I believe the student who has the ability to successfully utilize language has the tool that will give him or her the ability to improve every aspect of life. Language, in all of its forms, makes up the basis of communication, and as such also forms the basis of society. It transforms the silent thoughts and ideas of humankind and turns them into a transmittable form. However, to those who are not proficient in language, it becomes a hindrance rather than a help, garbling concepts instead of conveying them. Therefore, the defining purpose of the English teacher is to empower students to develop their thoughts on a higher level, as well as enable them to eliminate any impediments keeping them from expressing their ideas in a clear and effective way.
When I teach a class, I incorporate several teaching approaches to further my goals. I find that this enables me to reach more students, as no one has yet developed the method that works on every individual. Because I believe that students must learn to nurture their individual voice, I practice student-centered activities to give each one a sense of respect towards not only his or her own ideas, but towards the ideas of others as well. However, I alternate this with more structured, teacher-led activities when I feel such an approach will bear more fruit.
Likewise, I vary the environment of the classroom, including both group and individual activities on my syllabus. I also literally vary the environment in that occasionally I will use chat rooms or message boards as learning tools, involving students through a virtual classroom setting. Such a mixing of techniques and approaches allows me flexibility, which I feel is essential in any classroom. More specifically, it allows me to adjust my lesson plans accordingly if I observe certain methods working noticeably better or worse than others in one of my classes. In this way, I hope to engage my students with a diverse, yet carefully tailored lesson plan geared towards maximum effectiveness.
Just as I feel that a mixture of both non-traditional and traditional pedagogical approaches benefits classroom instruction, I feel that a mixture of non-traditional and traditional authors benefits the teaching of literature. I incorporate several women, minority, and international writers into my literature classes. I make sure that before my students have left my classroom, they have dipped their fingers into the literary pools of every major continent. I may not have time to immerse them in a variety of cultures, but I can at least ensure they have gotten splashed by various perspectives from around the world. Even in a focused class on a particular author, one can utilize varied critical perspectives to provide the students with both traditional and non-traditional viewpoints.
The emphasis on diverse perspectives carries over to my composition and professional writing courses through my focus upon audience. Understanding the needs of people from different backgrounds is paramount in effective business and technical writing, just as it is paramount in effective communication between people with varied life experiences.
Quite simply, everyone wants to be understood. I believe my duty as an English teacher is to facilitate the student’s ability to make him or herself understood, as well as facilitate the student’s ability to understand others. While it may sound a bit idealistic, I truly believe that greater understanding is just what this world needs. If I can contribute to that greater understanding in any way, I feel I have done something to make this world better. I love that aspect of teaching; I love teaching, period. With that in mind, I will never stop working as hard as I can to make sure my students get the most out of my classes that I can give them.