Why Ball State education graduates are still passionate about their career path

Why Ball State education graduates are still passionate about their career path

Going through each grade, from kindergarten and beyond, teachers become a regular component of a person’s life. However, research suggests the teaching profession is dwindling in numbers and rising in rates of unhappiness.

According to a comprehensive report from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, there has been a consistent downward trend of students enrolling in teacher-education programs, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report states between the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years, the number of people completing a teacher-education program declined by almost a third.

The reasons why students leave this career vary, but one of the more significant reasons is teachers’ salaries. According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers make about 20 percent less than other college-educated workers with similar experience.

This considerable aspect prevents graduates from becoming educators, as they are afraid of being unable to make a suitable living for themselves and their families. Ashley Casteel, fourth-year elementary education major at Ball State, said the salary for teachers could be better, especially since they did so much for students and administration.

“It’s ironic because the people who work in careers that pay more, such as lawyers and surgeons, learn everything they need to know from teachers who are underpaid and overworked,” Casteel said.

Other teachers desire a support system that they feel needs to be improved by the upper administration. The US Department of Education’s 2020-2021 National Teacher and Principal Survey states the relationships between teachers and their administrators are often negative.

According to the survey, “half of the teachers reported not feeling a great deal of support or encouragement. Six out of 10 reported not feeling a lot of cooperative effort among staff members, and 71.3 percent of teachers reported not having much control or influence on selecting the content, topics, and skills they will be teaching in their classrooms.”

This lack of support coincides with the amount of disrespect they are forced to endure from bad, and even violent, behavior some students exert daily.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2015–16 school year, a high percentage of elementary public school teachers

reported being threatened with injury or being physically attacked by a student from their school.

These complaints, and many others, dissuade students from becoming educators due to the overwhelming stress and lack of respect teachers experience.

“Everyone needs to start standing up more for our teachers,” Megan Grasso, health and physical education major and Ball State fourth-year, said. “They deserve more respect than they are getting since they are the ones who are teaching the younger generation and, in doing so, are changing the world.”

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Fourth-year Ashley Casteel poses for a portrait. After graduation Casteel hopes to teach in an elementary school for 3 to 4 years before getting her master’s degree in school administration or school counseling. Meghan Braddy, DN

The education career quickly became more of a dying job market after COVID-19. Virtual learning and a lack of communication from administrators concerning how to teach from home only exacerbated the grievances some teachers were already experiencing with their jobs.

Chase Braden, a permanent substitute teacher for Scribner Middle School in New Albany and a former secondary education major at Ball State, said many problems within the education system were exposed to the pandemic.

“After we returned to in-person learning, everyone was expected to move on as if nothing had happened. This is extremely frustrating to many people I know in the education field,” Braden said.

According to a poll from the National Education Association (NEA), 55 percent of public school teachers, administrators and other staff said they were going to leave the field sooner than they’d initially planned because of the additional stresses brought on by the pandemic.

The NEA also cited data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, stating around 10.6 million teachers worked in public schools in January 2020. That number dropped to approximately 10 million in the months that followed. This represents a loss of roughly 600,000 teachers introduced for many reasons, some due to the substantial stress and potential safety hazards of the pandemic into the classroom.

While some graduates are deterring from this occupation for these reasons, others are still undeniably passionate about becoming educators. This is especially true for Grasso, who believes being an educator is a rewarding career despite some negative aspects.

“Kids can be appreciative, especially when attending a physical education class,” Grasso said. “This is because they don’t have many times during the day when they can be active and have fun activities planned for them. That time to be active for students is crucial, especially when sitting in classrooms all day.”

The pandemic’s negative educational impacts only proved this, as it showed students were missing the active support system they received from teachers in the classroom. According to a study conducted by Horace Mann, more than 97 percent of educators reported seeing some learning loss in their students over the past year compared with children in previous years. Fifty-seven percent estimated their students are behind by more than three months in their social-emotional progress.

“The world needs teachers. For years to come, studies and research will be done on the pandemic’s negative educational impacts. I had sixth graders at a kindergarten reading level when I was a student teaching because of that. We need teachers to help these students catch up more than ever,” Braden said.

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Amber Pietz, DN Design

Becoming a role model for students is another reason graduates are still passionate about becoming educators. Casteel says this is because they have the potential to inspire their students and encourage them to go further and dream bigger.

“Teaching is the only career I’ve ever found myself in,” Casteel said. “I had many amazing teachers growing up who were there for me when I was going through a lot, and they inspired me. I want to make that impact on the future children one day.”

Teachers also have a significant influence on their students in the sense that they are the ones who hold students accountable for their successes and failures in school. This positive aspect of teaching draws graduates in because they feel they can help their students live up to their full potential.

According to TeachHUB, “Student accountability is important because it encourages students to take responsibility for their learning and actions. Students, in turn, learn to value their work and possibly increase their levels of confidence. This prepares students for life beyond high school, whether it be furthering their education, going into the workforce, or a combination of both.”

Braden said that he believes teachers leaving the profession isn’t due to a lack of passion in this sense.

“I think a lot of change needs to be done within the system, and teachers can make that change,” Braden said.

Teachers do spend a lot of time with their students during the day, which means that they are the ones who help prepare students for the aspirations they want to achieve in life. In doing so, they are also provoking this change within the education system by helping to influence future generations.

“Teachers help to raise future generations, and that’s something that I want to be a part of,” Grasso said. “There are so many things wrong in this world today, and as educators, we can help change that. It starts with teaching the younger generations the difference between right and wrong. We can instill that in students because we’re with them for extended periods of the day.”

After graduation, Grasso hopes to find a physical education or health teaching job in an elementary or middle school. Casteel would also like to teach in an elementary school for three to four years before obtaining her master’s degree in either school administration or school counseling.

Despite the many challenges facing many teachers, graduates like Casteel and Grasso are gravitating toward their future careers for that very reason. They’re ready to become educators and have a hand in teaching future generations.

Contact Meghan Braddy with comments via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @meghan_braddy.


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