During my first semester of doctoral studies in my composition theory class, I was asked to draw a tree in order to demonstrate how drawing can be a heuristic method for writing papers. The tree I drew is a huge fall tree that fills the page with confetti-like leaves on the branches, on the ground, and falling through the air. According to the analysis, my tree means that I'm generous and tend to take on more than I can handle. While those hypotheses may be true about me, I think the tree is even more symbolic of the changes I have undergone in recent years. I left a full-time secondary English teaching job and was accepted in Illinois State University’s doctoral program in English Studies. I left a comfortable curriculum of rhetoric and literature to try my hand at teaching composition to incoming freshmen and later English teaching methods to pre-service teachers. I left friends and family to meet new people in the department and in my classes. Thus, the tree's kaleidoscope of color reflects the whirlwind of change that surrounded me at that time.
The tree is also symbolic of my attempts to adjust to my life's continual renewal, which has influenced my teaching and learning as a teacher, as a Ph.D. student, and now as a college professor. I constantly have to adjust to new curriculum, technology, and pedagogical theory, and it hasn't always been easy for a sixteen-year veteran of high school English. It has been challenging, but it has also been invigorating for me to test the boundaries of what I know and what I can help others achieve.
This teaching portfolio reflects the changes I have undergone in recent years, just as the tree I drew for my class does. I expect that another year from now I will have changed the portfolio, adding some items, taking out others, and rearranging still more. By then, the trees will already have sprouted new leaves and be getting ready for even more changes that summer will bring. I hope to parallel that natural cycle in my own work, continuing to grow and change with each new season, each class I teach, each person I meet.