By: Dr. Darolyn “Lyn” Jones
Dr. Lyn Jones is an assistant teaching professor in the Ball State English Department and currently teaches in the areas of English education, creative writing, and rhetoric and composition. She also serves as the Education Outreach Director of the Public Memoir Project at the Indiana Writers Center and is the editor for the Rethinking Children’s and Young Adult Literature digital magazine.
While higher education is my third career, education has been my career for 29 years. In college, I chose K-12 education so I could share the power of words with secondary students. My specialty as a classroom English teacher of 12 years in public school was teaching reading and writing to the most reluctant and resistant student, those who were failed by the system. I even taught in a federal girl’s prison for three years. I left the classroom so I could make a larger impact—reach, teach, and mentor students like you about the power of discourse and the responsibility of teaching well.
Here’s why I love teaching English, and why you should consider serving as an English teacher for your future career.
Tough Talk over Tough Text: Teaching English, unlike any other subject area, allows us to engage in tough talk over tough text (O’Donnell-Allen, 2011). We can engage in critical conversations over history, politics, and culture. Making literature and writing in your courses authentic, purposeful, simultaneously synthesizing success and rigor allows your students to leave your class with an appreciation and an understanding of how powerful the use of rhetoric is in framing and constructing text, argument, and even classroom conversation.
Agency and Choice: English teachers have a great deal of choice and agency in the texts they teach and the writing tasks they present. We have a teacher’s license that yes, does tie us to standards and certain curricular content, but within that framework, there is much creative license. You aren’t stuck in a cubicle or at a desk. You get to design your day.
Those Who Can, Teach: Teachers remain active readers and writers, daily modeling their own reading and writing practices with students. We are readers, writers, debaters, and speakers. We do it every single day.
Teacher Leader: If you are called to lead, there is no greater leadership than to teach. Every day, you stand in front of classrooms of students who are waiting for your servant leadership. Yes, they will test and challenge you. That’s their job as developmentally growing human beings. And your job as a teacher leader is to design and deliver content that allows students to wrestle with issues, question, grow, and learn. You are in control of your own classroom and students every day. This is a tremendous power, one that must be taken seriously and can’t go unchecked. But yielded and executed well has the power to also transform you.
Teaching Well is Thrilling: You have the opportunity every day to make a positive impact on a young person’s life. Remember who that teacher was for you? You can be that teacher and pay it forward. I don’t know of any other profession where you daily create, inspire, lead, and model. It’s never boring. There are bad days, but the good days far outweigh the bad. I have boxes and boxes full of cards, notes, and gifts from hundreds of students saying “thank you.”