Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

On Exploring a Future Career in Education at Kenyon

Katie Jimenez-Gray
May 6, 2016

I think part of me has always known I want to be a teacher — even when I was in elementary school, throwing out careers at random when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answers of singer (first grade), doctor (third grade) and writer (fifth grade) were rather far-fetched — people always turn the radio up a bit when I start singing along in the car, and I have some serious issues with needles and blood. So while those irrational life plans were boldly bouncing around the front of my brain, the more practical part figured that the many hours of my childhood spent playing school with imaginary pupils would amount to something.

Teaching is something I’ve always been interested in — it’s the career I’ve always come back to, the idea that always serves to energize and excite me. Even though I was considering a few schools with strong education programs, in the end, I chose Kenyon, because it seemed to fit everything I really wanted my college experience to be. Although Kenyon doesn’t have an education major, I’ve found no shortage of opportunities here to cultivate my interests and engage in practices that I know will prepare me for the future.

Before I started college, I wondered briefly if coming to Kenyon and majoring in something other than education meant that I was going to stop thinking about teaching and become fixated on a career more closely connected with the major(s) I would end up choosing. I’ve found quite the opposite to be true — I get to take classes about learning and child development for my psychology major, and my English major will prove advantageous for me, considering it’s the subject I’m most likely to end up teaching, and the one in which I’m learning how best to communicate my thoughts.

What’s more, being in an environment where I’m surrounded by brilliant professors is an excellent way to observe effective teaching in action — and occasionally spend time talking about teaching with professors who are particularly interested in pedagogy. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend talks from Kenyon alumni who have gone into education — just a few months ago, two Kenyon alums came to talk about their experiences teaching at a Montessori school. In the past two years at Kenyon, my interest in education has only expanded — I’ve had conversations, experiences and book recommendations that have catalyzed my interest not only in teaching but in education policy, administration and pedagogy as a whole. 

One of the best experiences I’ve had at Kenyon is my work-study job in a classroom at Wiggin Street Elementary School. I found out about the job through Kenyon’s employment website the summer before my first year, and somehow, I got the position. I’ve spent the last two years working in a kindergarten classroom just down the street. Getting to observe the kindergarten teachers has been incredible. The teachers are big supporters of project-based learning and the importance of play, so I’ve been able to see how these strategies can be implemented while still covering state standards. The teachers are always coming up with new ideas that allow the kindergarteners to have fun while learning; they’re not afraid to act silly or take risks, and I’m always astonished by their creativity and improvisation. Spending seven hours a week around 5-year-olds also is just plain entertaining — they’re always amusing me with their thoughts and amazing me with their imagination.

On a field trip with kindergarteners, exploring nature.

The experiences I’ve had at Kenyon already have been beneficial to me in the “real world” — they’ve helped me get an internship this summer working at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, and next semester, when I’m studying abroad in Sweden, I’ll be interning in a Stockholm public school teaching English. I wouldn’t have gotten these opportunities had I not been at Kenyon, working in a kindergarten classroom for two years, having conversations with professors whose interests are similar to mine, and taking relevant classes. Although I’m not committing myself to any definite professional path at this moment, a career in education seems probable at some point in the future. Right now, though, I know my time at Kenyon is providing me with a strong foundation for that future, regardless of what I eventually decide to do with my life.