Interview with MA Alumni Lauren Davis by Rachel Simonds
Q: When did you graduate? With what degree?
I graduated in May 2014 with my Masters of Arts in English. (Undergrad is 2012 with a Bachelor’s of\Arts in English Adolescent Education).
Q: What career were you looking for when you graduated?
After graduating, I was looking for subbing positions in local middle and high schools in this area, assuming that permanent teaching positions were hard to come by. During the search, I found there was an opening at St. Pius X for a Literature teacher and was hired for that.
Q: What are you currently doing?
I am currently teaching Literature to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.
Q: How has your education helped or hindered you?
My education has helped me in a number of ways. Aside from helping build my own skills in reading and writing analytically and broadening my knowledge of literary topics and texts, it has also helped me gain an understanding of the types of skills that students can and should be developing early in their academic careers in order to prepare them for their future goals inside and outside the classroom.
I found during my own experiences studying literature in college that there were important skills that I needed that I had never formally learned. For instance, if you look at my books from my freshman year of college, its clear that I had never been taught how to annotate texts properly. I highlighted anything and everything, but I never wrote notes in my texts. Of course, I was practicing important skills like inferencing, connecting, visualizing, and analyzing as I read, but I had no idea how to translate that into viable notes that I could use later on. I also wasn’t really sure how to explain what exactly I was doing in my head. I was close reading, but I didn’t know that it was called close reading, and I didn’t know how to discuss it. While my own students are obviously not going to be analyzing literature in the same way that college freshman are, I am teaching them to annotate and we regularly work on making inferences and drawing conclusions from the clues in our texts. We focus heavily on authors’ purposes when writing and how that shapes their works. I also try to keep them writing and using evidence to support their ideas and conclusions.
On the flip side, having a Masters in English, as opposed to Education, often means that I often have high standards for my young students, sometimes too high. I get excited about ideas or connections that I make, and then try very hard to find ways to modify them for middle school use. Obviously, this doesn’t always work. I have to “kill my babies” pretty often when it comes to my lesson planning.
Sometimes, I want to do much more than we have time for and I want them to be able to recognize or analyze patterns and details in texts in ways that are still over their heads. In other words, its hard to think like a middle schooler.
Q: What advice do you have for about-to-graduate students?
What I found most stressful after finding a job was that I wanted to be perfect at it right off the bat. Its impossible to be perfect at teaching, no matter how long you have been doing it. There is such a learning curve and I can only imagine its the same for any job. My best advice, I guess, is to be willing to make mistakes. Don’t hold yourself to ridiculous standards and focus on getting through one day at a time. Give yourself time to adjust before you start to doubt yourself.