Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006)


Open Access Presidential Scholars Thesis


English language--Study and teaching (Secondary); Student-centered learning;


A student walks into the classroom on the first day of school. He glances around to see if he knows anyone. Two of his friends wave him over, and he slides into a desk in close proximity to theirs. The bell rings and everyone turns to the front where the teacher starts talking about what you will be covering that semester. She points to a row of outdated anthologies full of short stories, poems, plays and mini-lessons designed to teach the intricacies of the English language. On the shelf below the anthologies is a class set of several different novels that will be crammed in between short stories and plays, this year you may or may not get to the poetry or mini-lessons. Everyone's shoulders droop a bit further as the teacher picks up a stack of stapled papers from her desk and begins to hand them out, explaining that in this packet are the class guidelines, policies, and semester schedule. The student glances at his friends, and they shoot him back the same "great, another boring semester of English" look that he is giving them.

"It is true that many of us became English teachers because of a deep and personal love for quality literature. But how do we pass this love on to our students?" (Peterson 41). As a future English teacher, that is my question. How do I neatly collect my love for English and the experiences that have brought me to my career choice and put them in a neat package that is inspirational to my students and gives them something that they will use once they are out of high school? While inspiration is not the sole intended outcome for literature in a secondary classroom, the question remains, how can teachers create a more meaningful and student focused secondary literature curriculum? It is very easy to speculate on what students want in their English curriculum, after all, we were all students once. However, times change; in fact times are constantly changing. While teachers can have valuable insights into student reading preferences, it is necessary to go to the source, the students, for what they desire in their learning, because they of all people should know best what will reach and inspire them, what will stick with them when they venture outside the walls of their high schools. I believe that all students want to be inspired and they all want to learn. In fact, it may be those who are labeled least likely to succeed that want to learn the most, however, they have not been taught in a way with which they can connect. I believe that there is a way to reach all students in some way by teaching to them, not to the book. Books of any nature, whether anthologies or novels should be tools, not straight jackets or crutches. They should enable teachers to take students out of the classroom rather than bind them to it. If we teach students only to think in the classroom we have taught them nothing. It is when we teach them to think for themselves that we have taught them something valuable that will carry them beyond their high school graduation. In the following pages, I intend to explore that very question.

Date of Award



Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

Presidential Scholar Designation

A paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation Presidential Scholar


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (39 pages)

Date Digital



©2002 Jocelyn Hayes





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