Megan Rose Johnson
Student speaker: School of Education
Fellow students, faculty, staff, family, and friends: Thank you for allowing me this great opportunity to share my thoughts on this momentous day in our lives. I would like to begin by asking for all educators in the room to stand; look around at all the people around you who have dedicated their lives to changing lives. Can we please give them a round of applause. Educators, I hope you enjoyed your applause, because as many of us know we will not receive such thanks on a daily basis, although I personally believe all educators deserve to.
According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education is a basic human right, just as food and shelter are. Therefore, as educators, we are shining examples of being agents of social justice as Loyola has encouraged us all to be. What I have learned is that education is about more than lesson planning, proper assessments and results, behavior management, and testing. Although don’t get me wrong, professors—you made sure we know the importance of these as well!
But to me education is about more. It is about lifting people out of poverty. It is about improving health conditions. It is about promoting equality among different genders, races, and ethnicities. Education is about fostering peace, encouraging environmental sustainability, and helping global development. The key to a better world is education, and we graduates in this room today have decided to devote our lives to being a part of this improvement.
And yet, we will rarely receive rounds of applause as we did today. I will never forget all the people who have questioned my choice of becoming a teacher. Two of the most memorable times this occurred for me are situations I’m sure many of you have faced.
The first story is entertaining: Thanksgiving of my freshman year, I was advised by my great aunts and my grandma to become a “weather lady” instead of a teacher. They insisted I had the right face and voice for the job, and that I should look into a summer camp they heard about which helps you pursue this illustrious career. Unfortunately for them, a meteorologist I am not, but maybe in the future one of my students will be inspired to follow this career path due to something I teach them in class. In turn, perhaps I will be the one to learn from them one day while watching the news that it will be rainy that day and to bring an umbrella.
The other story inspired and encouraged me, although that was not the intent. One of my students during my junior year was completely confused after learning that my life goal was to be a teacher. “Why don’t you want to go to law school or go be a doctor. That’s what most of our other teachers do. What do you mean you just want to be a teacher?” he asked me. The students in that school were used to teachers from other programs, to which teaching was a stepping stone to their real career. The students couldn’t imagine that I wanted to spend the rest of my life teaching students like themselves, and that broke my heart.
At the time I was so caught off by this student (as we often find ourselves with student comments like these), that I just laughed it off and told him “no really, this is my dream”. Looking back though, I wish I had explained to him that I wanted to be his teacher so that he had the option to be whatever it is he wanted—whether it be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher like me, or maybe even a “weather man.” I wanted to give them the skills, abilities, and courage to go out into the world and do whatever they dreamed. I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to be a person in their life that changed or inspired them, whether they realized I did or not. That is, I believe the calling that all of us answered when we decided to be agents of social justice, to be educators.
While our classmates may laugh at us and accuse us of spending our days coloring or be confused to find us reading children’s books (which we swear is for a serious assignment), we know it was educators who got all of us where we are today. We will laugh with them about our coloring, or our addiction to white board markers and red pens, but underneath that laugh, we will know that everything around us is applause. Because without educators, none of it would be possible.
We decided to be educators, not because we are seeking others praise. We decided to be educators because we believe in our mission, and are excited to watch what change we can make. And for joining me in this career, or rather in this lifestyle, I thank you, wish you luck, and congratulate you today.
Congratulations Loyola University’s School of Education class of 2013!