Teach for America Corps Member/ Elementary School Teacher
Grad Year: 2007
Other areas of sudy/degree(s):
B.A. Spanish, 2007
If F(college)= Career, does F(college)= B.A. in English?Valuing a broad education
The most recent book I read, as of yesterday, was Dorothy Cronin’s Click, Clack, Moo: Cow That Type. It is a picture book I read aloud to my students during reading comprehension time. In a few words, the picture book depicts a community of cows shivering in their barnyard barracks. All they want are a few electric blankets from the stingy Farmer Brown who, if not with an iron fist, certainly rules with a steal pitchfork. However, these clever bovines persevere by striking from milk production and delivering a professionally typed ultimatum to Farmer Brown via a supposedly neutral party, the duck. Brutus’ upheaval in Julius Caesar, anyone? What about Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities? Or even the resistance of Colonial America to England? It’s all here-revolt, struggle, and persistence-for a target audience aged 6-8 (sans the blood and guts, of course). Though they were born after the Millennium, my students are already making self and world connections with literature, while appreciating and interacting with the characters and plots. Literacy begins inside of the classroom; literacy begins with angry cows and evolves to Brutus. These picture books like Cronin’s will lay the foundation for my students to not only love and appreciate literature, but develop sophisticated opinions and visions. Moreover, they even know what ultimatum means, courtesy of the cows and their barnyard coupe. When I first chose to major in English at the University of Michigan, I will admit that I did not see a clear end point. But that’s the beauty of this sort of liberal arts major, isn’t it? It seems contradictory that a major with so many levels of thought, waiting for its candidates to peel back would-could be calculated with a simple input-output function. However, I will also admit that the extent of possibilities-law school, masters programs, editing, publishing, etc.-can be overwhelming and difficult to unpack.
Finding my passion-One student at a time
One day, I received an email from Teach for America’s University of Michigan recruitment director asking me to meet with him for coffee and to introduce me to the program. I had heard of Teach for America before, that is was a post college teaching program driven toward closing the educational achievement gap in struggling Title 1 schools across the country. Keeping an open mind, I gladly met with the recruiter a week later. Listening to his classroom experiences, individual stories about students that were still so vivid in his memory, I was moved to apply. By December, I attended my final interview. In early January, I was accepted. Three days later, I confirmed. After a summer’s crash course in teaching (ironically, as an English major I was assigned to teach high school physics), I settled into my classroom at a small charter school in South Phoenix as a K-3 special education teacher and part time 1st grade inclusion teacher. Within the population of students I have worked with this year, 95% speak English as their second language. Funding and resources were limited at school; I learned, right there, the unique battles fought by Charter schools in low income communities. I also learned that I would have to be creative, given that I had such limited supplies, technology, and new teacher development services. Having spent a year working with my students, I have been able to experience how each small step in the classroom has amounted to a noticeable growth. I see this growth when a non-reader begins to read three letter words. I see this growth when a child, who began at a pre-primer reading level, can now read at a middle of first grade level. I have also noticed their love for literature and learning, especially when I catch them sneaking another peak at the Read Aloud selection for that week. Today I see the educational achievement gap as a literacy gap. Last summer, during my training, I learned that state governments project prison construction based on the number of 2nd or 3rd graders reading below their grade level’s target reading level. This jarring statistic is one of many that I keep in the forefront of my mind every day. It reminds me to be persistent, just like Cronin’s cows, despite the Farmer Browns along the way. It reminds me that a statistic like this does not have to apply to my students. Instead, I hope to foster in them the same love for literacy that led me not only to study literature, but to think critically about world issues and form personal opinions. Looking at it this way, I suppose I have turned literacy into my career. One year later, I cannot think of a better output function for my English B.A.
Faith Adler Brown, Erin Crowley, Dory Gannes, Aric Knuth, Lawrence Landman, Katherine MacNair, Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Sarah Marwil Lamstein, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Amanda Richardson, Michael Richman, Melissa Shook, Rebecca Soares, Kurt Taroff, Lisa Vandenbossche, Lee Woldenberg, Anne Wyman, Elizabeth Bender, Rachael Hudak
Related Career FieldsEducation, Non-Profit