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What does it mean to be a teacher?
What does it mean to be a teacher? I suppose it didn’t occur to me to ask this question when I made my decision to embark upon my journey to become a teacher because I didn’t perceive teaching as a very philosophical endeavor. I thought that teaching English would be about 1) passing on knowledge about literature, 2) correcting essays and 3) teaching spelling and grammar. I just needed my Master’s to get me on my way.
When I was accepted into the MAT@USC program, I was excited to get into such a prestigious school, and I expected the USC professors to make me a pro at 1) passing on knowledge about literature, 2) correcting essays, and 3) teaching spelling and grammar. Instead, the program completely changed my perspective on teaching, the American school system, and our society in general.
My first course was not what I expected—it had nothing to do with language arts. Instead, it challenged me to reflect upon my perceptions of, as well as dismantle my biases against, America’s underserved schools, both urban and rural. My next courses enlightened me with information about the social context of urban schools and American society, racism, human differences, learning theories, and adolescent literacy.
Through these courses I learned that teaching is an extremely philosophical subject: Should American schools prepare students to get into college or prepare them to become responsible, ethical, and fulfilled global citizens? Why do certain populations have more access to quality education than others? Is performance at school (good grades) enough, or should students be required to exhibit mastery of a subject? Why do students study literature? Is tracking good for all, or can it negatively impact students? Obviously, these are loaded questions without absolute answers. Rather, they have numerous ones, each dependent upon the school, community, parents, teachers, and students involved.
Now that I understand the philosophical aspect of teaching, I’ve been able to consider what it will mean to me to become a language arts teacher. I am relieved that it will mean so much more than 1) passing on knowledge about literature, 2) correcting essays, and 3) teaching spelling and grammar, because, frankly, that would be a quite boring routine. I believe that being a teacher will mean that: I am accountable for preparing our youth to be ethical, caring citizens that play a responsible part in our global community; I am obligated to ensure that every student receives an equitable education; I must teach my students how to master a subject, not just prepare them to do well on tests; I have a responsibility to demonstrate the relevancy of my subject to my student’s lives—if I don’t, they won’t be interested in learning it. I could go on, but you get the idea.
This new perspective has made me so much more excited to teach than I was upon entering the program because being a teacher is going to be far more interesting than I initially expected. I’m looking forward to using my arsenal of teaching methods and lessons, discovering new ways to connect my students with what they are learning, and working with others to make the American school system a more equitable institution.
Until next time,