The saying goes “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
University of Idaho sophomore Nash Johnson disagrees.
“There’s kind of a stigma that ed majors are only ed majors because they weren’t able to get in another field of study — couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do with their lives,” Johnson said.
Johnson, whose parents are both teachers, said he did not plan to be an education major when he first came to UI. Instead, he decided to pursue architecture.
“Teaching is a hard job, you have to coordinate with parents and administration and any kind of legislation at the state and federal level, and also kids,” Johnson said. “So, teachers wear a lot of different hats, and I think the way teachers are compensated for what they do doesn’t necessarily correlate to how much work they put in and how much heart and soul they put into their work.”
Johnson’s parents never encouraged him to become a teacher for this reason, he said.
Secondary education major, UI junior Ezra Jones, said the low pay and low prestige can dissuade some from the job. It can even dissuade those who have a passion for it.
“So many teachers these days just tell you not to teach because you don’t make a lot of money,” Jones said. “So, there were a lot of teachers that I had that were like ‘Don’t go into education, you won’t make a lot of money, you have to work really hard.’”
Both Jones and Johnson began their college careers in non-teaching related majors. Jones said he began with criminology, hoping to work with troubled children. He said he has always known he wanted to work with young people.
“You get to be first-hand investing in kids and seeing them grow into the adults that they will become,” he said.
Johnson first began his college experience in architecture, but said he found the work unrewarding.
“I just felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, didn’t feel like I had a lot of purpose in it,” he said. “And so, over the summer, I did a lot of soul searching, kind of decided to switch.”
Johnson, who is now studying secondary education with an art emphasis, said now, “just going to class is a joy.”
In his EDCI 201 class, the entry level course for education majors, he volunteers with Moscow High School wrestlers to complete the required 20 service-learning hours.
“I’m a busy person, so I’m not in there every single day, but I love it,” he said. “Every time I go, it’s kind of my little escape from school.”
Johnson said he hopes to continue coaching wrestlers after college, like his father, who coached wrestling in Homedale, Idaho, where Johnson is originally from.
Jones, who has completed EDCI 201, said he wishes every education class required service-learning hours to give future educators experience working with children. His experiences as a counselor at summer camps, for example, have taught him as much as his classes at the university have, he said.
“I think that that’s where you learn the most about how to be a teacher, is through being in those educational environments,” he said.
Though Johnson said he is not entirely certain what he will do after graduation, he would like to teach middle school art in the Boise area. However, without the high demand for art teachers, Johnson worries it will be difficult to find a teaching job.
With President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this year, many in Johnson’s position worry art programs risk losing more of their meager funding in coming years.
“I wish that we didn’t have to worry about it because I think art is incredibly important to students,” he said.
Johnson said because of the risk associated with pursuing a career as an art teacher, he is also considering adding an English emphasis. In this way, he hopes he can still help students expand creatively if he is not able to land a job teaching art.
“I want to be a teacher because I want to help develop students’ lives in a manner that caters to multiple areas of their life — not just their ability to get a job in a STEM field,” Johnson said.
Jones, who emphasizes history in his own coursework, said he also wants to develop students beyond their hireability.
“I want to do it because I recognize the impact it’s going to make on the next generation and recognize the opportunity it has,” he said.
Jones said he wishes teachers were paid more and had more prestige than they currently do.
“I think a lot of teachers today just want the respect they deserve, and I think that should be reflected in the collegiate level too,” Johnson said. “It’s not a major that people just fall back on because they can’t think of anything else to do with their life, or it’s not a major that isn’t hard in its own way. It’s very important and critical to society.”