About Me

I'm a University of South Alabama undergraduate pursuing degrees in English and Education, in hopes of teaching secondary language arts. My limited classroom experience to date includes tutoring in an elementary special education classroom, substitute teaching, and field work as required in the course of my studies. My diverse professional experience includes feature and beat writing for newspapers and magazines, graphic/web design, managing publication production teams and overseeing artistic standards, and providing paralegal support for an international law firm.

My professional qualifications

I will graduate the University of South Alabama with a double major in Education: Secondary (Language Arts) and English, and by completing my coursework to satisfaction of all requirements, I will be considered "qualified" to teach in the state of Alabama.

While I don't wish to disparage such qualification -- on the contrary, the field experience and content mastery required by this course of study are invaluable and irreplaceable -- I truly believe that my non-academic professional experience will allow me to better design a curriculum that prepares students for more universal application of written and linguistic fluency, as well as reading comprehension and introspection.

In the years since I graduated high school, I've enjoyed a diverse professional career (by elective decision; see "About Me" for more detail). Within each field and discipline, skillful writing and verbal communication stood as common evidence of competence and qualification for professional advancement. Adults who are capable of composing ideas fluently and artfully, and able to intuit meaning from others' writing, can enjoy a rich professional life.

The study of composition and literature should not be reduced to vocational application. However, those who excel in such studies enjoy advantages well beyond academia.

Tech-literate teaching

By embracing technology in the classroom, the tech-literate teacher helps foster a more democratic system of education, relevant to students' contemporary experience, while developing and advancing skills and knowledge. Only by embracing technology without fear and learning collaboratively can we keep pace with our students, much less hope to instruct them.

The tech-savvy classroom offers numerous pragmatic benefits -- easier distribution of non-physical materials; access to a real-time, worldwide knowledge base; and enhanced opportunities for student support and parental interaction. But moreover, interactive learning is experiential. By learning through experience, students develop creative intelligence. By sharing these experiences online, students receive encouragement from a worldwide audience, inspiring passion. By connecting these students to one another, we create a new kind of education: a culturally responsive, open-source curriculum, with instant access to everything that has come before, but no preconception of what should come next.

A brief word on "proper English"

Secondary English classes in America are thought to teach "proper English," but when we account for different styles of communication appropriate to the cultures of our increasingly diverse student population, "proper" seems to become a wholly subjective term. We should consider the definition and context of "proper English" before proceeding with its application.

By "proper English," we mean a specific set of grammar and syntax conventions, linear in narrative and based upon white, Euro-centric culture, that has become the de facto language of American education. Understand: I value the mastery of the standard American language; as an English teacher, it's my responsibility to help my students compose accurately and deftly, according to those conventions. But I must also recognize that students from different cultures communicate in different ways; as I teach these students to write "proper English," I must help them understand why we learn this language without critically evaluating the experience they bring to my classroom.

High-stakes testing vs. the classroom sandbox

No Child Left Behind offers a worthy goal: we must hold our students and teachers to higher standards, immediately. However, due to inadequate financing, faulty implementation, and poor assessment, NCLB has most obviously and tragically impacted our schools by disproportionately weighing the results of high-stakes standardized tests. Because standardized test results may directly and immediately affect school funding, principals urge teachers to "teach to the test." Teacher and student morale withers in such schools, as students are taught to pass a single evaluation without necessarily understanding or comprehending content, and teachers subjugate their practice to rote methodology and myopic test preparation.

I'm not so naive as to believe that I will have anything close to autonomy in the classroom, nor am I so contrary as to claim that general accountability and adherence to rigorous standards is impossible. However, teachers must be willing and able to treat their classroom as a sandbox, "playing" with curriculum to better engage each class. Standardized testing fails to accurately assess all students for any number of reasons, including textual bias, incompetent test administration, and misrepresentation of scores by schools. But moreover, such tests fail to present the whole picture because education is inherently individual. Each student brings distinct learning styles and abilities to bear; each classroom is a unique organism. Teachers must find ways to foster creative intelligence in each class, no matter the means of assessment.

My guiding principles

Three tenets comprise my teaching philosophy: clearly defined, rigorous standards; historically and individually relevant curriculum; and fair practice.

Effective teachers challenge students. I therefore hold students to rigorous standards of effort and responsibility. I will provide and consistently enforce clear guidelines regarding behavior and classroom policies. I will give students ample forewarning of assessments, as well as appropriate instruction and guidance when preparing for assessments. Students are entitled to accurate syllabi, objective grading, and clear explanation of assignment requirements and standards. However, consistent practice does not preclude responsive teaching; presuming adherence to high standards of work ethic, students are also entitled to discretion and flexibility in lessons according to individual and class needs.

Students must develop a literary foundation before becoming better readers and writers; this foundation may not be strictly canonical, but my curriculum recognizes that certain works and authors are historically, critically and unarguably influential. One cannot argue against "the canon" without fairly examining it. Certain texts serve as cultural touchstones by virtue of their historical "importance" as much as their subjective quality. Still, I will incorporate more modern works, as well as those representative of different cultures and language. "Great," "classic," or "important" literature is not necessarily historically important, or relevant only to English-speaking culture. Informed reading and discussion of all literature simply benefits from critically reading and understanding canonical works within historical and cultural context.

I cherish humanism and cultural pluralism. In my classroom, students may safely their express ideas and values, and may not shame or suppress the ideas and values of their fellow students. Secondary students should be treated as individuals, with valuable unique perspectives; as intellectual equals, to foster confidence and support high academic expectations; and as adults, so long as mutual respect and appropriate behavior are not compromised. When appropriate and feasible, I will accommodate different, non-traditional learning styles and exceptionalities. As I hold high expectations of students' learning efforts, I expect to be held to high expectations regarding my own professional practice and development; I will continually strive to better develop my curricular knowledge and teaching skills.

Why teach literature?

First: alone among the primary subjects in American education, only literature addresses essential questions of humanity. No other major content area explores subjectivity or questions morality, perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and consciousness. Literature captivates; readers plumb the boundless depths of human experience. They respond viscerally and learn empathically.

Second, we improve skills by assimilating examples and practicing our craft. Students must learn to communicate fluently, accurately, and economically. To strengthen writing skills, students simply must read and write more. They need examples of clear, strong, artful language. Beyond abstract lessons in humanity and civilization, great authors bestow blueprints for powerful self-expression.