Why the College of Education wasn’t for me

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There’s a sign that says “Newspaper is TOO hard” in a small, narrow office that was once a hallway with vending machines and ugly blue lockers in Curtiss Hall. That office hosts Saginaw Valley State University’s campus newspaper, The Valley Vanguard.

You know, this here paper.

It’s small, unglamorous and, frankly, unimportant to most students, save for the few of us who work here. I have had the pleasure of being a reporter, A&E editor and now the editor-in-chief of said small, unglamorous and, frankly, unimportant newspaper. Yet, it’s felt anything but unimportant to me.

So, I left the College of Education (COE).

To be clear, why I left the COE is kind of a long, unhappy story. I walked into the COE unhappy, and I unrealistically hoped it would make me happy. So, when it didn’t, I unfairly blamed it, and I ended up walking out of it because the experience had made me actually unhappier.

But that isn’t to blame the COE. It’s to say that teaching didn’t make me happy, and it never really had. When I got to SVSU, I just went with things because I was not happy. I kept myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think too hard about anything beyond the scope of my one- week to do list.

But I also kept myself busy with this here publication. I started as a reporter
my first year. I loved it instantly, but I told myself all the things I needed to hear to kill any thought of leaving the COE. I wasn’t a good writer. There’s no future in writing, in editing. It’s just not practical.

It was “practical” for me to go into teaching. It was a specific route with measurable goals on the long-term path. It was safe.

But here’s the thing: I’m really very done with practical and safe. It has gotten me nowhere. I had been waiting and waiting to see myself fall in love with teaching again, but I instead realized that I probably never loved it after all.

I said in this column that I walked into the COE unhappy. That’s true. And I sure did journey through it getting unhappier every step of the way. I could go on about some of the reasons I felt that way, but if you’re in the COE or know someone who is, you know it’s not perfect. No college is, and I don’t expect our COE to be. So, if anyone is to blame for me being unhappy, that blame belongs to me.

I didn’t explore the reasons why I felt – no, feel – so connected, even territorial, of this paper. I was happy as A&E editor last year. To be given the chance to be paid to write and edit a paper, even if it is “just” a college paper, blew my mind.

And then I was “stupidly” allowed to be editor-in-chief. It felt like highway robbery.

I’m not stupid. Honestly. I know that I help manage a small college newspaper that a lot of students don’t even know exists. I get that, but I also get that

the students – no, the reporters and photographers and editorial staff – at the Vanguard put an insane amount of work in to make our six- to eight-page paper happen.

I also know that I have loved every second of it, and this entire semester, I felt

like I was going to classes solely so I could do what I do for this paper. So, during
my last week of classroom teaching and observation hours, I changed my major to professional and technical writing.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t magically “see a light” and become the happiest, wisest human being in the world. But also don’t get me wrong: I do feel like I’m starting, excuse the pun, to turn a new page. And it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the same day I rewrote this column for what I hope to be the last time, a professor who knows me as well as a faculty member at SVSU can gave me a book. The name of that book? “Reporter: A Memoir.”

And I just want to end by pointing something out. This time last year, I said on this same page that things had to change, that, to quote myself, “I hope the time for cathartic experiences are over, and the time for actually doing something to help ourselves (yours truly included) is finally here.”

Well, it might be a little later than I was hoping, but I think I am finally starting to do that.