the pedagogy

I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but it looks like I’ll be going back to school.

I imagine I could come up with an elaborate statement of purpose that explains how I came to that decision, but my internal narrator has lately fallen under the influence of a recent New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-t.html?scp=2&sq=My%20Genome,%20Myself&st=cse. The article is about developments in human genetic research as related to the increasing availability of genetic testing as a commercial product. It’s now possible, for a fee, to see where your genetic code places you in the total human spectrum as studied thus far. In other words, if it’s been identified that all redheads have a particular genetic indicator, then a reading of your code can be compared with that research and you’ll know that you had a pretty strong chance of becoming a redhead. However, not everyone who has that redhead indicator is a redhead, so it’s also known that while having that indicator increases your chances of becoming a redhead, there are other factors at play: perhaps a separate section of the genome that has yet to be identified is the true shaper of red hair color destiny; or, environmental factors may influence the outcome, just as identical twins, who are also genetically identical, develop different fingerprints due to fluctuations in blood pressure, womb position, and nutrition. My understanding of it is that studying the genome yields a map of an individual’s statistical probabilities. Our observable physical traits, and our observable personality traits, are a result of what happens as our genetic code encounters our environment. To put it another way, the genome is the newest artifact to serve as a sounding board in the age-old struggle to understand the self.

From the article:

Each of us is dealt a unique hand of tastes and aptitudes, like curiosity, ambition, empathy, a thirst for novelty or for security, a comfort level with the social or the mechanical or the abstract. Some opportunities we come across click with our constitutions and set us along a path in life.

The narrative of my decision runs thusly:

I came back from my bike trip, and, looking for employment as I contemplated my future, the idea of substitute teaching began to hold a lot of merit. I’d enjoyed a lot of aspects of teaching in an early childhood context, even though ultimately I abandoned my earlier attempt at leading a 2-year-olds classroom. By substitute teaching, I could explore the profession of teaching a little more and acquire an income source.

So, in gathering letters of recommendation for my substitute teaching application, I went to speak with my old boss at Jumpstart. I mentioned that I was thinking of going back to school, and she suggested that if I came back to MU, I could work for the Jumpstart program and receive an assistantship. I loved working for Jumpstart, and I don’t want to pay for grad school, so that registered as a pretty good opportunity.

Initially, I thought that I would try the substitute teaching thing out, and if I liked it, then I would apply for the English education grad program and work toward becoming a teacher. However, time-wise this wasn’t going to work if I wanted to start grad school in the fall. It was taking a lot of time to get on as a sub and due dates for grad school applications and Jumpstart positions were fast approaching.

So, I’ve already interviewed for the Jumpstart position, and I’m just waiting for my score on the written section of the GRE to come back to turn in my grad school application. I have my substitute teaching orientation session tomorrow.

I am on the path to taking teaching as my occupation.

Full disclosure: I just wrote a paragraph that I deleted and nearly gave up on writing this for the day. I continue to bore myself in my writing. Then Dylan’s ‘All I Really Wanna Do’ came on and breathed new life…

It’s not all dispassionate chance and opportunity, of course. There are tastes and aptitudes at play.

As I was researching to compare MU’s program to others, I came across this article: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell. It fired my imagination about my potential value as a teacher. This in particular got my attention:

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year.

That seems to match my experiences as a student. There are school years that I barely remember, and there are school years that I hardly trust my memory on: could we possibly have done so much in a single school year? These extremely full classroom experiences are so far at odds with the majority of my school experience, they seem unreal.

If the story of my life is a mixture of genetic predisposition and environmental opportunity, then Mrs. Keene’s fifth grade class probably had a significant effect on how well I did on the verbal section of the GRE. That’s not to say that everyone who was in that class went as crazy for the English language as I did, but they all had an opportunity to let their own inclinations to it flourish. Her reading groups were lively, balanced, and well moderated. She provided one-on-one attention with great tact and facility. And she successfully led us in a remarkable and ambitious musical writing/production project. To put it in grand and laconic terms: Mrs. Keene provided an educational environment that was conducive to my genetic enrichment. More traditionally, we might say, she helped me develop my gifts.

But then, there is Mr. Campbell, my seventh grade Science teacher. Mr. Campbell is another ‘year and a half’s worth’ teacher, and for a while there, Science was my favorite subject. But, ultimately, I guess my inclinations led me toward English because the only Sciences I took as an undergrad were those required by the University. Regardless, I still have an appreciation for science, and it still possesses my imagination from time to time, as in the case of the aforementioned New York Times article. I still think of Mr. Campbell when I come across a piece of science that appeals to me. It’s as though he put a wedge in a door, and whenever I catch a glimpse of anything coming through it, I’m reminded of him.

There is even a math door and a couple of math teachers. Lesser wedges, to be sure, but I’m thankful for what math aptitude I have, even if it only put me at the 50th percentile on the quantitative section of the GRE.

To be continued…

p.s. I’m aware that I went a little colon crazy in this posting.  What can I say?  I’m a big James Agee fan, and he used the colon more than the period in some of his stuff.  I guess I have a similar tendency.

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One Response to “the pedagogy”

  1. Kady Says:

    excellent blog as always! and godspeed in all your endeavors!

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