English teachers can play an especially important role in student’s lives and self-actualization through the power of Literature. The article, “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood,” by Sherman Alexie articulated many of my touchstone beliefs about teaching English in public schools, and encompassed many of the ideals that make me believe in the power of teaching Literature.
Books, such as Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian,” have the power to bring understanding, compassion, and empathy to the forefront of their reader’s hearts and minds. As readers, students are given the opportunity to enter into the worlds of characters they may relate to, have difficulty understanding, or have never considered before. These books can be a huge tool for students to begin understanding themselves and the world around them. Books give insight to the psychological, social, and emotional aspects of the human experience, which are subjects many students don’t consider prior to being taught about them. Giving students an opportunity to talk about and think about their world in relation to others is a powerful tool they can use to begin understanding themselves and others.
In many cases, this is the best weapon we can give to students fighting against adversarial circumstances that are out of their control. I am going into this profession to share the power and gift of words to students who may have never been exposed to the subject of English in this light. I hope that my passion for words, literature, and learning will help student’s discover their own passions and giftings, and that this will help them unlock the voices within them. Words are an avenue of expression, and a medium for change. I believe in empowering students to uncover the deep importance of words and figure out how they can be impacted by them and how they can be used to impact the people around them. Words can be used as a medium for understanding and for expression, and that is why teaching English and Language Arts is especially important to teach students living in a continuous cycle of oppression.
To accomplish this, teachers should not water down the content they are presenting in their classrooms. They should use the issues brought up in these subjects and books to open the important conversations to their students, and show them how to be impacted by words. Ultimately, the goal should be for students to be impacted by words they read so they can be inspired to voice their opinions through this medium in their future.