For English teachers, there are conflicting views about their ability to understand and apply specific concepts. This is because, curriculum standards are constantly changing and there are different ideas about its importance. To fully understand what is occurring requires conducting an interview with an educator and looking at their ideas in conjunction with Kolln & Peacock’s assertions and Bizzell’s insights. Together, these elements will illustrate the overall scope of these shifts and the influence they are having on today’s English teachers.
Kollin & Peacock vs. Bizzell
Kollin & Peacock believe that English teachers are not prepared for the challenges they will face. This is because there has been a shift away from teaching it, towards taking a more generalized approach. The result is that they have a basic understanding of the rules. However, when they are applied, many of them are open to interpretation. Once this takes place, is the point, they may have a basic understand of these concepts. Yet, adjusting them to the classroom is another challenge in itself. (Kollin & Peacock)
While Bizzell, believes that teachers should be encouraging various forms of academic discourse. This is because, he feels that these unique interpretations will help to promote creativity and encourage everyone to follow specific guidelines. Once this happens, is the point they can have basic understanding of the language and the flexibility to apply it to the way they are talking about specific topics. These techniques can be adapted to a host of disciplines and give the student’s the creativity they need. (Bizzell)
An Interview with an English Teacher
The English teacher that was interviewed is Sue Perry. She has been educating students on this subject for the last 15 years at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. Her insights help to show how the field is changing and the lasting effects it is having on everyone. The combination of these factors, will illustrate the overall scope of what is happening. (Perry)
What was your “training” in teaching grammar before you entered your first classroom?
Perry, “I received my Bachelors degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the last year, I spent a considerable amount of time working with middle and high school students as a teaching assistant. Once I graduated, I had to further my education by becoming certified with the state of Colorado.” (Perry)
How confident did you feel in your ability to teach grammar? To teach writing? To teach literature?
Perry, “I felt very confident in my ability to teach grammar, writing and literature. This is because I had studied these courses extensively as a part of my major. Second, I was actively involved in the student newspaper (i.e. the Colorado Daily) and I was passionate about learning various periods of literature. During the last two years of my undergraduate education, I focused on them in order to complete my degree.” (Perry)
How does classroom grammar instruction affect students’ ability to do well on standardized tests?
Perry, “Grammar instruction is important to a certain extent when it comes to standardized tests. However, the student must be comfortable with this format for assessing their abilities. This means that they have to have good test taking skills, a sense of confidence about themselves and be relaxed. Those who are able to this will perform much better in comparison with others. While at the same time, someone could be good at studying grammar. Yet, they may have poor test taking skills and will become very nervous during these kinds of exams. This hurts their overall levels of performance.” (Perry)
What do you wish you had known / learned about teaching grammar/writing before you began teaching?
Perry, “In general, I wish I had learned numerous techniques for teaching students from different backgrounds and skill levels. These areas are problematic in modern day education, as some are passed through the system. While at the same time, there is a probability of working with English Language Learners. If I had the tools and time to connect with more them effectively, I feel I could have a greater impact on everyone in the class.” (Perry)
How has teaching affected your knowledge / understanding of how students learn and use language?
Perry, “Teaching has taught me that students learn and utilize the language based upon what they see others doing, popular culture and those close to them. The key in reaching them; is to make a direct link and combine these ideas with areas of interest. Those who are capable of doing this will be more successful in the longer term.” (Perry)
How has the Common Core Standards affected you or the way that you teach?
Perry, “The Common Core Standards are having an influence on the areas I will cover. This is because I need to focus on topics which are most relevant to these guidelines and not deviate from them. These factors mean that I cannot talk about other aspects of English. That is just as important, with the limited amounts of time available.” (Perry)
Clearly, the interview with Sue Perry is showing how the field of education is changing. This is taking place by focusing on meeting certain guidelines for achievement tests. Anything that goes beyond these standards, are often overlooked from a lack of time. As a result, she was not as prepared for these challenges and had to adapt to a real world environment. These shifts have continued throughout the course of her career. This is because of the changing standards from administrators on the state and federal levels. As a result, this is illustrating the ideas from both Kolln & Peacock and Bizzell.
- Bizzell, Patricia. The Intellectual Work of ‘Mixed’ Forms of Academic Discourses. Portsmouth: Brooks and Cole, 2002. Print.
- Evans, Carol. Teaching English. London: Sage Publications, 2009. Print.
- Kolln, Martha and Hancok, Craig. “The Story of English Grammar.” English Teaching Practices, 4.3 (2005): 11 – 31. Print.
- Perry, Sue. Personal Interview. 24 Apr. 2014.