I just love the American education system. Especially when it comes to middle school. Someone somewhere decided that it would be a great idea to throw a bunch of hormonal, confused, prepubescent individuals into a confined space. And once that person successfully convinced the entirety of America that this was a good idea, they immediately opened a firehose of questions on these poor children.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Do you know where you want to go to college?”

“What are your goals in life?”

Then adults are surprised when these kids are riddled with anxiety and even more emotional than they would be without the extra pressure from their elders. Even now, as a junior in college, I relate to the distressed middle schoolers panicking over something as simple as picking out a bracket color for their braces.

I had my fair share of mental breakdowns in middle school. Okay . . . maybe more than my fair share. Maybe enough for myself and all the rest of my classmates combined. And I was just as confused as the next person. For middle school me, trying to choose a career was like trying to pick out the best ice cream flavor—so many things to choose from, nothing to stress over, and yet I was panicking. As an eighth grader, I thought my career path was a big deal.

But, then again, everything is a big deal in middle school. Which is why I believed I had peaked when my English teacher asked me if she could put my essay in the middle school newspaper. That’s right. I was going to be SO FAMOUS. Copies of this newspaper may or may not have been consistently found in trashcans, but that’s beside the point.  My essay about trying to choose a career path was out there for all my middle school peers to see. I rambled about how I wanted to move to France and be a photographer and about how I hated getting vaccines. Yeah, middle school Clark was a mess.

As you can tell, the middle school newspaper was a big deal in my adolescent mind. I mean, who wouldn’t want their subpar writing published and paired with a grainy black and white photo printed out for everyone to see?

When the “eighth grade predictions” (a list of guesses about who would go into certain careers) came out, everyone was ecstatic to see where their classmates saw them down the road—which, looking back, really wasn’t (and isn’t) that far away. I remember flipping through my crisp, recently printed copy of the newspaper, eager to see what potential, or lack thereof, my classmates thought I had. I found the career predictions page and frantically scanned the sea of words for my name. There it was: “Ashton Clark Moyer,” listed underneath the title “English Teacher.” I don’t really remember my initial reaction to the prediction. But I’m assuming I was confused but not angry. Maybe I wasn’t even confused. Like I said, I don’t really remember.

The concept of pursuing teaching as a career wasn’t necessarily foreign to me. After all, I had often forced my brothers to play school with me when we were younger. Miss Moyer, the principal, the teacher, and the all-knowing being of the pretend classroom: that was me! But I firmly believe that reading my classmates’ prediction of how I would be spending my life decisions I’ve made up until this moment.

High school came and went. Too quickly. Too slowly. When I got to senior year, I applied to BJU during the fall semester. I put English education down as my major of choice on my application, hoping that I had made the right decision. During the weeks and months that followed, I signed up for a dual credit course that focused on educational psychology, I battled with myself about whether or not I had made a mistake, and I honestly didn’t know if I was where I should be. I hated the thought of being the only “stupid” high school kid in my college class, and I was dreading college in general anyway. In January 2021, I started the educational psychology course, better known as Theories of Teaching and Learning, and I loved every moment of it. I fell in love with the thought of taking control of a classroom and making it my own.

I graduated in May of 2021, and I started making plans to attend BJU in the fall. The first semester of my college career consisted of core classes, of course, which didn’t really give me a good indication of whether English education was right for me. Then second semester gave me a real taste of major-specific courses. Suddenly, I was learning about reading techniques, phonemes, learning disabilities, and the like. I felt like I had finally found my niche, which is something I really struggled with in high school.

I’m proud to say I’ve never changed my major, though I’ve threatened to on the days when I felt like I was garbage at writing down my ideas on paper. Or the days when I just felt like reading another word would warrant tears. But now I see, clearer than ever, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be: the English education program here at BJU.