M.A.T. Secondary Curriculum & Instruction, University of Vermont
Important skills I want to teach my students
As an English teacher, I am always juggling a variety of goals for my students. I think teaching students to be better writers and readers is not nearly so important as teaching them to be good thinkers. Writing a list of themes on the board and pointing them out to students as we read will not engage them. Instead, I try to teach them that active readers dig, read between the lines, and think critically about the significance and implications of what they read. I think this is the most important skill they can take with them to college, and it will also help them think critically when they make important life choices that have nothing to do with literature.
Teaching methods to reach these goals
Rather than focusing on reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary enrichment as separate elements of the course, I think students learn more when these elements are seen as different facets of the same skill: communication. We have stronger interpersonal relationships, work lives, and personal satisfaction when we can communicate our ideas effectively. I have debates in my class over controversial questions brought up in texts like “What gives words their power?”, “Where does freedom come from”, or “Is following the rules always the moral thing to do?” I let my students teach each other by taking ownership of a passage or character in a book, and empower them to feel confident sharing their ideas.
My favorite projects
During our unit on The Great Gatsby, I have the students do a project exploring the concept of The American Dream. I ask them to choose a style of project that fits their “type”of intelligence (visual, kinesthetic, linguistic, etc.) and design a project proposal to explore this idea. I have had students do genealogical research into their family histories for the first time, create movie trailers for The American Dream, and even create algorithms for determining whether money can buy happiness. The freedom in this project is actually one of the things I am trying to get them to look at: how does the freedom to make choices influence our personal satisfaction in life?
What I like best about teaching at Seven Hills
The relationships I get to build with the students as a teacher, advisor, and gymnastics coach are priceless to me. The sense of community that is built here helps students feel empowered at our school; they are part of the decision-making process and have ownership of the way things are run in a way that I think helps them invest in their schoolwork more than any other aspect of a school could. No student slips through the cracks here-the teachers, students, and staff care so much about the success of each individual.