What’s a pilgrim soul? Yeats might say that it’s who we really are, not who we pretend to be. We say it’s someone who isn’t afraid to admit they’re searching, a current student who is on a path but doesn’t know exactly where it will lead. 

Sarah Bredar is a senior English and Language Arts Education Major at Ball State University. Sarah is also a member of the English Education Club and Vice President of the Ball State chapter of the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.

What made you choose Ball State for English Ed?

My mom is an alumnus of the Elementary Education program here, and she convinced me to apply since we have such an established teaching presence in the Midwest. I had applied to eight different schools, mostly out of state. I was stubbornly holding onto the notion of attending school at one of the expensive “dream” schools that drove my parents crazy, but when I came for an interview with the Honors College here on campus, I found myself quietly cursing at how much I actually felt at home here. I never met with faculty or advisors to talk about the English education program before starting my first semester, so I started my freshman year off with little information about what the program actually offered. Once I completed my introductory courses, and attended the National Council of Teachers of English National Convention, I began to see the immense range of opportunities our students have here. Now, looking back on my decision to come here, I can’t see myself developing as the teacher (or overall person) that I am becoming if I went anywhere else.

What made you choose to go into English Ed?

I had been told growing up that my personality lent itself quite well to teaching, but I never paid much attention to those comments. I had always aspired to make a difference and change lives, and while I tried on different careers when starting to think of college, I could never settle on a single one. I knew that I loved writing and reading, but I didn’t think of teaching as a possibility for me. Not until, about halfway through my senior year of high school, when one of my former teachers (a family friend) passed away unexpectedly. I was absolutely devastated. Her class and instruction was the reason I started to challenge myself and believe in myself more, especially in my writing. Her passing seemed to cause a shift in my attitude toward the future, and I realized that I wanted to facilitate change like she provided for me and other students in her class. I decided that I would talk to my high school English teachers more about why they loved their career, and a few decided to help me gain a better understanding of what being an English teacher really looks like. After being a Teaching Assistant for one of these teachers, I found myself feeling like I had finally found my career.

What does a typical day of classes look like for you?

Three days a week, I am either in a classroom here on campus or I am out in schools teaching. For half the semester, I am placed in a middle school to teach, and for the other half I am in a high school. In the afternoons, I typically try to substitute teach for Muncie Community Schools when they need me, in placements ranging from elementary through high school. The other two days a week, I’m in classes from 8:30 am until about 5:00 pm, with some teaching or small food breaks sprinkled in. With a busy schedule, I typically try to incorporate some kind of self-care routines before and after classes, like yoga and meditation, to help me refocus and decompress after longer days! These practices have helped me to manage my time and energy throughout the last three years, wherein I was exceptionally busy with student organizations and classes.

If you could tell students one thing to get them to become an English Ed major what would that be?

I would tell students that as an English education major, you get such a unique experience in the courses and programs that we have available to us. In addition to our English education courses, we get the chance to study in classes that span different departments and represent a variety of majors. From the work of our faculty and student organizations, even with the variety of classes that we take, our program feels like a family more than a community. The support and encouragement that we receive only reinforces why our program is such a powerful and enriching experience for emerging teachers to go through.

What has been your favorite class within the major so far?

I think that my favorite class within the major, so far, has been my ENG 350 course with Dr. Darolyn “Lyn” Jones. In this course, we explored the complexities of teaching writing in middle and high school classrooms, and I think that this has been the most transformative moment for me to shift from thinking as a student to thinking as a teacher. We had the chance to visit classrooms, teach in a multitude of environments, and have authentic engagement with schools that I had never been able to experience before in my undergraduate studies. This course and Dr. Jones helped me to build confidence in my abilities as an educator and find new ways to challenge myself in my craft. This class also led to a volunteering position within the Indiana Writers Center, wherein I helped students ranging from elementary to high school around Indianapolis to grow as creative writers. Not only did this course help me to become a stronger English teacher, but it helped to reignite my passion for creative writing and how I can bring it into my classroom.

What is one misconception about your major?

I think that many people, including those who come into the major when they get to college, think that since they love English, teaching it at the secondary level will be like Dead Poets’ Society or some other romanticized portrayal of teaching that we see in the media. Admittedly, I thought the same thing when I came into the major, but as you go through any good teacher education program like ours, you quickly learn that it’s not just about your love for reading and writing that’s important: you must love working with the age group you’ll be teaching, too. That is why I always tell people that if they want to teach solely because they love English, then they should go into a different major. Teaching English and Language Arts is difficult and messy and chaotic and beautiful, and if you don’t love working with students as much as you love the content you study, you’ll have a truly difficult time staying passionate.