College can be difficult at any stage, but especially when the work required is outside of the classroom. For one group of students, their work includes stepping outside the classroom into another. Enter the education majors.
Their work includes methods training, meaning students observe a teacher in a classroom, as well as student teaching where the students take over a classroom.
Both elementary and secondary education majors have to have a liberal arts major in addition to their education major.
Department Chair and Education Professor Dr. Ellen Nuffer said it hasn’t always been that way. Nuffer explained,
She explained, “It became a requirement [at Keene State College] about 20 years ago. It coincided with the state department developing…language around ‘depth of knowledge in a content area.’”
She said the department of education required 10 courses in a content area, which was what a major at KSC was roughly made up of.
“At that point, everyone needed a minor, so we shifted it over to ‘let’s everyone do a major.’…that would meet the state requirement, as well as support KSC as it shifted from the identity of a state teacher’s college to a public liberal arts institution,” she said.
Nuffer said that in previous years, the third education major, the early childhood option, was required to have a liberal arts major as well, but that has changed this year.
“The early childhood option [now] requires a minor,” she said
Nuffer said however, this is only true for students now just entering the early childhood option, not students who have already been in the program.
Nuffer said this change to the program is due to the fact that the “coursework has expanded.”
She said, “There’s more attention to the kinds of administrative tasks.” She explained these tasks more as positions outside of the classroom, such as someone who hires or works with the curriculum.
She said with this expansion, it leaves little room for students to complete both an education and liberal arts major.
However for these who have an education and liberal arts major to complete, it can leave little room for much else outside of school work.
KSC senior Heather Wittmer is a geography and elementary education major. Wittmer said she loves being involved with the education program and enjoys her professors, but occasionally feels as though they don’t understand she has other priorities.
“The education department doesn’t realize how much other stuff comes into play and how much time goes into everything else,” she said.
Wittmer stressed that not all of the professors are that way, but it feels often like “if you’re an education major, that’s your primary major.”
She said this can affect students, especially those who don’t fare so well being in a liberal arts major that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the majority of what elementary education students are taught, such as English or science.
Wittmer said she’s lucky that geography encompasses multiple topics such as science and social studies because she wants to teach grade school and, more often than not, grade school isn’t split up by topic, but by grade.
However, she said that the setback is that she’s really proficient in one topic and this matters even before the classroom because of the Praxis II exam.
Wittmer continued that often her teachers tell students not to heed their textbooks, but learn from real life experience, however praxis exams are based on textbook material.
”They teach you to steer away from the textbook, but then…tell you to read it to prepare for the Praxis II exam. So they’re teaching you one thing, but not what they you want you to do,” she said.
Wittmer acknowledged that for a student taking something like art or journalism, it could be really tough to take the exam since these academic programs don’t go over any of the exam’s content.
“It would be great if the second major [for elementary education] was something like elementary content knowledge,” she said.
KSC Junior Inja Diamond also works at the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery and is a studio art and elementary education major.
In a major not designed for a typical grade school classroom outside of art, she said she struggles. “I have to plan it out really well and ask heads of both departments to help me,” she said.
Diamond said she anticipates graduating next year, but explained it’s tricky. “This semester, I had to do methods in the morning and all the art classes offered are in the morning, so there’s only one art class I could take that wasn’t in the morning,” she said.
Diamond continued, “They [education and studio art majors] don’t really work well together.”
Diamond said part of this could also be due to the fact that she started her second major her second year. “They told me I had time and not to worry,” she said.
Diamond also works as a Residential Assistant, so finding free time is difficult. “I live by my planner and color code the things I have to do,” she said.
She said doing this helps since she finds that her two advisors don’t always talk to each other.
Department Chair and Education Professor Dr. Ellen Nuffer said there are many departments on campus where they do communicate with each other.
“So there are a number of programs where we are very cognizant of the faculty,” she said.
Nuffer said the program planning module under a student’s services can help tremendously with communication between both advisors in order to create the best situation for a student.
She said a student should “ask both [advisors] to review your program plan and to suggest that your advisor use the note capability that’s in the student planning.”
Nuffer said these notes are then visible between advisors, which can enable collaboration. “So using the notes function is an enormously helpful form of communication,” she said.
She said it’s really an individual journey for students looking to major in education.
Nuffer said however, that students should still strive to meet with both advisors on a regular basis. She continued that it’s critical to “develop a regular relationship with your advisor.”
She said that just because there’s so much information available online, that doesn’t mean a student will know everything required of them to do.
“A lot of students assume they can just follow what’s online and they’ll be fine. You really do need to be involved with your advisor,” she said.
Education Professor Dr. Dottie Bauer said it’s important to figure out what you want to do early on.
She continued, “You can do it if you don’t change your mind too many times and you don’t drop classes or fail classes,.”
Bauer said the GPA for education majors who are graduating seniors this year is 2.5, but for all other students it is 2.75.
Bauer said choosing a second major of great interest would help one’s G.P.A.
“[We] try to encourage students to select another area for that second major that they’re interested in so they don’t feel like it’s a burden,” she said.
Bauer continued that students shouldn’t feel like their school work is affecting their outside relationships.
Bauer said those who are friends with education majors should give them space and be understanding.
She said, “Be kind to your education friends because they have to be ready to work with children at 8 in the morning. They have to be ready to do that on Friday and on Monday.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Corrections made 10/2/16 – Paragraph 43: “…at other colleges is a 2.5, while to stay in the program at KSC, it’s only a 2.0.” changed to “…who are graduating seniors this year is 2.5, but for all other students it is 2.75.”*