Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Joanna Wright-English: Maybe the Most Unappreciated and Underpaid Degree

Jamie Joyner's blog on her reasons for being and English major and pursuing her Master's degree spurred me to reminisce on my own reasons for becoming an English major. One thing I can tell you...majoring in English for Secondary Education is the best decision I ever made for my academic career.

I'm 22 years old and I graduated in 2006 from a High School MTV had its wicked way with located in Hoover, AL. I should have graduated last summer. Obviously I didn't and my reasons are probably familiar to a lot of English Majors. I noticed we all tend to suffer from a "Degree Identity Crisis" once we take that first plunge into English Major-dom. I went to a community college for two years, focusing on my General Studies for no major in particular. I started as a Business Major...made sense to me. Those Majors go off and get their Master's in something technical and can often make a lot of money straight out of college. The money part obviously appealed to me, but the idea of working in a "corporate" world made my stomach turn. I couldn't figure out why until someone I worked with at a Craft store made an excellent point. "I was never, never happy in that environment." She said, sporting a degree in Business Management and being resigned from a very wealthy position in a big corporate company. Now she's stocking shelves and couldn't be happier. Then I bungee'd back and forth between Ecomonics and Graphic Design and Web Design...blah, blah, blah. I am interested in all those things, but the fit didn't seem snug enough for me to be happy for the rest of my life.

Then two monumental things happened that made me sit down and seriously assess my life. My mother died in December of 2008 and that following January, my high school sweetheart of three years joined the Marine Corps. I lost my mother, who supported me in whatever I did and then I lost the one person I could have leaned on to help me heal through the loss. So, I made the mistake of taking a semester off the community college I was spending--cough, wasting, cough--my time at and forced myself to thoroughly examine my life and what I wanted.

And as cheesy as it sounds, I finally asked myself...what on Earth do I love doing the most? Well...I love to write (or ramble, depending upon how many of you are still with me ^.~) and I love to read. Hmm...what in the world could I do where I can read...write...and get paid to do both. I had no idea...but I knew then I had to stop screwing around and become an English major. I LOVED my first class! I was at the University of Montevallo and this class was supposed to be the "hardest" class in the English degree. It was the "make you" or "break you" class...meant to weed out all the "Non-English Majors" (I love that). I passed with flying colors and realized this is what I wanted to do. I didn't know what to do as far as a job went, but I loved being an English Major and I would stick it out as long as I could afford it.

Two semesters later, I had to make another life-changing decision. I married my Marine and he moved up here in Jacksonville, NC. Without the Marine Bases, this poor town would be nothing but forests and farmland. There's a sad lack of educational opportunities here. I was beginning to get scared...what if I couldn't move up here with my husband because this oh-so-wonderful and blessed degree wasn't available in the area?!?!?!?!

[Cheesy Trumpets of Revelation] Insert UNCW! Sure! It's an hour away from where I live and I am probably the only genius (moron) driving a NOT so gas efficient car back and forth 80 miles a day! But in all honesty...I love it here. I love the atmosphere...I love the people...I love finally being involved...and I love realizing at last that teaching English is my calling. A graduate from UAB with a degree in Philosophy said something that stuck with me: "People who truly love and appreciate the humanities enough to devote their career to it are content with the fact that they aren't going to make a dime."

I know I'm going to get on some Math Majors nerves, but hear me out. It breaks my heart when I hear people tell me they don't read books because it's "boring", or they don't read to their children because they think infants don't understand. Math is a skill most people rarely use or never use depending on their career (all English majors who still need a calculator to add, raise your hands [raises hand]). But English, Language Arts, is a fundamental skill we use every moment of every day. It's how we communicate with the people we love, or the people we work with or's how we communicate with ourselves. Letters (archaic, I know...perhaps we could start a movement to bring it back? The Post Office would probably support us), Emails, Blogs, Texts, Facebook Posts (I can't believe I just put that)...these are all ways we communicate and we can thank our English teachers for that. I am anal-retentive about grammar...I can thank my freshmen English teacher for that. Because of her...I don't sound like an uneducated moron when I e-mail my boss about something...or my professors for that matter.

I wanted to be an English Teacher because I realized the difference I would be making in a small community. Helping people develop reading skills, retracing their history through books, or communicating thoughts and ideas in papers, is the best and most incredible way I can utilize my degree.

For those of you who stuck with me to the end, we are now friends (because I tend to talk this much too). For those of you fellow English Majors who question the "why's" and "what if's" of your degree, I hope I helped you realize what a difference we are making as English Majors. Some of the most incredible thinkers in the world, like Jamie said: Lawyers, Businessmen and women, Criminal Justice Members, Politicans...they started right where you and I are.

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