Elementary Education: And This Is How I Knew.

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“To question means to lay open,  to place in the open. Only a person who has questions can have real understanding.” – Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method

From the moment I received my bachelors degree, I immediately started thinking about graduate school. At the time, I could see myself either immediately pursuing directing or children’s theatre. I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take, but I felt very concretely that I wanted to be more knowledgeable about these subjects.

The first piece of advice I was given was simply to wait. For starters, both of the things I was interested in studying were areas that I could excel at without a graduate degree. Secondly, it was suggested to me that it’s always a good idea to get a little bit of experience in the real world before you jump back into school, so that you can apply all of that real world experience to your studies. Initially, I thought that sounded like a load of crap. But I decided to listen… and so I waited.

And waiting? It’s pretty hard for me. I started working at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the Education Department, all the time researching graduate programs on the side. I founded a theatre company to start gaining some real world directing experience, all the while assuming that this would be really great for when I go back to school. I felt convinced that wherever I was in my career, that my career would be instantly elevated with the words “M.F.A.” tacked onto my resume.

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During this first year of real world experience, I had dinner with a college professor (the same professor from my post here) and told her that I was starting to look at graduate school. She thought about it for a moment and then asked me, “What are your questions?” I had no idea what she meant by that, so I asked her to clarify. And she said, “Before you go back to graduate school, you need to have questions. Questions that are burning you up, questions that you can’t answer on your own. Questions that can only be answered by furthering your education.”

And this is how I knew that I couldn’t go back to school for directing, or even children’s theater: any questions I have about either of those subjects I know I can find the answer to without furthering my education. Even more than that, though, is that those questions are not burning me up. I don’t need an answer to them to move forward.

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When I started working as a Teaching Artist for CCAP, I found that I quickly had a list of questions about teaching. I was lacking a base of knowledge about education and I wanted it. More importantly though, I couldn’t be a real teacher without it.The questions I started asking were complex and would take considerable time to answer.

Here are my questions:

  • How do you address literacy in a classroom when the learning levels are so diverse?
  • How does family and environment affect the classroom? What are some strategies for making the classroom feel separated from outside environments that aren’t safe?
  • What knowledge bases am I lacking to be a professional teacher?
  • How can I use my theatre background to inform my classroom and teaching style?
  • What is important to know about teaching in an urban environment?
  • What goes into making a robust, well rounded lesson plan?
  • Why are there so many disparities from school to school? What can teachers do to address those disparities while working in the field?
  • How do state licensing work? How do I approach endorsements and certifications?

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Next week I’ll attempt to address the other set of questions I had once I decided I was going to further my education: How to select a graduate school.

See you next week!