A misuse of resources?
"...why, after graduating from an Ivy league school like Stanford did you decide to become a school teacher? Isn't it kind of a misuse of a very expensive education that many (me included) can't even hope to achieve?
Do you think it is an optimum allocation of educational resources and funds? Did you plan all the time on becoming a teacher or was it a mid-study decision?"
I felt a little defensive at first, but here's what I wrote back in the end:
I thought I might go to law school and become a child advocacy lawyer and eventually a judge. I wanted more on the ground experience working with the families whose rights I would be defending, and I wasn't ready to start a law program - needed a break from being in school - so I applied to Teach For America. Once I started teaching, I found it a real intellectual and personal challenge and also found that the types of cases I would work on as a lawyer were not in any way, shape, or form clear-cut or necessarily the best way to make policy regarding children. And I became involved in starting a school. So I decided to stay in teaching.
Teaching is a highly complex task with extremely important outcomes at both the individual and societal level. At the moment, it may be undervalued by society, but that doesn't mean going into teaching is a waste of a Stanford education. In addition, the field of education is one in which I have already begun to take some leadership roles - at the moment, within my school, but quite possibly on a larger scale in a few years. I will be paying off my loans for some time, true, but would I truly be happier having chosen a more lucrative profession simply because it makes better economic sense? That's not how I go about making decisions about what I do with my life. Obviously, economic reality plays a role in my choices (and just for the record, I'm not a trust-fund kid or anything, my parents are also educators), but it is not the deciding factor.
I would add now that I was raised to believe in - within reason - education for education's sake. I went to the school where I thought I would learn most, in and out of classes, and I think it was a good decision. My world is far, far broader and richer as a result of my experience in college. Of course, this is not to say that less expensive colleges couldn't provide a similar experience; I can only say that I do not, for an instant, regret going into debt to pay for college. I never saw it as an investment in my future earning potential, more as investment in myself as a human being and as a citizen. I hope I can share with my students the same commitment to seeking out opportunities to learn and to grow.
*By the way, M., if you don't want to be quoted, just shoot me a line and I'll take this post down.