Final Semester Frenzy
As a second-year MA student in her final semester, I feel like I’m working on everything at once. I’m writing short papers analyzing anthologies and syllabi for Teaching Literature. I’m working on my culminating project (CP). I’m applying for jobs. Since I started teaching in August, it seems like I’m always working on becoming a better teacher. I grade papers, I plan lessons, and I write email after email after email. Though I’ve been busy, I’ve enjoyed most of what I’m working on. However, two of the projects I’m the most excited about are my ePortfolio and my CP, both of which will help me become a better teacher.
I’m interested in teaching at a private high school, so as a part of my application process, I have been creating a teaching portfolio through Wix.com. I decided upon three main sections—learn, teach, and research and write—and then described and evaluated aspects of my work under each category. For example, I wrote about my experiences in GTA Academy and a few of my pedagogy courses, like Teaching College Composition and Teaching Literature, under “Learn.” Since I have taught college composition instead of a high school course, I tried to incorporate how what I’ve learned in these courses can transfer to a high school environment. Writing about my experiences has helped me learn more from them and has (hopefully) prepared me for interviews.
I love creating ePortfolios because I get to work in a digital space and consider a specific audience when I write and design. While I believe what I include and how I discuss them are the most important aspects of the portfolio, the visual design is also a major factor. Working with multiple elements of digital composition is a nice change, and I think it’s a way to show students how they can write to make things happen, which is something I’m trying to emphasize in my courses. I’m requiring my ENGL 102 students to create ePortfolios about their research projects, so because I am creating a new ePortfolio, I will be more equip to help my students.
Of course, becoming a better teacher also includes researching, which is why I’m interested in the work surrounding my CP. My CP explores what museums are doing to be more accessible for visitors who are blind or visually-impaired and what schools are doing to be more accessible for students who are blind or visually-impaired. To connect these two spaces and their strategies, I’m considering Jay Dolmage and Aimi Hamraie’s work involving Universal Design, which is the idea that spaces, technology, and all other products should be designed with accessibility in mind. I’m also considering how people learn in museums by looking to work by John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking and by Lauren Obermark. Because some museums seem to have embraced Universal Design and appealing to various learning styles more than classrooms have, I’m working on ways to bring the two together and answer the following question: What can classrooms learn from museums, especially in terms of accessibility? I believe that this project will help me become a teacher who is more aware of her students’ learning needs and who is able to create a more accessible classroom.
As my deadlines and graduation grow nearer, I’m thankful that all of the projects that I’m working on will make me a stronger and more caring teacher. I hope to continue researching about teaching strategies and bringing a critical eye to my own work as I move forward in my career as an educator.
Haley Petcher, originally from Huntsville, AL, is a 2nd-year student in the MA program and a composition instructor.