The first element of my deep map is a large book laid open as if being read by a child or on display in an ornate library. I chose to create an open book because, for me, this represents life. There are infinite possibilities, both good and bad, and as we move through our lives, we can struggle over obstacles and triumph over small victories. In many ways, English is life to me. In no other subject are the lives of characters a meeting point for discussion and life lessons. An English classroom allows students to explore their interests, within a subject that involves many aspects.
"The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in 'Lonesome Dove' and had nightmares about slavery in 'Beloved' and walked the streets of Dublin in 'Ulysses' and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in 'A Prayer for Owen Meany'."
He goes on further to say:
"I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.”
One of my favorite elements of literature is also the sense of history that is attained when a book is opened and words are read. I am immediately reminded of the printing press, the hard work that went into creating books in sheepskin before the advent of the revolutionary machine, and the hundreds of millions of stories that have been told simply using random variation of words on a page. To indicate this historical element, I included a leather bookmark, which is not only an acknowledgement of times past, but also is reminiscent of the times in our lives that we consciously choose to remember. Even in "real life," we bookmark.
The left hand side of my book is an inset picture of children reading in a green, lush setting. This may also be idealistic, and I am more than aware that many students will not share my love of reading, but it is my goal to encourage students to see the value in reading. The picture shows one student reading by a path with flowers, while another lounges on a bench with a stack of books at her side. Another element that is evoked, for me, when I think about English and literature is Great Britain and the idyllic gardens featured so often in period dramas. I often think about the creation of the English language and how it is morphed and changed over the years. If something we use so heavily everyday is capable of change, then my students can also learn and grow.
Teaching has also long been a dream of mine, something I have thought often about since I was very young. I can remember saving worksheets and "teaching" my younger sister with a whiteboard and old binders filled with paperwork. I have always found teachers to be understanding people, and for a shy student like myself, who was very much the quite, straight A achiever in my middle school and high school years, especially, it meant a lot that teachers would pay attention to me, even when I was not drawing attention to myself. For teachers I have included an apple and a ruler, which represent, for me, the quintessential elements of teaching: we are there to encourage learning and growth and to help students see the full picture, not merely just a bite.
Another teacher element is a quote I found my Charles William Eliot, a former academic and president of Harvard University. He says:
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
To me, this means that there will be times when I cannot help a student. I will always try my best to be encouraging and helpful when it comes to my students, but even with their best interests in mind, I cannot account for things that I have no control over. However, I can recommend books that I think they may be interested in and aid them in coming to grips with whatever may be troubling them through reading. As Eliot says, books can be there when people cannot.
J.D. Salinger , author of "The Catcher and the Rye," said this of teachers: "You can't stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it."
I feel that this is what teaching is all about. People do not get into teaching as a career more the money or because it is an easy job--we do it because we care about students and we are passionate about sharing our love of our subjects with younger generations. English is a wild ride and there is nothing I look forward to more than sharing it with my future students.
However, my deep map would not be complete without one last element. I saw a picture once of a book with magic streaming from the inside and this captures the draw for me all too well. For my drawing, I have included curly cues which emanate from the open book and swirl around. There is magic to be had in reading, if people are patient enough to find it, and I truly hope that they are. Also, written on some of the swirls are some of my favorite ideas or quotes. They are:
"The Greatest Show on Earth." (A favorite movie on mine and also a wonderful way to describe what English, and thus life, represent for me).
"...A World of Pure Imagination..." (A quote from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory").
"If you dream it, you can do it." (A true gem from a Mr. Walt Disney).
And, "one for the road..." (A notion I have that all students take at least something when them when they leave the classroom and I hope to contribute to what they take to heart).