Tag Archives: English education

Emily Mack on Interning at the Indiana Writers Center

Ball State University junior education major Emily Mack describes her phenomenal summer internship through the Indiana Writers Center where she worked with children to help them sharpen their writing skills.

This summer I had the opportunity to intern for the Indiana Writers Center, helping to teach creative writing to 3 different groups:  a pack of brutally honest, rowdy, affectionate 1st-3rd graders and two classes of funny, guarded, intelligent, bilingual high school students. In a mere seven weeks, almost 300 student writers ages 5-18 from across Indiana produced pages upon pages of funny, thought-provoking, gut-wrenching poems and mini-memoirs.Bryson and Emily

I believe everyone has an innate desire to be known and to connect with others. Storytelling has always been about sharing a connection. In meeting these kids where they are–embracing them as the wiggly, imaginative, funny, vulnerable, intelligent kids they are–we enable them to share their stories and be known by all who will read them.  The best parts of this experience were getting out of my own bubble, being able to put what I’m learning about diversity and teaching into action, and being trusted with these stories.

One day Bryson, a 7-year-old at Saint Florian, walked into class, pointed at me, and said, “I want to write with you today!”  I promised I would and went around the classroom to greet other students and pass out sheets of paper.  He kept staring at me and patting the empty chair beside him until I sat by him.   Continue reading

Dr. Susanna Benko Receives Excellence in Teaching Award

Three English Department faculty members won Outstanding Faculty Awards in 2013. These awards were announced at the annual Fall Convocation in August.  Dr. Matt Mullins received the Creative Endeavor Award. Dr. Susanna Benko and Dr. Darolyn Jones each received Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The Creative Endeavor Award recognizes a faculty member for their involvement in the university’s creative arts programs. Students nominate professors for the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the faculty members with the most votes are invited to submit course enhancement proposals. A committee composed of faculty and students selects the winners.

Learn more about Dr. Benko’s award below by reading the interview conducted by English department intern Daniel Brount. Look forward to posts on Dr. Mullins and Dr. Jones in the near future.

1) Can you tell me a little bit about your career as a professor, such as where you’ve worked before and how long you’ve been working here?

This year is my second year at Ball State.  Before I came here, I completed my doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.  Before that, I taught middle and high school English in Pennsylvania and Indiana.  At BSU, I specialize in English education, and teach courses for our Teaching English Language Arts majors (like ENG 150 and ENG 350), and I also teach courses on young adult literature (like ENG 414).

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Guest Post: Luke Boggess on the English as a Second Language licensure program

Luke Boggess (center) with students Mitul and Hardik


I am Luke Boggess—a senior in the English education program who is also working on receiving his English as a Second Language License.  In this post, I will explain my personal experience through the ESL licensure program.  My hopes are to help you decide whether or not this would be the best step for your educational experience/professional development.  In an attempt to provide you with a more personal understanding of what the ESL courses have to offer, I will break down the 21 credit hours required to receive the license so you will be able to see how the courses will benefit you in the field of ESL education, as well as your content area.

To start, I think it is appropriate to explain how I got involved in the ESL program.  Back in the day, I was in my EDSEC 150 course when a nice old lady from the Teachers’ College came to discuss some educational opportunities.  She addressed a number of options with handouts, such as the Special Ed minor, study abroad opportunities, etc.  To be completely honest, my “do-the-bare-minimum-and-get-out-of-college” freshman mindset got the best of me, and I wasn’t really paying attention.  That was until the white haired woman said, “If you are an English Ed major, I strongly suggest you consider the ESL program because it is only a few extra classes you will have to take.”

As I looked over the light blue handout containing the list of the ESL licensure courses, I saw that the lady from the Teacher’s College was right.  ENG 220 and ENG 321 were already required courses for the English Ed majors.  Furthermore, ENG 320 could count for the English Ed majors’ 300 level required elective course.  This only left me with four additional classes needed to get the license.  ONLY FOUR CLASSES!!!  So when the next course enrollment came around, I jumped right in without consulting my advisors or anyone (not necessarily recommended, but I just wanted to illustrate the accessibility of the program for those who are interested in trying it out).

ENG 320, Introduction to Linguistic Science, was the first course I took in the program.  Though I will admit this does not sound like the most exciting class in the world, I must say, don’t judge a book by its cover.  In this class, we studied the basics of language: how it is used, the different concepts, the history of it, and how it is constantly changing.  In my opinion, this is the rebel linguistics course.  It teaches you the rules so you can break them.  After you learn the content in this course, you will see how fun it is to confront a linguistic snob who says, “You can’t end a sentence with a preposition.” And you say, “Well actually, that idea is based on a Latin rule which carries no real weight in our developing English language, so preposition at the end or not, the sentence will still make sense if I want it to.”

