Why Do I Want To Become A Teacher? To Give The Gift Of Literacy

by Alexas Worth, Junior at Indiana University Southeast

I have wanted to be an English-Language Arts arts teacher since I was in 7th grade.

I went through a brief period after high school of uncertainty–just not knowing what to do with the rest of my life. I worked at a pharmacy for four years and even thought about pursuing that as a career, but I eventually decided for various reasons that it just wasn’t a great fit for me.

See also Why Teaching Is Still The Best Job In The World

Around this time, I got married, and as one tends to do during major changes in life, I took a long, hard look at where I was and where I was going–and realized what I had always known in the back of my mind: I wanted to be an English-Language Arts teacher, most likely in a middle school.

When I tell people I want to teach middle school-aged students, they audibly gasp and wish me good luck. This has happened more times than I can count, so there has to be a reason why, but I tell them what I’ve always known about myself–that I have a heart for that age, and it’s hard to imagine teaching any other grade level(s).

Middle and high school are formative years and teachers have such a unique platform to be a part of these student’s lives. That does not scare me, but rather excites me to know that I will have a part of these student’s lives when they are changing from children to young adults.

And reading and writing have so much to offer students no matter who they are or where they’ve been or where they’re going.

During those years while these future students of mine are trying to make sense of life and themselves and their circumstances, I will be teaching them English and Literature and helping them to hone their literacy and critical thinking skills. I will point them to works of the canon that were written by old guys that they have never even heard of, but who somehow relate and were able to put words together to describe their lives and give it meaning.

Isn’t that what literature is for? To give meaning to our lives through the experiences of others? And this all happens merely through words? That’s amazing, and I hope they find it amazing too. Even if they don’t share my passion for literature, though, that I can offer them such powerful tools for living (i.e., reading and writing) is humbling, and an honor I’m working hard now in my teaching program to prepare myself for.

My Experience In Middle School English-Language Arts

I only remember bits and pieces of middle school, aside from being boy crazed and mad at my parents for being…well, for being parents. I remember discovering a love for poetry. Surely, I had heard poetry before, but not like I did in 7th grade, in that classroom on the second floor of my newly built school.

I heard Edgar Allan Poe read so expressively for the first time.

I learned that Tupac Shakur was himself a poet

I remember vividly the reading of Dylan Thomas’, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and feeling it in my chest.

I was also introduced to what I’m sure will be a lifetime of growing love in Robert Frost’s poetry.  6th grade was mostly unremarkable, but the following year, poetry changed me, and soon I started writing my own. I loved the creativity it pulled out of me–that it even sometimes forced on me. I loved the way I could express myself in as few or as many words as I wanted, and the way I was forced to string words together to particularly create an accurate image of what I was seeing or feeling–or even what others might be feeling themselves. Creative writing was my window to make sense of my rapidly changing world.

Throughout the years I’ve read many poets and I’ve taken many of literature classes as I come into my junior year of college, and am still going back to the poems I first heard in 7th grade remembering the specific lines and wondering, in light of my growing education, why certain lines struck me when I was 13 that still linger in my 24-year-old mind. Literature came alive for the first time when I was in the classroom and something in me sparked.

That same spark went dim for a short while but soon grew to be brighter and more vibrant than ever. Analyzing poetry, practicing various literary criticisms, and exploring my own creativity through writing have been some highlights of my college career. Learning empowers and excites me to help make literature come alive for my future students so that they can then make tools from the literacy itself–tools for living and growing.

I can’t wait for the day when I have a classroom full of students, bored but obligated, staring back at me and it’s my turn to give to them the way others gave to me.

And full of love and hope, I can read Robert Frost to them for the first time.

*previously published at TeachThought.com

 

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