Hooked on Teaching

The Statement of Purpose should be 2-3 pages in length, double-spaced. It should describe your academic and professional background, plans for graduate school, your professional goals, and how and why you are a good fit for the program. It should be tailored to this college and your specific program of interest.

A week after New Year’s in 2011, the cherry blossom tree outside my apartment’s living room erupted in pink and my best friend died. Two weeks later, I stared into the eyes of seventeen eager 9-year-olds in my first classroom. By the end of the semester, my fingertips were stained with paint from every color of the rainbow, complementing the crimson blisters that settled themselves on the backs of both heels. Measuring cups, silly string, and yo-yos were strategically situated on my desk chair. That winter, I declared myself an English and Spanish double major at Oglethorpe University. Settled in the worn gray chair in the Registrar’s Office, I was flooded by the incredible possibility—which everyone has, but few use—to create for the better.

Since serving as a fourth-grade Language Arts teacher in my sophomore year, I have become “hooked” on education. In the classroom, I aim to create an engaging and challenging environment that fosters communication and collaboration. In an academic realm conventionally ensnared by standardized testing, I am the teacher who, reminded by my grandfather’s love of humorous delight, regularly DJs “dance breaks” when the material gets tedious, cooks homemade pizza to introduce angles and symmetry, emcees American Idol competitions to teach state capitals, and invites students to present topics on the “Strom Stream” – from a Shakespearean monologue to how Ninjago Legos simulate the Battle of Bunker Hill.

I believe that the Teachers College at Columbia University is the ideal setting for pursing my Master’s in the Teaching of English; after all, the Teachers College encourages work that negotiates multicultural boundaries within urban settings, recognizing that each student learns differently. Within Columbia’s English Education program, I would seek to study under Dr. Sheridan Blau, to promote critical thinking and visual literacy by constructing effective dialogic and imaginative processes within the context of literature and composition. Like my research on storytelling in a digital age for Harvard University’s Project Zero conference, Dr. Blau’s work illustrates how to foster inferential comprehension within diverse learning environments, validating the idea that a shift in emphasis from explicit to implicit instruction and assessment validates the value of quality communication and, thus, seeks to meet the pivotal challenges of today. Because I emphasize children’s literature as a method for curriculum-based assessments, Dr. John Henry Brown’s analysis on the Teaching of Reading Instruction within the scope of theoretical and pedagogical principles also fascinates me. Finally, by building upon the research of my independent study thesis To Instruct and Delight: A Historical Survey of 18th and 19th Century English Didactic Children’s Literature, I would like to further explore how to best reach an adolescent audience via the written word, creating an emphasis on the relationship between texts and readerships. Therefore, Dr. Ruth Vinz’s research on the synergistic relationship between cultural relevance and linguistic responsiveness within secondary education is a facet I would like to study in relation to literacy and language acquisition in high-needs schools.

Throughout my graduate journey, I aim to earn a Master’s in the Teaching of English. During my time as a student teacher in a classroom with 70% of students diagnosed with learning challenges, I recognized firsthand that every student learns differently; thus, the curriculum—relevant, problem-based, and interdisciplinary—should be presented with a variety of “multiple intelligences” in mind. Thus, I seek to design methods of developmental reading strategies to implement organizational techniques in earlier grades that impact future literary capacities. Building upon my experience in Curriculum Development in the lower and middle grades, I will research how 21st century practices can increase accuracy in fluency and comprehension at appropriate and extending grade levels. Additionally, I hope to research how a “new world of children” in England and the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries is starkly relevant to today’s instruction; such an inquiry could be conducted even—or especially—under the guise of “amusement.” Indeed, learning should be fun! From exploring areas within literature, I would like to effectively incorporate classic texts in my future classrooms and therefore, and aim to understand the progression of children’s literature as a genre and as a pedagogical method for Curriculum-Based Assessments within the context of oral fluency, reading comprehension, and grade-level proclivity. During my time in graduate school, my overarching objective will challenge me to most effectively reach adolescent audiences with the delight of the written word via literary techniques, grammatical styles, and the development of characters, plots, and themes. To that end, I aim to be a teacher who encourages her students to treat writing as a craft rather than simply as another box to check on a college transcript.

Education, then, is more than a hobby, a chosen discipline, or merely a line on my résumé; rather, this decision tests my intellectual stamina while providing an outlet to give back to my community and make a mark on my world. Indeed, I feel called to be an educator, inspiring students to recognize the meaningful relevancy of English prose, novels, and research. From William Blake’s juxtaposition and Shakespeare’s unmatched wit to Jane Austen’s social criticism and Geoffrey Chaucer’s endearing colloquialism, I hope to equip students with confidence in literature, instilling a lifelong zeal for the written word. Energized by the desire to succeed, I chose to follow what I love to do, seizing the limit of happiness, meaning, and fulfillment every day. C.S. Lewis said, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” I believe that education should equip students to be culturally, linguistically, and cognitively prepared to thrive in our ever-changing society. As a teacher, I will inspire my students to take an active role in their own learning, systematically redesigning the objectives of “typical” education to encompass meaning, relevancy, and resolution in the twenty-first century. If accepted into the Teachers College at Columbia University, I aim to utilize this instructional schema to its fullest potential, challenging my students to achieve excellence in the classroom—and in life.

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