At the sagacious age of twelve, I decided to go into the field of English Language Arts Education. I wanted to be like my role models. I wanted to be to others what my favorite teachers were to me. I also loved the subject area of English Language Arts, and I wanted to have the opportunity to discuss those topics every day for the rest of my life. My decision was later solidified in college when I realized the joy of implementing brain research into classroom strategies in order to achieve viable results in student academic growth. The ultimate goal is to have a hand in making the world I leave behind a better place.
One of my favorite English teachers was Mrs. Hicks. She was the first teacher to give us a “syllabus” and explain that vocabulary word. She also explained that we were to take some ownership of the times/dates/content listed therein. We felt very grown up and we flourished in that expectation of independent efficacy. Mrs. Hicks was passionate about the subject matter which she taught. She was elated when we were able to pick out allusions portrayed by C.S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Her enthusiasm was contagious. In my classes, I still emulate some of the strategies that Mrs. Hicks used with us. I realize the importance of high, obtainable expectations and the crucial role of passion for the content area. High expectations and passion are two elements that are timeless tools in the field of education.
The zeal I have for the content matter of English Language Arts is evident in my classroom today. I do get to live my dream in that I get to discuss my favorite topic every day! In analyzing literature, I enjoy when students are able to make universal connections to the themes, motifs, and main ideas. The themes of Romeo & Juliet and "Benjamin Button" have outlasted time and place which makes them classics, but more importantly, makes them relevant to the daily lives of my students. My students recognize how excited I am about my content because they note how well-prepared my lessons are. If we are reading an article about outer space, I’ve got someone from NASA on zoom-room to interact with them face-to-face and field questions about the text (yes, that literally happened). If we are discussing writing, I’ll show them how I co-authored and published my own book! I’ll also bring in a fellow guest author or connect them virtually. There are many ways to show my students my passion for the content area. Discovering creative ways to make the content relevant to my students opens the door to show that enthusiasm.
In undergrad I had a professor who was championed by Howard Gardner for being a pioneer of his work in Multiple Intelligences as implemented in education. For me, Dr. Ellen Weber solidified the link between academic achievement and the teacher’s recognition of brain strategies that work for retention and positive productivity of students. One fundamental basis of belief is that the brain can constantly grow and regrow connections. With that in mind, it’s important to use strategies to facilitate that growth. Emotional memory is something to consider when planning lessons and therefore I’m mindful to ensure my students develop a personal connection to the content. Another thing to keep in mind is grade level and attention spans. Students need to move and transition to different activities within one class period. Of course it’s also imperative to understand specific learning styles and preferences that are represented in your classroom. After seventeen years of teaching, these things (and more) come second nature. When deliberate attention is paid to the brain science of learning, the results will show in student data.
I’ve taken a big bag of strategies from my favorite role models, a dash of my passion for English Language Arts, and a bucket of brain science put together to become the English teacher that I am today. Ultimately, the goal is to make the world a better place behind me. I want people to be able to say that the world is better since I was in it making a difference. A wise man once said, "I'll never walk on water, but I want to be the droplets of water for others to walk on!" (Paul Yin, author of Explosions of Joy).