I’ve always known that I wanted to teach, but not in the conventional way that I initially pursued. I came into Ithaca College as a secondary English education major, only to feel lost and discouraged for the first two years of my college career. I eventually switched to writing, which was the only aspect of the English education field that ever truly inspired me. I think what discouraged me from pursuing my education degree was that the pedagogy we learned was so narrow-minded. Much of what we were taught was about the infrastructural flaws in our public education system and how to maneuver around them. I didn’t feel inspired. I felt constrained. Within the first semester as a new writing major, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous four semesters. I explored language and the ways I can manipulate it to better understand my environment, our culture, my emotions and my own personal narrative. I became an essential part to what I was learning, rather than a separate entity from it, and was pushed out of the passive, disengaged absorption of facts and ideas and into self exploration through the learning curriculum. It was at this point that I remembered my passion for learning and my desire to be the same figure that inhibits and encourages the same learning experience in the lives of others. I still want to teach, just not in a traditional American school.
The authors we have so far read this semester have more finely sculpted my intent to teach. Typical classroom settings reflect our overall society in that neither allow for space to address or explore trauma and general emotional literacy. Mental health and illness have always been both hushed and shamed through culturally embedded stigmatization. Yet, as we have discovered, isolation is one of (if not the most) aggravating force behind mental illness. In all the classroom and workshop examples we have followed in Writing and Healing, people heal most when working within a community to allow one to feel protected, accepted and heard by their peers. Many of our readings discuss the necessary environments that are conducive to a healing experience.
In our two most recent readings, Jeffrey Berman’s “Writing about Suicide” and Jerome Bump’s “Teaching Emotional Literacy,” I gained a more detailed understanding of what it logistically takes to turn a conventional class into an opportunity for a deeper, more meaningful kind of learning—self exploration and healing. Both authors listed the necessities and obstacles they faced while transforming their courses. However, the more I learn about the pedagogy of healing through writing, the more questions I ask: does one have to be an established educator before introducing such a stigmatized and controversial curriculum? Is there a place in existence that focuses its teaching on emotional literacy and community learning? If so, where are they and how were they established? What other types of educational facilities teach in this way? Workshops? Private schools? I want to spend the rest of my time in this course researching how one enters the discourse of writing and healing and how I, as a perspective educator, can enter the field by focusing my teaching in this way while also incorporating other principles I value in education, such as sustainability and independent thinking.