What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.
For my STEP experience, I attended the 2015 ILA Reading Conference located in St. Louis, Missouri. This experience was so inspiring and greatly benefited my aspiration of becoming a reading teacher. The conference was split among three days with the first day including two opening speakers and the last day including two closing speakers. In between these opening and closing sessions were hundreds of workshops and training sessions along with a conference hall full of vendors of all types.
On the first day, I watched Shiza Shahid and Shaquille O’Neal present their beliefs and personal experiences on literacy. After their speeches, we all broke out (all couple thousand of us) into the respective workshops and sessions we wished to attend. I attended two poetry ones, one on addressing bullying in the classroom, one on differentiating learning in the classroom, and two integrated subject area ones that included math and science. These sessions were all split between the three days, so I was able attend about two or three a day. Each session was very informational; however, some were better than others. The ones I didn’t enjoy the most were those that were somewhat unorganized and not as engaging. The one I enjoyed the most and thought I could most utilize in my future classroom was the one that highlighted how to differentiate your classroom, especially if you had many ELLs (English Language Learners) in your class. The speaker of this session was by far the quirkiest and most exciting person I have ever met, so sitting and listening to him was very engaging.
On the third day, the closing speakers, Octavia Spencer and Stephen Peters also spoke about their personal literacy stories and emphasized how literacy is so imperative to living a successful and prosperous life. Stephen Peters, a public education advocate, made an excellent point to this argument by saying, “Literacy is the vaccine for poverty.” In between the workshops, I had down time to walk around the vendor hall and receive lots of free books and items for my personal use in my future classroom. The enormity of the hall was a little overwhelming, yet it was exciting because I made lots of great connections and received lots of valuable resources that will aide me in my future teaching career. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of people that wanted to help their students learn how to become better readers and writers and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity, as a pre-service teacher, to really delve into this particular field of study.
So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.
From this STEP experience, I have a renewed energy and drive to keep pursuing my dreams of becoming a teacher. I was never burnt out from teaching, because I haven’t had the chance to teach yet, but as a pre-service teacher, the whole conference was so inspiring and energizing. I have left the conference with new ideas, perspectives, and mindsets that will help me become the best teacher I can be, especially in the realm of literacy. I have also learned that literacy is something that I want to continue to pursue and advocate for—for the children in my community and those across the globe. I assumed that teaching reading was somewhat of a black and white subject, nothing that was too complicated or you could mess up too much. However, after this conference and seeing all of the vendors and speakers present their products and research about the latest literacy trends, it has shown me that literacy education is constantly changing. It will always be something that is consistently revised so that our students, the ones that we all gather up at a conference every year for, are receiving the best education that they possibly can. I have learned, more than ever after this conference that the only constant in teaching is change and that change is vital to providing students with a quality education that will help them succeed and grow as learners.
Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.
From this STEP experience, I will use what I learned in the workshops and received from the vendors to better my craft of teaching. I will be dedicated to learning and reading up on the latest news in literacy and strive to find best practices and instructional approaches to include in my teaching. I want to ensure that literacy is something that all my students will achieve and emphasize to them that it is also something that students around the world should be able to achieve as well. This is often not the case, with eight million people around the word not able to read. I want to inspire my students, through it being a personal goal of mine, to help fight for literacy around the world for the millions of people that are illiterate and don’t have the opportunity to learn to read. Shiza Shahid, founder of the Malala Fund, simply stated, “Literacy is freedom.” I want to take Shiza’s words and emphasize to my students that once one is able to read, the whole world is opened up to them.
I also learned how to differentiate a classroom and include poetry and other subjects into daily literacy practice so that students are receiving an engaging and appropriate education. It is important to gauge where your students are at as well as provide fun and engaging text for students to interact with. This is where differentiating instruction and using poetry or other texts interesting to the students comes in handy. Not every student will love one poem or a certain book, so it is a necessity to determine what interests them and allow outlets for them to express themselves in whatever mode possible. It was nice to have this mindset of differentiating instruction reemphasized because it really does make an impact on a child’s motivation and desire to read and feel successful in their literacy journeys when they feel that their interests and needs are taken into account.