College Students: This One’s for You

After recently graduating from college, one thing stuck out to me the most: from our weight (lol), to our major, we’ve all changed A LOT since we were starry-eyed freshmen. Most importantly, our hopes and dreams have changed.

Buckle on your seat belts, we’re throwing it back 4 years.

We were a large group of green college freshman excited to live on our own and get a taste of the “adult life”. I very vividly remember the first few of our meetings as a cohort during New Lancer Days- my college’s way to submerge students into college life. Fast.

(Side note, but I also have a very vivid memory of almost starving to death during New Lancer Days because the events were so jam-packed I had no time to go get food. . . ).

We were all so small, young, fresh and much less weathered as we are now. We had that stamina of a new student and a new teacher; we believed we could touch every student’s life for the better. We came together all with different talents. Some of us knew sign language. Some of us had siblings with special needs. Some of us had been in a buddies program in high school. And then there was me, someone who had never taught or worked with kids with special needs, but somehow knew this was where I needed to be. Additionally, we all had our dreams. Generally, most of us wanted to work in elementary schools. A few of us wanted to work in high school. My friend Drew wanted to eventually be a lawyer for individuals with special needs. And then there was me, someone who had no clue what she wanted to do. I envied the people like Drew who knew exactly where they wanted to end up.

Over the years in college we experienced much and changed a great deal. Some of us changed majors, and some of us changed colleges. Our cohort got much smaller, but that was alright with us, we enjoyed being around each other more than anything else. By this time, we all had a pretty strong idea in what we wanted to do. Some of us hadn’t changed, and some of us changed where we saw ourselves working. At this point I believed I wanted to be a life-skills teacher of some sort for students with severe autism. I still felt though, that my dreams and aspirations changed everyday, and I felt like I was less because of that.

Then comes student teaching. When I started this semester, I figured it would be the same as any other semester – I just had to get through it, but boy was I wrong. This is when you truly understand where you want to be, and more importantly, where you need to be.

I tell this story often because it is a strong testament to how you change as an educator. I tried every single thing I could think of doing to get out of student teaching in a high school. Our special education degrees are k-12, thus we have to teach in all representative grades (elementary, middle, and high school). Extremely long story short, I couldn’t weasel out of student teaching in a high school. Jokes on me, because the university calendar got messed up that semester and I had to student teach in a high school for 8 weeks, not 6 like usual. My 8 weeks came and went entirely too fast and I was heart-broken to leave. I fell in love with working in a high school and wouldn’t have known it unless I spent those 8 wonderful weeks there.

Then comes the phase where you all have to do adult-y things and get jobs. We all had to come back to Longwood after student teaching to do paperwork for our teaching license and it was so special to hear where people were working. One of my friends was working in high school self-contained, another was working in alternative education in a high school and another was starting as an early childhood special educator. When I had time to reflect on that, I would have NEVER expected that they would be doing that, but there is no one more perfect than they are for the job.

Over my time student teaching I had the brisk realization that where I’m needed is in administration. I absolutely adore teaching and working with children, but I need to reach more people than I can as a teacher. Right now, I’m not sure if that means that I’ll be getting a PhD or an admin degree, if that means i’ll be principal or a special education coordinator.

But what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be unsure. The pieces will fall into place, and they will fall into place for a reason.

Looking back, we are almost nothing like what we were when we started this journey. A large percent of us are doing different things than what our hearts were set on when we started, but that’s okay. It’s where we are needed to be.

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