Armed with a newly minted Bachelor’s I began my first real teaching experience in AmeriCorps as a literacy tutor for K-3 students. I was an idealist. And I was terrified.
Once I realized it wasn’t about me and my experience, I focused all my attention on the kids. I knew a little about human development, according to Piaget, but I had never witnessed it first hand. And at that age growth and learning seemingly happen overnight. One such experience with a Latina kindergartener struggling to become bilingual is symbolic of my goals as an educator.
In the ensuing years I went through many life and career changes, although I always hovered around education. My latest endeavor has been seven years teaching and tutoring for an international test preparation company. While I enjoyed the teaching and mastering an often mystifying area of education, I longed to serve students in pubic schools who needed more support in order to read better—I wanted to help more kids like that kindergartener years ago.
I chose the Master’s of Arts in Education at Michigan State University because of the schools remarkable reputation in the literacy field. I aimed to position myself as a literacy specialist who could leverage his bilingualism to help the growing population of Latino students in North Carolina public schools. Knowing my ambitions didn’t stop there I built my program of study to learn some of the skills that would help me attain a leadership position within a school.
During my first semester of study I was enlivened in a way I hadn’t been since those early, idealistic days of undergrad. I encountered theories old and new then weighed them against my professional experience. Many of the older attempts at scientifically researching education struck me as misguided; however the newer theories of learning, and literacy in particular, correlated directly with what I have observed in the classroom. What appeared to be lacking still was additional research in how to best support linguistically diverse students in the Common Core era.
Not being one to change my goals capriciously, it took me until my third semester to realize I ultimately want a broader influence. I chose to create two professional development courses for two of my classes that term because that experience would further my ability to apply theory and research in the real world. So that just leaves the need for more theory, research, and a degree that would qualify me to provide continuing education to my fellow teachers.
I applied to PhD programs in December that specialize in literacy and the nascent field called learning sciences. I want to study non-native English speakers’ acquisition of subject specific language in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). My research will pursue pedagogical and technological interventions that could bolster STEM specific language acquisition and literacy. Armed with such knowledge, teaching experience, and still a touch of idealism, I will prepare new teachers or help improve experienced teachers with their approaches to literacy across the curriculum.