As a future teacher, I am committed to the idea that every student can learn. I am an Elementary Education major, and I'm also working on a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language (also called "Applied Linguistics" at Appalachian State University). TESL has always been of interest to me, as well as languages in general. My mom ran an in-home daycare and homeschooled me when I was very small, and part of her methodology was to expose her kids to as much of the world as she could. We had a laminated bulletin board border of kids representing diversity taped to our old upright piano; posters of the alphabet accompanied with ASL hand motions, and posters of colors with the Spanish words, graced our kitchen walls; in our "dress-up" chest, my mom had included outfits for different jobs as well as traditional outfits from around the world: a kimono, a Native American old-style brown dress with beads, etc. My mom also found musical instruments (or imitations) from around the world, like pan flutes or rattle drums, and we would have weekly "parades" where my mom would walk all of the daycare kids around our block, playing instruments throughout the way.
In middle school, I was part of a program that tested how well online schooling could integrate into the existing public school model. In the eighth grade, I and about ten other students signed up for language classes through NCVPS (North Carolina Virtual Public School). While most of my peers chose to sign up for a Latin class, I chose to sign up for a French class. I was the only student who completed the online course from my group of classmates, and I loved learning online. Having to study another language showed me how difficult it can be to learn a language, although I loved French.
Another thing, too -- as I've studied French, Latin, Spanish, and Russian, I've found it harder and harder to learn new things in English. English is very hard to learn -- it has "rules" that aren't really rules, spelling is not constant, and grammatical structure (at least compared to many languages) is thrown out of the window. In the U.S., we teach English much differently than we do "foreign languages". I realize that part of this may be due to the fact that for most students in the U.S., their native language is English, but I really think a lot of it boils down to the fact that English is incredibly difficult to teach. From my point of view, it does not make sense. French has very few irregular verbs; English, of course, is replete with them. Since I have had the fortune of being a native English speaker, as well as one who understands the frustration that can come with learning English, it is a mission of mine to teach English in a way that is accessible, functional, and respectful to the learner's native background. It is a pet peeve of mine when teachers attempt to squash any part of a person that happens to come out in conversation or in a lesson. While being fully immersed in an English-speaking environment is imperative to learning to speak English fluently, I will find ways to encourage students to talk about their own experiences using English. For example, an ESL student from Japan could write about cherry blossom festivals in his hometown, using English and pictures (multimodal composition) to communicate his experiences.
Throughout my high school and college career, I've volunteered in lots of different organizations. I've volunteered nearly 100 hours at my local library; volunteered for the Special Needs Baseball League in my area; spent a summer volunteering for my city's Boys and Girls Club; and I've even volunteered overseas in the Mpumalanga province in rural South Africa with Emoyeni, a grassroots organization that works to bring nutrition and education to disadvantaged children in rural South Africa. In many of these volunteer efforts, I have worked with people who are not fluent or native speakers of English. Through these experiences, I have learned that everybody has experiences to tell and knowledge to share, critical things to remember as I teach English. Many teachers come from the perspective of being "all-knowing" and viewing the student as a "blank slate". My experiences with people from different backgrounds enable me to teach with a different sort of teaching philosophy, one where both the teacher and student have knowledge to share and where both are learners.
In conclusion, I believe: that all students can learn; that English can (and should) be taught in a way that is accessible, functional, and respectful to the learner's native background; and that as a teacher, I am learning along with my students. Keeping these core values in my practice will help me to meet the needs of my students in the best way I know how. In the meantime, I will be working on things here at Appalachian State that will prepare me for teaching. For instance, I have long been interested in literature for adolescents, especially boys, who are lower-level English readers. So much literature is either language-appropriate (but lacks topics adolescents would be interested in) or age-appropriate (but is not accessible to the learner in language). I am thinking about writing a book, or a set of books, that would appeal to adolescents who are reading English at lower levels. I think that if we can close the gap between literature and adolescents who did not get adequate reading instruction, we will see many students raise their reading levels and become proficient in English. That is my goal, and one I will be working on for years to come.