Guest Post: Phil Call shares his experience in the English education program

Hey,

I’m Phil—a senior in the English education program. Essentially, I want to present a picture of the program by escorting you through some of my memories. If you’re new to or considering the English ed program, you might find some helpful tips; if you’re a non-English ed major, you might gain some insight into what our world is like; if you’re an old hat in the program, you might get a smile from reminiscing.

Back in my day *wheeze*, we didn’t have an introductory education course that was specific to English; we were introduced to the teaching world and Teachers College alongside other ed folks. With that kind of diversity, our professor, Dr. Wible, focused on teaching general strategies, practicing most of what he preached by utilizing the very teaching methods he commended to us. Later on, when I started teaching real students at real schools, I dug out the brain teasers, group-making tools, and ice breakers that he taught us and found they were quite helpful. *Suggestion: Have a place to record all the ideas for teaching that you hear from and/or see modeled by ANY teacher ANYWHERE. Dr. Wible was also real with us in saying that teaching can be _(insert word with negative connotation here)_. So, he required us to observe classes, tutor students, and really consider whether we wanted to step further into the world of education.

Having taken that step myself, I found that the middle years of the education sequence are rife with portfolios, rGrade, advisers, and Teachers College. By way of explanation, the portfolio is a website that each student makes to chronicle his/her changing perspectives on educational issues and to post “artifacts” from education classes that demonstrate pedagogical competency, and rGrade is an online program that tracks progress through certain “decision points,” each of which requires certain classes, grades, papers, and levels of portfolio achievement before the teaching candidate is allowed to move forward. The portfolio and rGrade cause most of the stress ed majors feel due to the work required and sometimes confusing requirements. *Suggestion: In order to alleviate the confusion caused by these issues, consult the English Education website and contact professors, advisers, and administrators (esp. Dr. Hartman) in the English Department regularly to make sure you’re on track.

All of the courses that I have taken through the English department and Teachers College have prepared me in some way for teaching. I use grammar skills almost daily to help students with worksheets; I recall methods courses to help me design lessons that avoid worksheets; I follow professors’ examples when I work with students one-on-one; I call on literature I have read to supplement students’ readings; I implement lessons from my communication classes to teach clearly and confidently…the list could go on. *Suggestion: Push the bounds of these classes and your professors.

Outside of BSU’s regular course offerings, I have found it helpful to volunteer tutor at Motivate Our Minds and Academic Achievers in town; tutor for pay at the Writing Center in RB 291 (the Learning Center is another option) and The Compass; and practice teaching through an Honors College program that allows undergraduates to teach an elective course under the mentorship of a professor. These experiences have helped me in the classroom and have also helped me with the Praxis 2, a content-specific, multiple-choice test for education majors. *Suggestion: If you’re sweating Praxis 1 or 2, just study SAT guides: English and Math for 1, and just the long reading passages for 2.

Currently, I’m doing my practicum in Anderson, where I’m working with a teacher for two morning periods for four weeks at the junior high and then four weeks at the high school. My practicum cooperating teacher at the junior high will be the same teacher I’ll work with during student teaching, which is great. I’ve been biting off as much as I can during class—helping students one-on-one, working with small groups, administering spelling tests, giving dramatic readings of “The Raven,” and learning how to manage teenagers in a classroom. She’s given me a lot of latitude to experiment with different ideas that I have while still supporting me so I don’t fall flat on my face.

Looking forward, I wonder about my own classroom. As much as I have learned from taking college classes and observing secondary school classes, I think there are other methods for teaching that will benefit my future students, examples of which I have seen by searching for “Sudbury Valley School” and “New Tech High” on YouTube. One activity that is helping me to feel less nervous about teaching solo is to write out everything I want to do with my future students. To that end, a friend, Luke Boggess, and I are bouncing ideas off of each other, contemplating what we want our classes to be like, and outlining our thoughts on a website (contact me if you’d like the url). *Suggestion: Try to solidify your own teaching plan via combination of practice and theory so that you won’t be left resorting to less effective methods when you start teaching.

Best of luck,

Phil Call

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