ENG 436 and 437 were next two courses I took (take these classes together).  These two classes focused less on language and more on the process of language learning.  In 436 we were required to find a language-learning student and “study” them.  Through class readings, discussions, and interactions with the student, we were able to analyze their proficiency levels and why they were struggling with certain linguistic characteristics.  In 437, we learn how to work with the students’ proficiency levels and how to assist them with their acquisition of the language.

The great thing about these courses is the experience you gain.  The professors place you in one of the local schools with an ELL (English Language Learner).  You go into the school and work with the student one-on-one.  This was a great experience for me because I really got to see what it’s like being an ESL “pull-out” instructor.  I worked alongside counselors, teachers, and administrators trying to create a positive educational experience for the ELL.

ENG 457 and FL 396 were the next courses I took (take these together).  They were kind of the “step above” 436 and 437.  FL 396 is a course dedicated to using technology and assessment in foreign language learning. I learned more about assessment and its purpose from this course than all of my other education courses combined.  Along with FL 396, ENG 457 provided me with the opportunity to put the knowledge I gained from all of my ESL education classes into practice.  I was placed in a local school with a group of language learners.  We met twice a week.  I was given the freedom to see what the students needed to learn and how I wanted to go about teaching them.  Through this differentiated project based course, I developed a great relationship with the students, learned a lot about teaching, and enjoyed every minute of it.  To my knowledge, there is no other education program that offers you this kind of hands-on experience.

Dr. Lynne Stallings is a great professor and head of the ESL program.  Leading by example, she completely changed my view of how to teach and the purpose of education.  Though she was very challenging at times, she challenged my classmates and I for the best.  She pushed us to go outside our comfort zones in order to make us better teachers.  And she was successful.

I hope I was able to shed personal light on the program and these courses.  I know the course descriptions on Course Planner never really get at the heart of the course.  And even still, you would have to experience the program itself to truly appreciate its value.

Good Luck,

Luke Boggess

Guest Post: Steve Loser on finding purpose for his writing and the changing classroom

Steve Loser

It was Barbara Bogue’s class, Creative Writing in the Community, that made my writing find relevance.  By the time I got to college, education seemed so abstract and fragmented that it was hard to see its impact or decide where it becomes “real.” As a student, I was always told I needed to know something because “one day…” or “in the real world…” Bogue’s class required me to partner with another person from the community and write their story; give them a voice.  For the first time, there was a relevance to my writing that literally forced me to connect it to the real world. Something seemed selfish about the nature of writing to me. It felt like more of an act of self-exploration than human connection. I came to feel that if my talents did not serve those around me, I would never feel satisfied.  In this class, I discovered my professional life needed to consist of two things: daily conversations similar to the ones that took place in my English and philosophy classes, and service that impacted the lives around me. The next semester, I changed my major from Creative Writing to Education.

The classes I enjoyed most at BSU showed me the power of a classroom, leading me to my discovery that I never wanted to leave it.  Literature, as with any art, has the power to bring us together in an effective and efficient way.  I have yet to find anything more powerful than a conversation started by some form of text. Ball State then led me to believe that if I couldn’t use my knowledge to enact positive change, that knowledge was useless.  My goal as an educator has become to not only replicate this in my own classroom, but in every classroom.

The semester following Bogue’s class, I took an Intro to Education course, and things have grown exponentially from there. While at BSU, I got involved in as much as possible.  I became President of Lambda Iota Tau, the English Honor Society, and held open mics. The number one thing that prepared me for the classroom was a program called Urban Semester. This was an immersive program that placed me in an urban education environment for an entire year.  I took my education classes on-site while teaching each day, and completed my student teaching at the same school.  Again, my education was made real and relevant. I could not have grown as an educator or survived my first years at an urban high school without this experience.

The urban environment is exciting because it is the battleground for educational reform, which I love.  For one, urban students constantly demand “best practices.” Second, these schools are often in a state of crisis.  This demands constant reflection and professional growth. I have to “bring it” every moment I am in the classroom. Due to this, my school district has provided me with extensive professional development, keeping me on the cutting edge of classroom instruction.

The past three years, I have taught a variety of Language Arts classes at Ben Davis High School, ranging from Special Education, to Honors and Creative Writing. I have worked with Ball State professor Kenan Metzger to create a Teacher Advocacy Group, a group of like-minded teachers that come together to promote positive, professional change in their school building.  I presented at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Orlando for the third time this month.  I was privileged enough to find a group of teachers that were tired of answering the question from students, “Why do I need to know this?” (a cry for relevance). We started examining our teaching and how we could change to better engage students.  With the support of the district, we started exploring an instructional methodology called Project Based Learning, where students are presented a real world problem or challenge and then work in a variety of ways to solve the problem or challenge, culminating with a product and public presentation. We started using it in our classrooms, documenting its impact, and starting conversations with other teachers and administration members about what we were experiencing.  Project Based Learning has grown from that small group of seven teachers to now being a school district initiative over the course of four years.

