I feel like I’ve learned something…. so far?

I have a confession.

I am one of those awful people who had a stereotypical view of English majors, and really, anyone who wanted to go into teaching. I’m sorry! I now consider myself somewhat educated on the matter  (I mean, I am pursuing my TESOL certificate now, in a semi-ironic twist) and will defend each and every one of you because I’ve learned so much from everyone in the class and… y’all are pulling me to the dark side.

I think I’ve mentioned before how Dr. Nandi ruined my life after I took her Sociology of Gangs class. And by that, what I really mean is that she opened my mind to a completely new way of thinking and complicated my already crumbling life plan. I no longer saw myself as an ambassador to a country, but instead, in the sociology field and even perhaps pursuing a masters in that discipline. So you can imagine my surprise when it happeed again. And I hope you take this as a compliment, Kim, because you have also ruined my life and contributed to my current path of confusion (but also excitement?).

Just like how we’ve talked about how certain teaching methodologies and content like the 5 paragraph essay contribute to a more robotic educational system that focuses on numbers instead of the individuality of students, I feel like I’ve had a bunch of robot professors. I never saw myself going into teaching because I assumed that that specific teaching style was an integral part of the profession. I never saw myself identify with a lot of the qualities and practices I saw my teachers engage in. And then…. I took Kim’s class in a seemingly random, yet perfectly planned scenario. I never saw myself in the TESOL program or seriously researching programs to teach english abroad until now. And I think the reason I’ve had such a big change of heart and really expanded what I know/how I think about things is because of the readings (isn’t that interesting? A lot of the times I feel like the academic reading I do is…. busy work or outdated, which was also a factor in our expanding literacies discussion, and yet here I am praising them). An important distinction, though, is the academic readings accompanied by Kim’s thoughtfulness in having an intentional discussion.

So, I guess this is where I’m at. I feel like I’ve learned so much about this discipline and really, how it cross-applies to so many others (and even just our daily life and how the education system has shaped any current educational behaviors we engage in now at the collegiate & post-grad level). I was hired this weekend as a judge for a national speech & debate competition in Sacramento and somehow, I found it relevant to have a debate with another coach about the fluidity (or lack of) and just general advantages/disadvantages of the 5 paragraph essay. We also talked about (of course!) expanding our definition of literacies, especially when empowering younger students who shy away from more traditional literacies, and the importance of creating/reading/analyzing classroom culture. It was actually really interesting because he then proceeded to (jokingly?) tell me to grade his 60+ papers and then tell him how I feel. And I guess I’m ignorant in that aspect of teaching (grading & just generally all the extra time required), but I don’t necessarily think it’s idealistic of me to want teachers (who are in positions of power relative to the enforcement of the education system) to see the bigger picture. To be advocates for students who otherwise would be engulfed by a “number hungry” system. To challenge failing expectations and standards of a system aimed at progressing education levels for all. To make sure what we learn in the classroom has some relevance to our outside lives and our future.

So… back to my paper, I really don’t know what to do. Someone mentioned in class (Alec?) that he was thinking of making his paper into a newspaper article, or even an entire newspaper. I personally really like this idea. While I think all of the articles we read tied into each other, there are inherent controversies in each. So, the newspaper format would allow me to have that connecting point, while separating individual arguments (if that makes sense?)

AND THEN. I started thinking about my own “teaching philosophy” (which is kinda funny because I was asked my “debating philosophy” this weekend and I just said I wanted a good debate. I wanted engagement with each argument and structure but I don’t have any limitations as to whether or not procedural arguments are off the table for me… which kinda reflects my teaching philosophy because I think I’m also quite liberal in that regard so as to not limit creativity and innovation). And in this, i started thinking about what my goals are and potential interests in regards to teaching are. I’m obviously in the TESOL program, which means I want to teach English abroad. However, I’m really focusing on how to move away from the idea that TESOL is a form of neocolonialism. While I think it is an aspect of teaching English abroad, it takes individual teachers to destroy that misconception and misuse. For instance, i wouldn’t want to work at a private school, because in my mind, it creates a wider divide in who (the privileged) has access to the resource (English). And, if we’re saying that English is supposed to be a universal tool that will empower everyone in the global world, everyone should have equal access to ESL learning. I’m another way, I would want to incorporate the cultural values and powerful stories of the students I am teaching. I don’t want to put myself on some higher level just because I know English. While English is a powerful tool, it does not dictate superiority. It is not more important than any other language or cultural diversity (this is something I’ll still playing with in my head).

Another potential opportunity I’ve been thinking about is teaching in prisons. To me, this would combine my newfound interest in teaching (both English and social studies) with my sociological/political background. In correlation with the reading, I thought about how we would create classroom culture in a non-traditional classroom setting. How we would break down educational stereotypes and empower those students who are in a much different atmosphere than the rest of society. I would love the opportunity to empower inmates who are unfortunately one of the most ignored/abused members of a marginzalied community. Education is powerful and to deny people that right is beyond me. So, I’m seriously considering this route and how I would apply each reading to that classroom setting. I also think these readings would go over well in that atmosphere because in a way, they are more progressive when thinking about expanding literacies and access to educational aspects. *Career possibility?!

OKAY. Back to the paper? I’m sorry this is all over the place, but as soon as you mentioned I could use this blog as my way of thinking through my paper…. I really just went with it.

AND HERE IT IS. My genius idea. Not really, but I’m pretty proud. Like I said before, I’m currently at a national speech and debate competition and I want to write my paper in a Lincoln-Douglas debate format (this is one of the events I used to compete in years ago). Basically, I would take the conversation I had with another speech &a debate coach and expand it. I would have an affirmative side (that focused on expanding literacies, being an abolitionist, not preferring the 5 paragraph essay, etc.) and a negative side (that focused on the current education system, loving the 5 paragraph essay, and maybe pushing more ENGLISH 130 classes… this is the side I would need more help on since I don’t necessarily agree with this side, so… if you have more resources for this, please let me know!). I would have each card/piece of evidence be sections from various readings and have advantages and disadvantages and rebuttals…. YES. God do I miss speech & debate. I think I’m going to create an LD case for my paper. It’ll have substance, it’ll examine both sides…. I love it. I’m excited. I hope you are too? I think I would have some sort of disclaimer or explanation at the beginning as to how LD is formatted so that way it’s easier to follow the arguments.

So, what do y’all think? Interesting? Fine?

I hope this blog wasn’t as chaotic and unstructured as I think it was (I’m kinda scared to go back and read back through it so I’m just gonna take a leap of faith and post it). BUT, thanks for allowing this blog to be my brain splatter because I’m now so much more confident going into the process of writing this paper…. or I mean, LD debate :)


  2 comments for “I feel like I’ve learned something…. so far?

  1. Ginamarie Wallace
    February 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm


    I have so much to say about your post but I’ll try to keep it short! First, I am really glad that in the end you decided to write your paper as an extended version of the debate you were discussing earlier because this seemed so intriguing and just plain cool when you first mentioned it. I had a whole list of questions for you about it and then you answered them later on in your post. Second, if you are seriously thinking about teaching in prisons I commend you and also you should talk to Dr. Jeanne Clark in the English department about her experiences with teaching in prison. Lastly, when you spoke about the other debate coach who somewhat jokingly/sarcastically(?) told you to grade his papers before you make up your mind about how you plan to have your classroom culture it made me think of contract grading. I am still undecided about whether or not as an instructor of English 130 I would be able to implement contract grading into my course but it is a really interesting concept and definitely something worth looking into for future reference.

  2. kjaxon
    February 27, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Love this plan Kassandra! I’ll post more later too!

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