As English teachers, we understand how important it is to share our stories. Stories help us connect to each other, help us experience another person’s journey, help us understand each other, help us build empathy. So I thought it would be appropriate to begin my new podcast by sharing my story.
I’m a secondary English Language Arts teacher in Oklahoma. I started my teaching journey in 2011 after attaining alternative certification. In a “previous life” I was a newspaper reporter and later managed a home-based web hosting and design company. I became a teacher because I wanted to help my students leverage their innate story-telling abilities to better their own lives. At least, that’s what I have finally figured out as I have continued this journey.
This episode’s interviewer
Because I think it’s boring to sit around and talk to myself, I asked my friend and colleague Shanna Mellott to interview me for this episode. Shanna is a 12th grade English teacher and has been teaching at all levels of high school for more than 26 years. She became Twitter-famous when she posted her paychecks showing how her take-home pay has decreased over 11 years.
From alt-cert to “Teacher of Today”
To start off the interview, Shanna asked me about my journey as an alternatively certified teacher. I talked about how I realized I didn’t know anything, and what I did to figure out what I was doing. My journey started with me thinking I was teaching content — until I realized that I am teaching kids. The content is just a tool that I am teaching my kids why and how to use. I know I’m taking the right steps because of the feedback I’ve (sometimes randomly) heard from my students, and because I was named the Masonic Lodge “Teacher of Today” at my school last year. I have taken these steps throughout all of my careers to learn and become better. It’s an ongoing. lifelong process.
How can we amplify student voices and choices?
This process led to the start of reThink ELA, which is an offshoot of the original Mrs. Waters’ English. I changed the name because it’s not about me anymore. In the interview, I talked about what this site, and the business it represents is about and the focus I’ll be taking this year and beyond — amplifying student voices and choices — both in and outside of my classroom.
If you are new to this teaching journey, this reThinking of teaching English, in particular, follow me here or on social media to learn how you can amplify student voices and choices in your class. If you’re a veteran of this process, contact me. I want to talk to you.