My work with this kind of teaching has led me out of the classroom for a while. This year, I took a position as an instructional coach focused on helping staff develop Project Based Learning Units throughout the school district.  I teach teachers to find where their content is relevant in the world and bring that into the classroom.  I am also working with organizations outside my school district to promote Project Based Learning.  The high school where I work will serve as host to the Project Based Learning Institute for the third time this summer, bringing in hundreds of educators from all around the country.

It all ties back to relevance.  Barbara Bogue’s class showed me that if my writing was not serving others, then my knowledge and skill was useless.  As a teacher, if my expertise in language arts is not serving the goals and needs of my students, it is useless.  And as a professional, if my expertise in teaching is not serving other teachers, it is useless.  My mission has become to create an educational revolution disguised as evolution, where the relevance is never in question.

Guest Post: Sarah Dalton shares her unique experience studying and teaching abroad, both great opportunities for students

Dalton takes Paris

There are few times in a person’s life when the opportunity to travel abroad is offered nearly every week in an email. At Ball State, there are numerous study abroad trips taken every semester, all varying in location, cost, and duration. Those who are interested in traveling, if looking in the right places, will be certain to find a trip that suits their interests and educational goals. I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad twice during my college career—two experiences that have been the most valuable in my life thus far.

The first opportunity to travel abroad came to me my freshman year. I received an email asking for students who were interested in teaching English at a summer English camp in Thailand. Students did not need English as a Second Language teaching experience, or even need to be English Education or ESL majors. I am an English Education major, so the opportunity to teach English and travel was one I could not pass up. I spent three weeks during Summer 2008 in a completely different culture, learning and experiencing Thailand’s customs, beliefs, values, and lifestyles. I, along with a dozen other Ball State students, taught at the Prince of Songkla University in Phuket. As a part of the trip, I was able to travel through Thailand with my students and Ball State peers, visiting many towns and cities such as Bangkok, Trang, and Surat Thani. Through my interaction with the Thai students, I developed a deeper appreciation for a culture much different from my own. I also gained valuable experience in the classroom, which has helped greatly in my other endeavors in the English Department and Teachers College.

The trip was so rewarding that it sparked an interest for more traveling! I asked the Rinker Center to put me on the mailing list for other study abroad programs, and also started checking out the study abroad fair that takes place at the beginning of both fall and spring semesters in the Atrium. Eventually, I discovered the Worcester Centre, which is a six-week summer program in Worcester, England. I learned that I would be able to take between six and nine credit hours from a list of courses offered in the program, and also have the freedom to do a lot of traveling in Europe.

During the summer of 2010, I was a Worcester University student. I took a British Life and Culture course and a British Literature course with English and German tutors (professors). The classes were interesting, challenging, and immersed me in the culture of England. I had class Monday through Wednesday, and Thursdays were designated for organized class day-trips around England. The British Literature course was especially interesting because I was able to visit the homes and places of inspiration of various authors we read in class. For example, after reading Romeo and Juliet, my fellow BSU students and I took a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of Shakespeare, and had the opportunity to handle some of Shakespeare’s original manuscripts. We also saw a production of the play in a replica of the Globe Theatre.

Other places of interest that coincided with course readings were Bath, Birmingham, and Malvern. After reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, I walked through the streets of Bath that inspired some of her novels. I also toured through the remaining back-to-back houses in Birmingham after studying the history behind Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton. Hiking through the Malvern Hills and drinking its famous natural spring water (originally believed to heal the sick) helped me understand why C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were inspired to write some of their most famous books there.

Having the chance to visit the places I read about in books is truly a unique experience that enables me to understand the literature and authors in new ways. When I read about the neon signs and bustling sidewalks of Piccadilly Circus in London, I can picture it. I can remember what it feels like to be there, and I therefore have a deeper connection with the text.

As I alluded to earlier, I was given the freedom to explore Europe independently, and I certainly took advantage of that opportunity. Friends and I spent a weekend lying on the beaches of Tarragona, Spain, and admiring the famous architecture in Barcelona. Another weekend entailed French chocolate, a baguette lunch by the Eiffel Tower and a bicycle tour through Paris. One of the most memorable weekend trips was a three-day tour through the southern part of misty Ireland, which is the greenest, most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. I also spent time exploring London and the quaint city of Worcester, which is about the size of Muncie. During these explorations, I learned a great deal about the types of food, music, literature, and entertainment people of different cultures enjoy and value.

My parents have always told me that a truly educated person is one who has seen the world. While I have yet to see many places, I have traveled enough to realize how valuable and life-changing it is. With that said, I would encourage anyone to travel abroad if the opportunity presents itself. In college, such opportunities are always there if you look for them. Take them while you can. After college, they tend to present themselves less often (and are usually not accompanied with scholarships or financial aid that will help pay some, if not most of the way). My college experience has been much richer and fulfilling because of my travels, and has also filled up my resume quite nicely, distinguishing me as a student and knowledgeable future teacher who can bring the world to her students.

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


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