From a very young age, I have loved learning. Being in an environment geared towards gaining knowledge has felt like home. My mother was a teacher and I often spent long afternoons that extended into evenings in her classroom. Those long days in a class fuel the comfort found amongst the smell of old library books, the feeling of smooth wooden desktops, and the crisp promise of beginning a fresh, new notebook to be filled by what my heart desires. I love the promise of a brighter future that a classroom holds and the power that my teachers have held to usher me into a new plane of understanding. While a book may be confined by its covers, they freed my mind. To refuse education is to reject the chance to grow as not only students, but as human beings. Expanding my world a lesson at a time is what has always driven my passion for gaining knowledge as well as fueled my desire to share with others the magic that is education.
As a first year teacher, I have discovered that gaining knowledge is not only one of the greatest gifts to receive but an even greater blessing to share with others. There are fewer things that make every challenging moment worthwhile than seeing a student engrossed in a book and recommending it to peers or writing fervently about a topic they are passionate about. Nurturing young minds to elevate and reach their highest potential is what being an educator is about. In my classroom, I will foster equitable academic excellence for all students. What is so incredible about learning and acquiring knowledge is that no person or entity can ever take it away. It becomes ingrained in the mind and no matter the circumstance, socio-economic status, or challenges, the gift of learning is one that remains in the mind and soul.
School is not only where students acquire academic knowledge, it is also where they develop proficiency in social/emotional skills. One of the qualities that I will foster in my students is creativity. The ability to critically think and creatively problem solve. This can only be achieved by knowing my students’ experiences, abilities, strengths, and areas in need of improvement well and making informed decisions based on student data and teacher observations. While I believe it is necessary to reference data, it is also necessary to look beyond what is on the paper and get to know the students as they authentically are. I aspire to create a learning community of inclusivity, creativity, and equitable academic excellence through the use of personal connection, authenticity, and content knowledge.
In the middle school classroom where burgeoning identities vary wildly and the developmental stages of puberty run rampant, finding a reprieve from the chaotic world of being a new teenager is necessary. By coming into my space, students can expect to find time to unwind and get lost in literature, to grow their vocabulary, explore different forms of writing, and broaden their horizons. It is also imperative that students make personal connections to what they’re reading, writing, and learning for comprehension and retention. In my practice I have accomplished this by designing lessons that center their lives and experiences and what they bring into the classroom. In my role as the teacher, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices are utilized because it offers access to all students with an equitable approach to learning that leads to success. Using methods that draw on the strengths of the learners in the classroom community is a stepping stone for empathetic teamwork. Teaching students individually, in a small group, and as a whole class opens up opportunities for discussion and also helps to foster a stronger sense of community within and outside the classroom.
The first area I will address as part of my teaching practice is the classroom culture. I intend to create a safe space where students can express their identity genuinely. I was taught to value my heritage and that of others, and to proudly fight for the equitable treatment of all peoples. I believe that representation matters; I hope to be a role model of resilience and love of learning for all the students in my classroom. All students and especially students of color will feel seen and be able to recognize themselves or their family in meaningful ways in my classroom. As a Chicana educator with a learning disability and neurodivergence, my intersectionalities make it possible to connect with students in a genuine and authentic way that encourages vulnerability and trust. I want to honor my culture and neurodivergence as well as the diversity of my students and show them how important their lives and cultures are in learning. I was not always presented with equitable practices in school so I have resolved to engage and uplift students to their fullest potential.
One of the ways I will accomplish this as an English teacher is to provide students with a rigorous, state aligned curriculum and literature that reflects the world that they live in. It is my responsibility to provide learners with diverse character perspectives that they can identify with. One of the most foundational beliefs I have in teaching is that representation matters and seeing themselves and other diverse individuals and authors in the classroom is integral in building empathy and understanding of one another. While there is value in the canon of classic books, there is tremendous value in books by diverse authors told from marginalized perspectives that celebrate life more than just trauma and suffering. While reading Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut, and Mary Shelley piqued my interest in English class while in school, there would have been even greater joy to have seen parts of myself celebrated in the author’s work. In my classroom, students will read the pages of authors whose accented and unfamiliar names decorate book covers and promise new perspectives. My students will be taught that they also have innate strength and stories worth being told.
I will empower students to know that they have the ability to change the world by pursuing knowledge, treating others with empathy, and building communities that uplift one another towards the betterment of society.