— Zac Chase (@MrChase) January 5, 2016
I knew I wanted to teach English from the time I was in the 8th grade. Reading 1984 one time was enough to make me say, “I want to teach these books for the rest of my life.” The knowledge of what I wanted to do dictated nearly every academic decision I made. Everything became about the speed with which I could become a teacher.
I chose AP classes because it would allow me to get non-English Major courses out of the way while I was still in high school. I chose the University of Denver because it was one of the only schools that allowed you to do a Teacher Education Program as a part of your undergrad. I specifically engineered my schedule and accelerated my pace with Interterm credits so that I could finish college and start teaching in 3 years. In the end, I started teaching 5 months after I turned 21, having achieved my 8th grade goal on the fastest route possible.
This path had some drawbacks.
In no particular order, they go like this:
- I didn’t take math in College because of my AP credits. In fact, I haven’t really sat down with a hard math problem since I was 18. I like that part of my brain, and I would have liked to continue to develop those skills.
- I took masters level courses for undergraduate credit. I somehow convinced myself that this was a good idea. The Teacher Education Program that I went through was primarily a masters program, but they let a few undergraduates through who were “highly motivated to teach.” This means that all of my classmates were receiving their masters in a year-long program that essentially only earned me a Minor in my BA.
- I didn’t stay an extra year and get a Masters in Education. I could have easily received an undergrad in English and then turned the Minor in Education into a Masters within a year. I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to get a masters after my children were born.
- I know almost no one from my Graduating class. Because I finished school in 3 years, I was taking classes with folks in all different years of school. My wife (then girlfriend) was also two years older than I. This meant that the people I knew best were in the graduating class of 2003, rather than my own of 2004, or what would have been my graduating class of 2005 if I had stayed for 4 years. Many people have a deep connection to those they met in college. Other than my wife and a few of her friends, I have no lasting relationships from those years.
- I did not savor college. I really didn’t understand just how easy college was in comparison to working and raising a family. I probably couldn’t have fully appreciated that at 19, but I could have seen college as more than just a means to an end. I could have stopped just long enough to embrace just how much I loved learning and the space within which the learning was happening.
My academic journey was rathe quick and one that was determined when I was 13. I’m not sure my 13 year old self knew what he was getting us into. While I don’t regret any of the things that have happened as a result of my speed, it does make me wonder about other similarly motivated kids. Is there anything that someone could have said to me that would have made me slow down? Is there anything that I could have experienced that would have shown me the power of choosing multiple paths and not just one?