I was asked in Uni last week or so, to write what I thought was the most important aspect of being an English teacher. I wrote out multiple paragraphs.
I wrote about how everyone needs to be able to read and write to get any where in life. I wrote about how learning the ability to analyze and deconstruct would be a useful life skill for most difficult situations in life. I wrote about how teachers have to be able to teach well enough the curriculum so that the students can attain the grades they need to further their selves.
But then I wrote this. Because if I was going to be truthful, this was the very first reason at 18 I thought teaching would be quite a worthwhile thing to do, and why now at [almost] 27 I am finally trying to do it. I think it will be interesting to see how/if this has changed by the end of this year.
As I read the final page of Jane Eyre at 12 years old I had a real sense of understanding that life would never be the same. I believed fully that my love for Mr. Rochester would never end, it was a real life living breathing part of me, and as such, one that could not be changed. As the years went on my fanciful 12 year old self developed into a teenager and on to an independent woman. My love for books grew, from The Lover to ‘the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night’ of Under Milk Wood; Mr. Darcy to Frankie Landau-Banks.
It no longer mattered that I had outgrown Mr. Rochester, that I no longer read him as a desperately romantic ideal and more of a misogynistic, controlling bully. I had become more and more convinced of the power of words.
Of their ability to comfort.
Or their tendency to challenge.
From laughter to sorrow and everything in between, I made friends with these books, and have been changed by these books. It is because of these books, and their ability to document and retell, to communicate and re-imagine, their gift of creating other worlds; real or invented, that I believe they should be shared.
So when asked what I believe is the most important part of teaching English, my answer will always be the books, and how I believe all people should be given the opportunity to fall in love with them. To be given just the slight chance that you could cultivate a love and excitement for books and the written word within the next generation, encourage them to do more than just read and answer questions; to feel and hold and be moved by the books.
To begin to believe that any and all things are possible for them, that they have the potential to change the world if they choose. To attempt to instill independent thought into a group of people willing to be challenged, thoughtful, creative beings, seems to me, to be the highest of reasons for teaching this thing known as English.