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"Learning and Growing" by James Black

My primary reason for becoming a teacher is that I want to share my passion for reading with my students and hopefully instill into them the same sort of exhilaration that I get when I pick up a book. One of my pet peeves in life is to hear somebody say that they hate reading. I feel that nobody should hate reading as it offers people so much. Whether it is for entertainment purposes, escapism, information, answers, enlightenment, or expanding a person’s mind in general, reading can do so much for people while asking for nothing but a person’s time. I also want to get into teaching because I want to start a movement where, eventually, comic books and graphic novels could become commonplace in school curriculums. Graphic novels are such an underused method of teaching in schools despite their enormous usefulness and wealth of information. In my opinion, some graphic novels are up to par with many literary classics and epic novels, yet they have yet to find a niche in the academic community as far as K-12 classes are concerned because teachers and school boards for these grades focus primarily on tried and true novels rather than trying to take risks with new forms of learning media, which I aim to try and change.

My main experience working with children occurred during my senior year of high school after I had decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in English Education during my junior year. My high school was offering a program that it was trying out for the first time where a student could pick a teacher and teach all of her classes for the day under the teacher’s supervision after planning out a lesson plan for the day with that teacher. I picked my World Literature teacher, Mrs. Fike, and taught all four of her classes after meeting with her a couple of times after school in order to create a lesson plan based around the literary concept of magical realism that the class had started to work on the week before. Teaching a whole classroom right away was a completely new experience for me, but it was made infinitely easier with the presence of the teacher to help guide me through the process. The classes were relatively easy to teach due to the extensive preparation that my teacher had me go through before the day of the classes, as well as her suggestions in between the different classes. I learned how difficult it is to stand up in front of a classroom full of people that day, but pushed through it and now I have been working on my public speaking skills and being more at ease in front of larger groups of people. Another unfortunate thing that happened was that many of the students had not read the required reading that they had to do for the classes that I was teaching, so I had to deviate from my original schedule and have them read the assigned story in class in order to successfully teach the rest of the content to them which taught me that as a teacher, one must always be able to improvise if something occurs that does not go according to plan.

This experience combined with my participation in early education classes here in college have helped me to develop and extend upon the different dispositions listed in the TEP handbook. Through my progress in my final two years of high school and my recent two years in college, I have learned about the importance of collaboration with my peers. I have started to volunteer to participate in group efforts with peers and grow socially instead of going about things alone as I used to do. With this collaboration comes respectful and polite interaction with the people with whom I interact. Politeness and courtesy when interacting with people has always been a strong point of mine, as everybody should be treated with respect in dignified conversations no matter what my personal feelings towards the person are. Occasionally, unprofessional language slips out during conversations with peers, but I have been decreasing my usage of such language and have never used any in front of anybody aside from friends. By adapting to the new expectations by which I am now judged, I believe that I am successfully achieving appropriate levels of emotional maturity. The only problem I have ever had with being emotionally mature has been with accepting less than ideal situations, but I have grown to understand that not everything can go as well as I want it, so I need to just accept the situations for awhile and work to solve them rationally over time.

I have always been an extremely responsible person in life with my only problem being my management of time in some cases, but with the use of planners and multiple post-it notes, I have been able to successfully organize the activities in my life. By doing this I am able to do everything on time as well as limit the stress placed on me so that I can maintain peak personal health. My sense of responsibility also allows me to be very committed to learning as it instills in me the need to take initiative and to further my knowledge base and learn new skills so that I can use them to their fullest extent in my personal and academic life. While I may not always be enthusiastic about learning a subject that is being taught, I push through it for the sake of gaining knowledge that could be potentially useful.

I also strongly believe in honesty and integrity in professional and academic situations, as it is extremely important to me that everybody be trustworthy in professional situations where a person relies upon others to help them and cannot afford to have to deal with a deceitful person. While I may communicate with the intent to deceive friends and family with the goal of playing a joke or trick every now and then, I pride myself in staying honest with peer, academic, and professional relations because it is expected behavior that I should exemplify and model for others. Another disposition that I take special pride in showing is that of fairness. As with honesty and integrity, I believe that as a professional it is especially important for an educator to be non-discriminatory to others. I love to accept feedback and criticism from others and consider their opinions with an open mind as I consider how to improve whatever I am doing. While I may not always identify my own personal responsibility in conflict situations, I have been working diligently to take a step back when regarding such problems and to view the entire situation and how each person plays his or her part in the conflict in order for me to better understand what I may have done to contribute to the problem. Along with fairness comes the belief that all students can learn, as it is only fair to treat every student equally and with respect despite cultural differences. As I hold high achievement expectations for myself, I also want convey to students that they too should hold achievement expectations for themselves. While I may not always be patient with diverse learners like ESL students, I can still respect and appreciate their cultural diversity and backgrounds with the hopes of learning how to be more patient with their struggles to learn the English language. I believe that every student should be given the same rights and opportunities to further their education and progress in the academic system and to not be afraid to express their opinions and beliefs in academic and social settings.

-James Black, English Education Student
Spring 2011

"Learning and Growing" (pdf)