Imagine that you are in a giant house with white walls and no windows. The furniture is sparse, but the closed, locked doors are a myriad. You have a kitchen with adequate food; you have a couch with torn seams; you have a toilet and running water. You have all the necessary means to survive in this house, in this world. But what you do not know is that behind each locked door is something special—something of such a great value that you cannot even fathom its worth. You have two options here, in this empty house: you can either continue this drab lifestyle with mind-numbing monotony, or you can find the single key that unlocks all of these doors. You can find a way into something that will change your whole life.
Education is this key. More specifically, an English Language Arts education is this key. With the ability to read critically, analyze texts, and make literary connections, it is suddenly possible to excel in areas that are not directly related to a generic English classroom: picking out important information in a worded math problem, analyzing the accuracy of scientist’s claim, or comparing events or political views in history. And although I believe that writing as a form of expression (such as in a journal or in personal essays) is an important skill for everyone to have in terms of maintaining sanity and happiness, there is no denying that the ability to write persuasively, coherently, concisely, or analytically are more practical skills that also transcend the English classroom. Think about what would happen if your facts in a government paper were slightly awry, or if the numbers on your statistics problem were inaccurate, or if the details in a short answer question for a psychology test were sparse—but if you presented all of these mistakes with adequate writing skills that demonstrate how and why you reached your conclusions, then at least half the battle would surely be won.
Each of these described subject areas are examples of the rooms that lay behind the locked doors of the empty house. And what’s more is that there are even more rooms (perhaps within other rooms?) that have nothing to do with a traditional classroom, if only you allow yourself to find that first key and explore. What about writing job applications, or grant proposals, or reading candidate biographies in local newspapers around election time? What about reading a recipe for a birthday cake, or directions to arrive at a job interview, or an application for a visa to visit a different country? The examples that use reading and writing are infinite. ELA is clearly a subject that envelops necessary skills for success in every aspect of life, and it is such that I would be honored to provide students with the proper keys for learning what exactly lies beyond each locked door in front of them, in the empty white house of monotony.
I believe that education should be fun, interesting, and sort of sneaky. Sometimes the greatest learning happens when one does not even realize that any form of intellectual stimulation is actually taking place. If the content relates to the students’ everyday lives or interests, then it will feel less like rote education and will essentially be more likely to have a lasting impact on him or her. Much of American education revolves around preparing students for tests in order to prove that they are the “best,” but I believe that instilling a love (or merely an interest) for the content will have greater results in both test scores and with success later in life. Thereby, if I can get students to think that writing poetry or understanding Shakespeare is the coolest thing ever, then maybe they will be one step closer to understanding how the keys that an ELA education gives them can fit together to unlock more and more doors, and ultimately how it can change their whole lives