and passionate about what I study and working with my students. However, I would be lying if I said there haven't been some moments that I felt regret.
After the COVID-19 pandemic especially, there have been moments where I've really questioned whether I want to become a teacher. I see how little support there is for teachers as they navigate a new platform for teaching. There have also been moments where I wish I chose a more lucrative career, especially when I surround myself with so many people who want to be doctors, computer scientists, pharmacists, etc. I've been upset when thinking about teacher pay in my future. However, neither of these worries overpowers the feeling I have when interacting with my students. Nothing has ever made me feel as fulfilled as teaching does. I am scared about the future of teaching with the possibility of virtual classrooms, but I know I'm in a place where I can learn and adapt to these challenges since I haven't started my career just yet.
I know that teaching isn't the most glamorous or celebrated career. I know that there are challenges and problems in our education system that really disadvantage educators. I also know that students need quality teachers. I feel called to be an educator, and I hope to provide the care that my own teachers have been able to provide me as a student. I believe kids are the future, and if I can play a role in helping them develop into the incredible humans I know they can be, I will feel like teaching would be worth it.
If you have any other questions about choosing to become an educator or what the college experience is like for a future teacher, please reach out to me via my Contact Form or my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.