Ki Adkins graduated from BSU in December of 2020 with a Bachelors of Science in English Education. She teaches 7th, 10th, and 10 Honors English in Union City, IN. Ki is also a single parent to an amazing little boy who takes up all of her free time, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
What made you want to study English Education at Ball State?
I was already majoring in English at Eastern Kentucky University, but it wasn’t until I had an English professor there (Keven McQueen) who inspired me to pursue English Education, so when I transferred to BSU, I switched my major to become a teacher.
What does a typical week in your position look like?
I teach 7th, 10th, and 10 Honors English, so my days are never consistent, which I enjoy—teaching is NEVER boring! Every single class is different, with different abilities and personalities. Before I know it, the day is over and I’m wishing I had more time with my students.
How do you balance school/work/parenting?
As a new teacher, I’m slowly but surely learning how to healthily maintain my work/life balance. Being a single parent makes this process more “slowly” than “surely,” but it IS getting easier day by day.
What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English Education major?
Empathy, open-mindedness, and not overloading my students—sticking with ONE main idea or essential question really helps them grasp the lesson. This one was hard for me because my brain can kind of be all over the place sometimes and I want to go into a lot of detail and cover every little aspect of whatever it is I’m teaching, so stepping back and picking out the most important of those aspects was a challenge for me, but so valuable.
What is your advice to other English students?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help—I learned this the hard way my first year of teaching, and I became so stressed out that I was losing sleep, neglecting my own health (both mental and physical), and even had temporary facial paralysis. Being able to ask my colleagues for help, advice, or even just venting to them was quite literally a lifesaver for me.
How did/do your language studies influence or contribute to your position as an English teacher?
Having taken some Spanish at University has helped me be able to somewhat communicate with my ELL students—my school has a large portion of Hispanic students enrolled, and many of them do not speak English. Now I use Rosetta Stone as often as possible so I can further my Spanish-speaking skills and hopefully be able to bridge that communication gap even more. In addition, my classes at BSU with Prof. Mai Kuha really opened my eyes to the importance of various dialects and vernaculars, and how, as English teachers, we shouldn’t try to strip these identities from students, or even ourselves. I speak in a very lax way with my students during informal discussions (ex: slang, double negatives, etc.), but I make it a point to explain the importance of when and where to use “Standard English,” depending on their audience and setting.
How does it contribute to your life outside of work as well?
Being a teacher has made me a much more patient and empathetic person outside of school. I also feel stronger and more capable—after a particularly “rough day” of dealing with 100+ unruly teenagers who would rather be on Spring Break than at school, you kind of feel like you can handle ANYTHING at that point.
Elli Kirkpatrick graduated from Ball State in Spring 2021 with a degree in English Education. She currently teaches 10th and 11th grade English at Muncie Central High School and enjoys working with a wide variety of students within the English Department. She is currently taking graduate classes through Teach Dual Credit Indiana in order to pursue a certification for Dual Credit English and potentially her master’s degree. Her favorite thing to teach is a tie between SAT vocabulary (which her students hate) and novels.
What inspired you to study English Education at Ball State?
There are many folks in my family who have attended Ball State, including many who specifically participated in the teaching program, and I have always heard such wonderful things about the program. In high school, I was really drawn to English courses, and admired my English teachers. As a senior in high school, I felt that Ball State’s English Education program was going to be a great opportunity for me to begin to explore the idea of teaching English. I’m super grateful that I followed my initial ideas and stuck with the program!
What does a typical week look like for you as an English teacher?
While my contract hours are Monday through Friday from 7:45am-3:15pm, my typical week is peppered with planning and prepping for the school week. As a first year teacher, I’m always trying to be conscious of my work/life balance, but inevitably I’m always at least thinking about my weekly to-do list. During the school week, I teach 3 different courses throughout my day – ENGL 215 (Ivy Tech Dual Credit English), Early College English 10, and English 11.
Each of these courses requires different planning and implementation, which can sometimes be challenging, but still very rewarding. I also have been taking online grad classes since August to continue to work toward my certification for Dual Credit English, and potentially a masters degree. On the weekends, if I’m not grading, creating materials, or planning for the next few weeks, I’m reading, watching shows, and trying to enjoy getting outside as much as possible.
What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English Education major?
One of the big things I continue to think about as I teach is something I learned in one of my later English Education courses with Dr. Spanke. We spent a good deal of the semester trying to think about teaching not just as a career, but as a way of life. In the same way that bakers are always thinking about baking, or artists’ personalities often revolve around their identity as an artist, good teachers understand that teaching is something that’s wholly transformative not only for students, but for the teacher themselves. Even when I’m not ‘on the clock’, it’s been really helpful for me to think about my identity as a teacher embedded in what I do and what I think. I believe this mentality has made a better teacher already.
I also credit the English Education program for providing me with a variety of the teaching strategies I employ regularly, as well as experience with a range of texts that I use within my classroom. I’m also appreciative of the opportunities the program had that allowed me to gain experience within a classroom setting, even as I began my practicum and student teaching semesters during the start of the pandemic.
What is your advice to other English students, particularly those who are studying English Education?
I think my largest piece of advice is to follow your gut, or your head, or your heart, or whatever – don’t let others tell you not to pursue something you’re interested in. I think the humanities in general are often looked down upon as a ‘lesser’ career path when compared to the seemingly more lucrative options within the STEM world. I remember feeling a lot of tension over this when I began my undergraduate work at Ball State, but I’m thankful that I ultimately stuck with my plan and continued within the English Department.
In much the same way, teaching has become (or perhaps has always been, to some degree) a career that folks love to have negative opinions about. If I had a dollar for every well-intentioned comment a family member, a friend, or even a stranger gave me about potentially pursuing a career outside of education, I’d be able to make even more comments about how I certainly wasn’t teaching for the money.
If you’re interested in English, or English Education, I’m excited for you! The world certainly needs people who are excited about what they do, and there are so many folks at Ball State and beyond who will continue to support you through your academic career into whatever path you ultimately decide to follow.
How did your time at Ball State influence or contribute to your teaching career? Does it contribute to your life outside of work as well?
I definitely credit Ball State for the position I’m in currently. I was able to do my student teaching in a 9th grade classroom at Muncie Central High School, and was then hired on to finish out the remainder of the MCHS school year after I graduated from Ball State. Getting to have the opportunity to be within the walls of MCHS was a gift itself, made possible through the cooperative relationship between Ball State and Muncie in regard to student teaching.
And ultimately, the skills I learned through Ball State’s English Education program allowed me to be hired to continue to work within Muncie, which is something I’ve greatly enjoyed! I’m also appreciative of the opportunity to continue to be close to campus, and to be involved in both the Ball State community and the Muncie community at large. I enjoyed my college years and the opportunities it afforded me, and am excited to continue enjoying and benefiting from the structure and influence of both Ball State and Muncie Community Schools at large.
If you weren’t an English Education major, what other English concentrations do you feel you would’ve been interested in?
I’ve always enjoyed English, and, before deciding to follow through with English Education, I certainly thought about a wide variety of options within the English Department. In some alternate reality, I’d find a way to tie an English degree in with pre-law, or I’d continue to study English/Literature courses and pursue my PhD (which also runs in the family)! I’ve always been a big supporter of the idea that humanities courses are wildly integral to success in the ‘real world’, and certainly imagine a variety of ways that the skills gleaned from English courses are both marketable and admirable within a variety of career contexts.