Putting Myself Out There

Hello! This is my first post in the second term, and for it, I will briefly reintroduce myself and rearticulate my goals for teaching. I have introduced myself in a couple ways on this blog: specifically, through a video and through a podcast. As I haven’t yet really introduced myself in writing (and seeing as I am a pre-service English teacher), a written account of my own educational history and goals seems apt.

 

My Educational History

I have always loved school because I have always loved learning. I’m sure this love of learning was partially instilled by the schoolteachers I have had from a young age. Largely, though, I have my parents to thank for teaching me that education is a privilege and for encouraging me to take my learning further than the classroom. If I found a math concept too easy, my mom would give me additional, more challenging math problems to complete, and if I was beyond my class in reading (as was often the case, being an eager reader), we would go to the library to get new novels. Concepts came fairly easily to me, as did the ability to focus. I recognize now how fortunate I am that my experience in public education was so positive and that I had certain advantages that helped me be successful. [1]

After graduating high school, I attended MacEwan University in Edmonton (my hometown) for my B.A. in English. I took the English Honours program, which basically just meant that I majored and minored in English. The program also required that I write a thesis, which involved proposing a project, choosing a supervising committee, and presenting and defending the paper at the end of the term. I titled my project “‘Shade to Shade Will Come Too Drowsily’: Pain, Opium, Melancholy, and the Poetical Character in Keats,” looking at John Keats’s letters and poetry in conjunction with Romantic views of pain and painkilling. I really love Romantic poetry. In high school, though, I disliked every poetry unit. My university career remedied that by varying the types of poems I was reading, by supporting readings with poetic theory, and by allowing students to come to their own conclusions about the poetry we were assigned. I’m grateful for having to go through the process of completing a thesis, which helped prepare me for the next big step in my education: my Masters degree.

When I began my M.A. at the University of Victoria, I thought that I would either continue focusing on British Romantic Poetry or shift my focus to contemporary Canadian Literature. Neither of these turned out to be true; I ended up concentrating in Medieval and Early Modern Studies and wrote my Masters Essay on a Latin text from the 1070s, titling my project “A Space of Resistance: Body, Landscape, and Identity in the Gesta Herwardi.” My change in area of study occurred both because I enjoy thinking and writing about medieval texts and also because I have always had stellar teachers in my medieval literature classes. At UVic, my teachers facilitated thoughtful and meaningful discussions about the texts and included a focus on experiential learning: we had the opportunity to work directly with medieval and early modern manuscripts. There’s something about being able to see, touch, and smell a centuries-old document that really changed me as a learner. I wasn’t just studying history and literature; I was holding it. In my last semester, I was able to work with my professor and a peer to produce a transcription of a medieval calendar, which is new work that will soon be shared with the academic community. My medieval literature teachers have become models for me as I embark on my own teaching journey. They have taught me about hands-on learning, about collaboration, about the value of working towards a real-life goal, and about creating the right amount of challenge for each individual.

 

My Goals as a Teacher

Sometimes I struggle to explain what I like to do outside of school, simply because I truly feel passionate about my education. I identify as a lifelong learner, and I hope that my passion for learning will be transferred to my students. Several times throughout the Education Post Degree Professional Program, my peers and I have been asked to reflect upon and articulate why we are going into the teaching profession. My primary reason has always been that I want to instill a love of learning, of reading, and of communicating in my students. I hope to create a classroom that gives my students equal opportunities for success by varying the ways I teach, creating a nonjudgmental space for students to exchange ideas, and allowing for different forms of assessment. I aim to foster a space where learning is fun and doesn’t stop at the walls of my classroom… I hope to teach my students skills and competencies that they can carry forward in their lives and begin to self-direct their own learning.

More and more, I am realizing how important it is for teachers to connect with students as human beings. It sounds basic, but the human aspect of the teacher-student relationship seems (to me) to make all the difference. During my high school observations last semester, whenever I asked a student, “what makes a good teacher?,” he or she would reply with an answer like “approachability,” “a sense of humour,” “they get to know you as a person,” and so on. None of the students said something like “they are extremely knowledgeable in their subject.” Most students value the social aspects of learning, and for some students, school may be the only place that has the potential for positive social interaction. I believe that this kind of relationship can’t truly begin unless the teacher is willing to share something real about him or herself with students. If you expect your students to put themselves out there, you must be willing to, as well. I want to share my own learning journey with my students, revealing struggles to show that mistakes are okay, demonstrating practicality of skills, and sharing my passions. I want to put myself out there.

Further to this, in order to individualize learning for students, you must get to know your students as individuals. For English, this means getting to know some of their passions, the text types they prefer, their areas of strength, and areas in need of development. I hope to form meaningful, professional relationships with all of my students so that I can better understand how they will learn best and what kinds of supports I should use in and out of class. As written above, I was very fortunate to have a smooth and positive experience in my education, and that positivity lead to my continuation of my schooling (a continuation that is still ongoing and is shaping my future career); my biggest wish is to help my students – ALL of my students – to have a positive experience so they might also become lifelong learners, whether that learning occurs in a school or out in the world.

 

[1] Specifically, my advantages include my race, neurotypicality, family situation, and economic status.

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