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Just recently I received a survey from my alma matter asking me to rate the department for my major. My major is not always a popular one, and one that had more boys than girls in it(which was a big deal at my school). I was a history major. The usual reaction I get from people is how much they hated that subject in school. (Gee thanks.)
The reason why I’m writing this is because of one question in particular on the survey. They asked me if I find my major useful now that I’m part of the workforce. My initial reaction was no. I do teach English as a second language after all, so my knee jerk reaction was that my major was of no use to me at all. I read this question out aloud and was about to click “no” when I thought again. Completing four years as a history major was not an easy task and even if I’m not specifically teaching history does not mean that my degree is of no use to me.
First of all, I can read for information. I can also read just about any dry article you can throw at me and get something out of it. It is a skill born out of necessity and one that can be really useful when sitting in professional development and being shoved a folder thick with articles that will somehow change my world. This skill has also taught me how to skim an article. Something that can also be helpful during those extremely enlightening professional development meetings. I see people sitting around me reading the whole article and just wonder why. It had never occurred to me before that majoring in history taught me how to really read for relevant information and to do it quickly. I must confess, procrastination may have also helped with my speed.
I can also write in a variety of ways. Sometimes I had to write papers that were short and some were long. Some were dense and some I had to force to get to that last line. These writing skills not only help me write for this blog, but I can write grants for my students. I’ve done several Donors Choose projects, but I’ve also written Title III grants and various other grants to get my students the equipment and books they need to learn. Writing is a life skill and I am so grateful that my college promoted it in all majors and especially that my professors saw its value as well. Being a good writer helps me teach my students how to write. Teaching a subject or skill that one might struggle with before teaching, makes teaching it a chore. Writing is not a chore for me and a big part of that is because I was a history major.
Last but not least, I enjoy teaching history. I have created lessons that inspire my students because of it. I teach ESL, which means I have students that come to me with little knowledge of their adopted home country. Those lessons tend to be my best lessons because it is something that I enjoy and want my students to enjoy as well. I hope that none of my students ever answer that they hated social studies in school. I may not teach social studies at every lesson, but when I do, I like to think that is when my students have the most fun. (And one little side note; I can out-trivia a lot of people because of it. Which has it’s merits all on its own.)
I understand the push for science and math in schools today. Both are essential in life and can improve a country in many ways. However, I don’t see being a history or English major as a disadvantage. I was able to learn skills that help me in my life as a teacher and can transfer over to other jobs as well. Not every major has to lock someone into a career choice from the day they walk onto campus. The value of majoring in history cannot and should not be overlooked or be discouraged.