Why English, Man?

While I was student teaching at Ballard High School in Huxley, IA, I had a student ask me, “Why English, Man?”  It was a question that didn’t really pertain to the more specific subject at hand, and that is why it threw me off guard a little.

“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Why did you decide to teach English?”  My Spidey-Senses told me a student is looking to try and take me off topic in order to burn a little class time.  So I tried to redirect the attention back to the task at hand.
But I think students legitmatley wonder why or how us teachers choose the specific content area that we choose to teach.

So here’s my explanation.

Am I ever going to use this?

Ever wonder that?  We all have at one point or another while going through school.  Truth is, there are many concepts I remember being tested over and never using it again – the Pythagorean Theorem for one.  But there is one subject area I found I used on a daily basis, and not just because I’m an English teacher.

Reading books has always offered me something unique.  To me they were opportunities to understand the world around me better.  It also opened my mind to new and interesting ideas that I never bothered to think about before.  Every book I read I try to relate back to my own life in some way.  In high school I had to read Romeo & Juliet, and of course, there was a test.  Have I ever been tested over Romeo & Juliet again by one of my peers? No.  Have I ever been on Jeopardy where a question pertaining to the book presented itself?  I wish.  But since I have read that book (and taught it), I have seen all kinds of connections from the book to my everyday life (i.e. family feuds, fighting for true love, person vs. soceity, etc.).  Same with The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, Night, The Outsiders, and others.  All of these books and MANY more have allowed me to see my life differently.  You could say with each book I read, I feel like Jonas in The Giver who sees color for the first time.

Teaching life lessons through stories.

We made mustaches for our Dr. Phil talk show.

With each book I assign in my classroom, I do give a test.  I have to give points and hold the students accountable for reading the book some how.  But as we read the book, I try to present several opportunities to make connections with the text.  From the use of mock talk shows like Dr. Phil and The View to Memory Capsules, the goal is always the same: make connections on a personal level.

There is writing too.

Of course, English is not just about reading.  It’s about the writing too.  After reading and discussing connections, we then have to reflect on these personal connections through various writing opportunities.  These writing opportunities all serve the same purpose, a purpose I stated in my first blog: articulating and organizing those thoughts and reflections.  The writing assignments almost make the book more concrete and memorable, more than what a test can do.

This is why, Man.

A student came up with the idea to dress up as the Outsiders
for decades day.  Even though these are juniors and we
read the book in 8th grade, I couldn’t resist joining them.

To answer that student’s question –  the reasons above are why I teach English.  English has been the one subject area that I truly use on a daily basis, because I am constantly trying to make sense of the world.

And I wish to show my students that they can do the same.

Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!


2 responses to “Why English, Man?

  1. I can honestly say the English is the only class where I haven't asked myself when I was going to use what I was learning, because I find myself writing all the time (I don't know about anyone else though).


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