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One exercise that has helped both myself and my students to explore these skills has been to write critically about literature in essay format. Interpreting literature in written form is an excellent way to stay in touch with the deeper meaning of the language and to help the reader to focus on the author's choice of specific words and writing techniques. As a whole, the study groups I have participated in have gained the most insight through reading, discussing, and writing about literature in an open and constructivist setting that allows every person to take on the role of both teacher and student. In order to learn how to understand and utilize literary methods such as point-of-view, plot and structure, setting, themes, figurative language, and symbolism, it is important that one interprets a variety of literature. Throughout my life, I have applied interpretive techniques to the literature reviewed for school, but also to the literature I chose to explore on my own time for personal pleasure. An example of how this translates to classroom and personal reading took place several years ago, when I had the opportunity to lead a discussion group on Greek mythology. Specifically, we discussed the story of Orpheus and Eurydice at length, doing a detailed character analysis of the mourning Orpheus, his dead lover Eurydice, the guardian of the Underworld Hades, and his empathic companion Persephone. Also, we spent a great deal of time focused on the themes of the myth (eternal love, resurrection, triumph against all odds, and turning away from god), and the symbolism used therein (the snake as knowledge, the harp as faith, turning back to see Eurydice as scientific inquiry). When I read Gaston Leroux's the Phantom of Opera for my own benefit, my teaching experience provided me with greater insight into the novel. Erik (the Phantom) is both Orpheus and Hades; Christine (his love interest) is both Eurydice and Persephone. The same themes as the Greek myth, such as eternal love, flowed through this book, and similar themes, such as music as faith, also exist within Leroux's novel. Being able to translate lessons from one piece of literature to another, and from the classroom to casual reading experiences, is a skill that I have built over time and enjoy sharing with others.
Examining and understanding language and communication allows one to truly get the most out of all educational experiences. The broader one's understanding of language, the broader the set of ideas and knowledge that can be absorbed from others. There is something to be learned from every person, and exposing one's self to people from all walks of life is a valuable learning experience. As both a teacher and a student, it is important to value the thoughts of others and to seek an understanding of their views and opinions, even if they might seem unconventional or strange. Additionally, it is important to value the language of all others, even if it varies from one's own language. This applies to both personal contacts, where one might be able to learn a great deal from a non-English speaker, or someone with an accent or speak impediment, and with literature, where a writer might use dialect or unique language techniques that should not be dismissed as improper without full evaluation with an open mind. Having a full understanding of language as a tool opens up many avenues in the educational process, and being able to wield language as a tool allows one to spread an understanding of the value of thoughts and knowledge.
I consider myself to still be in the beginning stages of my education. With almost four years of experience as a vice principal behind me, plus my experience as a teacher and student previous to this position, I have just reached the starting line. My formal education has brought me to a place where I am successful in my career, and my life experiences have brought depth, understanding, and appreciation to my learning. I will continue to pass my skills in the areas of reading comprehension, critical writing, information synthesis, and others on to the students in my school, as well as those in my life who are students of the world as…[continue]
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