There are many things that they don’t teach you during your educational experiences. In high school, the golden carrot of “college” is dangled in front of your face by well-meaning educators. When you’re in college, your resume is your ticket to a good life. Join those clubs, take that extra minor, the good life awaits. Fail to finish here, and you’ll live on the streets with all your worldly possessions tied sloppily in your trusty hobo bindle.
That part may be true to a point. However, with unemployment rampant in our state, and a good percentage of my close friends nowhere near where they wanted to be job-wise many months after graduation, my dad still ensures me that college grads make up a much lower percentage of the unemployed.
Now, I am at the end of my student teaching experience. I started my long-term substitute position for a woman who had a baby last Thursday. Tomorrow, I get my own classroom. I am teaching 9th grade English, World Literature, and Yearbook. One interesting thing about this school, compared to where I went to high school, is that the college carrot does not work. These kids live in a culture where kids who go to college are in the minority. Despite this, I have found myself in the position of the “carrot dangler.” I noticed this unfortunate aspect of my job a couple of weeks ago. “You have to learn this if you want to do well in college!” Why am I doing this, when I know that having a college degree is not all that it’s cracked up to be?
Fast forward to this weekend’s campus visit. Let’s face it, I miss college. I miss campus. I miss my friends. I have found myself actually letting myself say out loud that there are times when I HATE teaching. A good portion of teaching is not the “reach for the stars, changing lives” pie-in-the-sky stuff. A lot of it is business. Administering 120 kids who could care less that you had big ideas for your life.
What am I left with?
Well, I am left with a heaping pile of gratitude. Not for the piece of paper that I will be handed at graduation with a “Welcome to the CMU Alumni Society (hold tight while we send your your diploma)” printed on it. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had. I am thankful for the friends I’ve made. For the people I’ve met. For the places I’ve gone. For a place that gave me the love of my life. For how my faith has been built up and shattered and rebuilt again. I can’t really tell you what I learned from my second final in the Fall semester of my Sophomore year (probably something about Astronomy,) but I can say that I survived it. I have a tougher skin now. I have some life skills. And, yes, sprinkled in there are some professional skills.
I do not aspire to be a carrot dangler. I aspire to be a life-builder. That is why I am going to try my hardest to dangle life in the faces of my students, instead of college. Education is great, but knowledge is such a small part. If it doesn’t give you tools to “do life,” what good is it? Are the we sum of our resume?
If all educators become carrot danglers, we’ll end up with a generation running in circles.