Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Education?

So, there comes a point in your life when you have to choose what you want to do with it. My story of choosing to pursue a degree in education is a little interesting and was a rather sacred experience. So I'll share the important parts and perhaps skip over some of the more personal details...we'll see.

I began taking piano lessons when I was 8 years old. I was so excited. I went home from my first lesson and memorized my entire assigned material that first night. When I was in the 5th grade, my elementary school had a "beginning band," if you could call 6 people a band. My grandpa lent me his flute to play and so I had fun playing that for a couple of months. But when I entered the 6th grade and signed up for beginning band, I was more interested in the loud, shiny, brass instruments that I had seen my brothers bring home to play. So I chose the French horn, originally because I knew my parents didn't have to buy one, I could just borrow it from the school. I wanted to save my parents some big bucks, but little did I know that they would buy me an amazing French horn 3 years later... Different story. Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that I played the piano and the French horn all through junior high and high school. I thought I was pretty good and I thought I could make a decent music major when I graduated high school and went on to college.

It wasn't until the last semester of my senior year when I began having doubts and real concern about what I wanted to do with my life. Until this point, I had always planned on pursuing music so I was really confused. I guess I just came to a point where I realized I wasn't as good as I thought I was. I knew I didn't practice enough to be good enough. And I just didn't want to spend my time practicing. The real turning point was when I went to my final French horn lesson. I had been taking lessons on and off for a few years with a great teacher who will remain anonymous (but he's sure great in the Utah Symphony!). I think it was sometime in May, just a month before graduation. Maybe earlier, I can't quite remember. I pulled out my horn to warm up and then began playing the solo I was "working" on. I hadn't been practicing, and I wasn't prepared for the rigor of Richard Strauss. I botched the intro. I tried again, still unsuccessful. I attempted a third time as I felt the tears begin to well up as a sign of my embarrassment. My teacher, very kindly, told me to put my horn back in the case. He said, "We're not going to have a horn lesson today." And instead, a great life lesson took its place.

As I sat there, 18 years old, talking about my life with my horn teacher, I realized then that music was and always would be a part of who I am, but it wasn't quite right for me to pursue. I left my lesson and broke down and cried as I made the 30 minute drive home. All I remember saying to myself in a pathetic voice is "What am I supposed to do?" And this is where my story becomes very personal and intimate, and I ask my readers (if you exist) to please treat this with sensitivity. So, as I'm questioning out loud to myself, crying and confused, a clear yet quiet thought entered my mind. A simple thought: What about Elementary Education? And without hesitation I said out loud, "Yeah, that sounds nice."

As I reflect on this almost 3 years after the event, I can't help thinking, "That was really ok with you? No questions asked? You just went with it?" And I have to honestly say, yeah. I did. It just felt right and it has ever since.

And so here I am! Getting a degree in Elementary Education. When I first started school I was a little panicky and shocked that I had made the decision so quickly. Don't these things take time to figure out? Aren't you supposed to take a couple classes before really deciding on a major? So I looked at other options. Special Education, Communication Disorders, Deaf Education, Secondary Education, Family and Consumer Science, Etc. There were so many options, how was I to be sure that Elementary Ed. really was the right thing for me? But as I looked at other options I began to feel an incredible sense of overwhelming panic. And it was only when I took a step back and reminded myself of Elementary Education that I really felt peace with myself. I was calm. It felt right. And it still does.

Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to survive being a teacher with all the horror stories I hear. Sometimes the lesson plans and the ideas of classroom management become overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a major with nothing but a bunch of ditsy girls who are just trying to get "an easy degree" so they can become a great mom or something. (That statement isn't really true...but sometimes it feels that way). But then I'm reminded of my quiet experience in May of 2009 when my decision felt right and I felt like my life finally had a noble a purpose. And that motivates me to do and be my very best. Not only for myself, but for my family. Someday for my own children. And especially for all of the children that will walk through my classroom door someday. I want to do and be my very best for them.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


There will be no pattern to the postings I create. They'll just come to me and maybe I'll organize them later. So, this first post I want to dedicate to the wonderful group of students that the government and school systems call ELL's or English Langauge Learners. (I personally hate labeling in any form, but you do what you have to).

For those of you who don't know what an ELL student is, they are an English Language Learner who comes from a background and/or home where English is not the primary language, whether they are immigrants to America or just natural born citizens that didn't grow up speaking English. Over 20% of the population of public schools are ELL's. Some believe that having ELL students in the schools robs native English speakers of a well-rounded education. That's not true. I am currently working on an Elementary Education degree and I'm finishing up my minor, my TESOL endorsement, the endorsement that qualifies me to appropriately address the needs of and teach ELL students. With more ELL students in the schools, more teachers are encouraged to get this endorsement. Having this endorsement not only aids in the education of ELL students, but it is beneficial to ALL students. The skills and techniques I have learned benefit all students at all levels of language ability. ELL's are not ruining education. They are helping us to improve. In many cases, they and their families have come to America to have that opportunity to have a better education. EVERYONE has the right to an education. And as a teacher, it is not only my legal obligation but my moral obligation to provide the best education I can for each and every student that walks through my classroom door.

Not only are they helping teachers improve education, think about all the cultural benefits. I personally think that America is one of the most closed minded countries about accepting other cultures (PERSONAL opinion). What better way to introduce a variety of cultures to our younger generations than to include ELL's and their families in our education system and our communities?

To think that students and their families should learn a language before moving to a country so as to be successful may think they have the right idea. However, that is not realistic in any sense of the idea. A language is best learned when an individual is immersed in the language and culture of the desired language. It takes anywhere between 6 months and 2 years to develop what is called BICS or Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. This is the everyday language that ELL's will pick up fairly quickly as they interact with peers in a social context. I like to nickname BICS "playground language." After BICS is developed, it takes another 5 to 7 years to develop CALP, Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, or all the technical vocabulary used in academic context. So yeah, go ahead and try to learn a new language before you move to that new country...

To finish up my TESOL endorsement I am currently working with several ELL students at an Elementary school where there are over 200 ELL students. These students have come from all walks of life and have gone through things I will never be able to imagine. They are smart and intelligent kids just like the native English speaking kids. They are here for an education. And I can give that to them.


Well, here I am! I've never wanted a blog before. I still don't, really. But perhaps this is a domain where I can record my thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and feelings about education. I have simple thoughts and I have not yet graduated with my undergrad. But that does not mean I'm not passionate about what I'm learning. And so, this will be a collection of what I know and wish to learn. You're welcome to join the journey.