Sarah Robinson, a 2007-08 student, is preparing to teach English with international professionals. As she nears the end of her course work, she is realizing the value of her own education and reflects on its emerging outcomes.
When I decided to come to SIT, I did so based on the desire to be a part of an educational community that would provide me with more than just a degree. I saw something unique about this mysterious place called SIT. The philosophy, the community, the reputation, the specific structure of the MAT program, were among the many things I saw. I can say that I chose to come here as a result of my past educational experiences. I had done the whole large academic institution of 20,000+ students thing where you go to class with over 150 other students and engage or aptly, disengage. Either way, you make your way through 4+ years and sit wondering at the end, “What, exactly, did I learn?”
I can only speak from my own experiences, really, and don’t intend to generalize my own experience as one with which every person will be able to identify or even agree with. I must say that I loved the university I went to because it was the avenue in which I met some of my closest friends to this day. However, if I am honest about my academic experiences there, I can really only recall a handful of classes I took that I would consider truly challenging.
As a result, when I found myself trying to decide on where to attend graduate school, my absolutely highest priority was to go to a place where I could reflect back on my experiences at the end of my time there and truly feel like I had gained something more than just another degree. And, of course, as most of us do here, I wanted the very strong element of diversity!
Now that I am a current student at SIT, a place I am deeply appreciative of, I can honestly say I have been challenged in more ways than I had expected. I have been challenged to think about the role of education in the world, in the classroom, as well as in my own mind. I have been challenged to think outside of the box that I thought I had already gotten out of and enter into a new arena of possibilities for my future. It is here that I have gained and continue to gain endless practical skills that I will take with me into the teaching profession.
Some which come to mind are:
- Apply specific learner-centered approaches to teaching, such as the participatory approaches, Community Language Learning, and Silent Way to my own personal teaching style
- Use authentic materials in the classroom
- Incorporate technology within the classroom
- Use interactive grammar techniques that allow students to achieve a deeper understanding of the form, meaning, and use of the language, instead of solely relying on memorization
- Foster a positive learning environment among a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-level class of English learners.
Overall, it is at SIT that I have actually participated in an education, instead of solely being the recipient of it.
Last night, I read a great article on education by Krishnamurti, an assignment for my Intercultural Communication for Language Teachers class. It struck me in some ways as the essence of what we are doing here in the MAT program. We are not only learning about how to teach, but are also learning about the importance of being attentive throughout this teaching and learning process, a general principle in life.
Attention is a very tricky thing, because when you pay attention, you learn, and when you learn, you have a choice about whether or not you will change. Not changing into someone else, but into a better self – a more aware and accepting self, a more dedicated and reflective self. In essence, a more attentive self.
In the midst of all of this, and as I leave here in less than a month, I can assure you that the experience is priceless. I will leave with so much more than simply the MA in Teaching degree. I will leave here with a transformed thought process that is already redefining and shaping my personal and professional life.