Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Degrees: A Few Words Regarding My Major

I have loved reading and writing for many years, so majoring in English was a fairly obvious choice as I began my college career. After a semester at Saint Louis University as an English major, I decided it would be more practical to add secondary education to this so that I would be able to teach English in public high schools once I graduated.

During my first three years, I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the education program. Classes were often repetitive, with serious overlaps in subject matter and continuous rehashing of certain methods and strategies. Yet despite the heavy education course load and all of the information we were given, I still spent a good amount of time feeling like I was not really ready to teach at all in a practical sense.

Also, whereas many colleges assign education students to their observation and practicum locations, SLU requires that we find our own. This means at the beginning of nearly every semester, I would be calling around to dozens of local schools trying to find one that would let me into a classroom to watch on a weekly basis or that would even allow me to help teach on occasion. Ninety percent of the time, this was an extremely frustrating and time-consuming process that rarely bore much fruit. Though the observations gave me a better idea of what I wanted my classroom to look like, the frustration was not worth what I got out of my required practicum experiences.

There were also many teachers who did a poor job of transmitting information, and I would frequently spend class periods doodling in my notebooks because I had either heard it before or I knew I wasn’t going to use that particular approach or idea in my class. For example, spending a week learning about how to administer a one-on-one psychological examination seemed fairly useless for me, a future high school English teacher with at least one hundred students. To summarize, I found many aspects of the education department frustrating, yet I always said, “But this is what I want to do,” so I continue to trudge through it, class by class and semester by semester.

When I heard God’s calling, it was apparent that my plans for my life were vastly altered, and this naturally meant that my plans for my final year of college could change as well. With so many courses under my belt, it made no sense to drop out of SLU or even to change degrees. I knew that I needed to have a backup and that having a degree, any degree, made me somewhat qualified to be a youth minister. Based on various conversations, I have come to understand that a career in youth ministry does not require a degree from a seminary. In fact, one person told me that some of the best youth ministers he knows are ones who didn’t go to seminary.

After some serious consideration, I decided to get the English education degree but to go the non-certification route. This means that I would take a few less classes (some of those I have already taken, though now I didn’t really need them), I would not student teach, and once I graduated I would not be technically certified to teach in Missouri. If youth ministry for some reason didn’t work out, it would still not be too difficult to obtain certification using my degree and experience.

I came back to SLU a few days before this semester’s classes began and met with my advisor to talk about my future. I basically told her that I no longer wanted to be a teacher and wanted to switch to non-certification. She seemed to accept this at first, handing me a list of what classes were required and such, but after a bit she decided to play devil’s advocate. She told me that I was so close to certification, and that student teaching and portfolio were the only things standing in my way. “Wouldn’t your student teaching experience be applicable to working with youth?”

Well, Ms. Swatek, they might in some ways be helpful, but I do not believe they would be worth the headache and frustration of giving up my last semester to be a secondary individual in a classroom that wouldn’t really need me. And my hope is that instead of dedicating my time to student teaching, I can transmit it into something more youth ministry-oriented.

So I begin this semester as an English/Education major, non-cert. What a beautiful day!

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

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