You know how sometimes something can make perfect sense in your head and your heart, but then when you try to explain it, it becomes all jumbled? I feel a little bit that way with having to answer what my "academic interests, career ambitions, and relevant background experiences" are in the essay portion of my application to UAB's graduate program. (Yeah, in case you didn't know, I'm applying to grad school to get a Master's in Education through UAB's 5th year program.) Anyway, I thought I'd share what I have of the essay so far, first of all, to share my heart and thoughts about why I want to be a teacher, but also to see if it makes sense outside of my brain.
I studied English and Spanish in my undergraduate studies. I loved being an English major. I loved all of my classes on the spectrum of the Humanities—Literature, Art, History, Religion, etc. (in both languages). I loved reading an assignment and being completely baffled by it at first glance, and then experiencing the pieces coming together as discussions in class worked as a catalyst for the connections in my mind. But for most of my undergraduate study, I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. “After college” was a far-off place, and I just wanted to enjoy what I was learning.
It wasn’t until late in my undergraduate career that I started to realize that I wanted to teach. I have always wanted to do something that would have a real impact on people. I often pictured that as helping people at the most basic level—feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, giving to those in need. I served in many of those ways through international mission trips to India, Guatemala, and Peru, and at home volunteering locally at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. But as I was faced with the problems that oppress people, I began to see that when you give a hungry man food, he is hungry again the next day. And when you shelter him for the night, he goes back out on the street in the morning. There was more to the cycle than just meeting basic needs.
It was in one of those class discussions that the wheels started turning in my mind, and I began to realize that education is a major break, if not the major break in that cycle. And that education is not just an answer to poverty, but the only chance for any of us to become critically thinking adults, beneficial professionals, informed political participants, etc. That fateful class discussion was on John Milton’s Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and a line from the very first sentence has remained fixed in my mind ever since. “If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyranny, of custom from without, and blind affections within; they would discern better...” We are all influenced by custom and tradition and “blind affections,” and it’s not a bad thing to be influenced by those things. But we need education to help us engage our God-given reason, to balance our customs and affections, and think critically.
I want to encourage thoughtfulness and critical thinking. I want to be a part of stopping a dead-end cycle in a child’s life and giving them a fair shot at hope. I was lucky enough to have parents who cared about my education and I can still list for you the names of the teachers who made a difference in my academic success. And though it sounds fairly cliché and idealistic, I want to make that kind of difference in a child’s life.
I’ve gotten little tastes through volunteering with an elementary after-school program in rural South Carolina, teaching community English as a Second Language classes, and becoming a literacy tutor for an adult literacy student. I’m looking forward to learning more, experiencing more of those mind-altering class discussions, and hopefully becoming an educator who makes a beneficial impact in the academic success of her students no matter what other advantages they find themselves endowed with in life.