When I was a kid, I loved to learn. I read everything I could get my hands on whether it be Goodnight, Moon or a home diagnostic guide. Luckily, my preschool and kindergarten teachers encouraged my educational exploration in every way that they could. They made sure to have well-stocked classroom libraries, were very good about providing different stations where students could express their kinesthetic learning styles, and used different methods of teaching material such as projects and skits. It was also important to me that the teachers recognized my individuality, and they did by keeping a running dialogue with both myself and my parents about my learning and my progress. I know that they did this for all students, but the point I am making is that they were invested in the student as a person and not just as a body in a chair.
When I was in elementary school, such recognition of individual learning preferences was lessened somewhat in the face of meeting benchmarks. This was also the time when my teachers would give me more worksheets if I finished early. Also during this time, I was tested and then placed into the Gifted Program which added even more work to my courseload in the form of “goals”. I started doing the minimum work possible on the worksheets so I had more time to devote towards reading what I wanted to read.
By the time I reached middle school, it had gotten worse. Now not only was I having to slog my way through worksheets, but the projects themselves were being dictated to me. I had no interest in writing book reports about books I did not want to read, and it was all too obvious which teachers were there for the kids and which ones were there for the paycheck. However, things were not so bad because for every one required book report book, I was able to do two of my own choosing and I only had to deal with the bad teachers for a relatively short period of time. However, I had no idea what waited for me after graduating from the eighth grade.
When I reached high school, everything got ten times worse. I no longer had the time to really read for pleasure due to the sheer number of readings from the texts and assigned books. I was also having to write four to five page research papers over topics I did not care about in the slightest for a paltry grade and no real-world gain. One prime example of this occurred during my sophomore year where I had to write an eight to ten page formal research paper over the history of Canada. It was also during this time when teachers cared more about standardized testing than ever before due to the new mandates that equated scores with teacher capability. You may recognize this as what we like to call “accountability”. It was also during this time that I was having to think about what I wanted to do for a living and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
I enrolled at Chadron State College after graduation as an English major. Even though the English classes I had were informative and engaging, I still did not feel as though I was learning what I really wanted to learn. Therefore, I realized during my first semester that maybe I actually wanted to teach instead. As it stands, through courses such as Adolescent Literature and Differential Instruction I have come to find that I can make a difference in students’ lives. Rather than adhere to the worn-out method of teaching students how to test, I instead want to give students the tools and knowledge to be life-long learners who never have to give up what works for them. While I may have relearned to love learning, my goal is to never force students to lose that love in the first place.