“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Back in late February of 2019, I co-hosted Elon’s first Elon English Language Teaching Symposium on campus. At the event, I delivered a short presentation to our 100 attendees and felt nervous beforehand. 100 people is a large crowd! After the Symposium ended, a professor asked if he could nominate me to speak at graduation for the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Ceremony. I was shocked, humbled, and honored. I had just spoken to 100 people, and now I’d be preparing for thousands?! I slept on it, and told him “yes!” shortly after. A few weeks later, I received the news that I had been chosen.

I would like to share the text of my speech with all of you. Thank you to Dr. Jeff Carpenter and Dr. Kim Pyne for being my wonderful speech coaches. Thank you to Dean Ann Bullock, the Dean of the School of Education for supporting me throughout this process!

“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Hey y’all! Welcome all to graduation and a big welcome to my fellow graduates. Thank you to the families who have traveled from near and far, and to the professors, friends, and supporters who have encouraged us and cheered us on every step of the way. My name is Courtney Kobos and I am a Texas native, an Elon English and education major, and a future teacher. Like many of you, some pinnacle moments of my Elon experience include traveling, researching, and teaching. And as a teacher, and in classic Elon style, I’m going to ask us to reflect together on our Elon experiences one more time.

Last semester, I began an internship teaching 10th graders at a nearby school. As a class, we read texts about injustice from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. One was Elie Wiesel’s speech to the United Nations commemorating the Holocaust. The speech concludes with the famous lines: “We must be engaged, we must reject indifference as an option. Indifference always helps the aggressor, never his victims. But will the world ever learn?” During the class activity that followed, a student pulled me aside. Pointing at that final line, she looked at me, concern etched across her face, and whispered the same question Wiesel asks us. “Ms. Kobos, do you think the world will ever learn?” As a teacher, I get asked dozens of questions a day and I can’t say that I’m able to remember them all. However, this unexpected heartfelt question and the student’s worried tone continue to echo in my mind.

In pondering this, I was reminded of a memory from the summer before. I have titled this story, “That time I accidentally signed myself up to run an Ecuadorian 5K.” Let me tell you about my host mom, Maria Jose. Maria Jose is a force to be reckoned with. She selflessly gives her time and love to many in her community, including her kids, her school, and the volunteers who work at the summer camp she founded. Maria Jose also bravely battles two types of cancer and trains for races in the midst of chemo. So, when a colleague asked me if I’d like to go cheer her on during an evening 5k, I gladly agreed. I showed up at her door at 8pm dressed in street clothes, ready to be the loudest “gringa” there. She took one look at me and asked, “What are you wearing? Mihija, you can’t run in that. We’re late, so go get changed into your race clothes!” I panicked. I could not say no to Maria Jose, but running is not my thing–just ask my family here in the crowd. But, I had no choice. I had apparently agreed to run in the race, not just be part of the cheering section. 20 minutes later, we arrived at the trail and approached a group of serious runners decked out in running tights and headlamps. And then, there was me: an outsider wearing skinny jeans, using the flashlight on my phone, and dragging myself up that hill wondering how in the world I ended up there, and trying to swallow my pride when I was the last one to make it to the top. In reflecting on moments like this one, that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone and have forced me to learn and grow — I started to formulate an answer to my student’s question. In order to fully support Maria Jose, I had to run the race alongside her. Standing by and cheering from the sidelines was not enough.

When I returned to Elon, I immediately dove in to another one of the most enriching and uncomfortable periods in my undergraduate career — conducting research. I was awarded the Elon Leadership Prize, which funds students trying to tackle large scale national problems in their communities. My project focused on improving the schooling experience locally for English language learners and building capacity in the education system to better support underserved children. Who was I to take on this broad and nearly unsolvable issue? For a while, I had moments daily where I doubted myself and wondered why I was chosen for this award. But, if I could survive that crazy 5K run up the side of an Ecuadorian mountain, maybe I would accomplish this project the same way — by embracing discomfort and placing myself in the action. Through showing up and doing the work alongside many others, I had the opportunity to see the difference between having knowledge for the sake of knowledge and using knowledge collaboratively to influence local change. Oftentimes, we are told that if we just work together we can change the world. But, I believe that in addition to working together, we also must individually commit, take responsibility, and be daring.

I stand here confidently today, looking out at you, my fellow 2019 graduates. We have now completed our time at Elon. We have taken dozens of classes, met students from across the United States and the world, and have gained knowledge about our future careers and about our passions. I realize now, from my experiences teaching, traveling, and researching, that support from the sidelines is not what the world needs. We must be in the thick of the action and outside of our comfort zones. Just like on that dusty trail in Ecuador, we must put ourselves in the race, even if we are the very last ones to make it to the top, and sometimes even if we didn’t intend on signing up for the race to begin with. We must each choose to fight the tendency to stay on the sidelines, because we have the power to reject indifference.

So, class of 2019, I bring my student’s question back to all of us. “Will the world ever learn?” Can we take the knowledge that we have acquired during our time at Elon and use it to get off the sidelines? Can we push against our natural inclination to be indifferent? Can we get to the top of that hill, not alone, but together? Can we? The answers to these questions are ever evolving. With every step and every choice, no matter our majors, our career paths, or our life journeys, we can demonstrate that the world can learn.

Thank you Mom and Dad, family, friends, and Elon for all of your love and support!

Uncategorized

5 Reasons to Visit Siena

Out of all of the cities we visited throughout Italy, Siena was the only one I could really picture myself living in. A nice break from the busy city life, Siena is a less-visited oasis of beauty, wine, and local flavor. We only stopped for one night but I am so glad that we did!

Since we only had one night, we took advantage of the town’s relaxing vibes and you should too! Here’s why you should say ciao to Siena!

IMG_3959.JPG

1) It’s off the beaten path

Quite simply, Siena is the perfect place to enjoy the slower way of life, tell stories about, and visit again. Particularly since we visited in February, the town was almost empty of tourists. We had great conversation with a couple locals and found that people were eager to help us out – something that we didn’t find in every city we visited. We only had time to stop for a single night and I am already dreaming of a summer visit to Tuscany full of horseback rides, long walks, and winery tours. Siena would be the perfect place to visit for a relaxing vacation, family stop, or couples retreat.

FullSizeRender.jpg

2) Perfect break to stop and rest

If you have more than a week in Italy, consider taking a break in Siena or somewhere in the Tuscan countryside to stop, rest, and breathe. Personally, I am much more of a green grass over a city type of gal and Siena refreshed me both physically and mentally. One of the things that I love most about Italy is their go with the flow mentality. Punctuality is not all that important, and although it can be frustrating, it also forces you to stop and take it all in. During our time in Siena, we moved more slowly than in the city but still saw a lot. When we weren’t relaxing in our gorgeous Airbnb apartment, we walked the hilly streets, taking in views of the gorgeous cathedral and Duomo and gorgeous homes we daydreamed about living in. As you walk, it is nice to peek around corners because you never know what you’ll find. There are also lots of sunny piazzas (squares) to sit in when your legs start to burn thanks to the steep hills. While exploring, we came across a beautiful wishing well and a very strange escalator that apparently is a preferred method of “travel” in the hills (not pictured). During our stay, I also purchased a few authentic Italian leather items!

IMG_3641.jpgIMG_3640.jpg

IMG_3676.jpg

IMG_3684.jpg

3) Gorgeous views everywhere you look

Like most of Italy, Siena is breathtakingly beautiful. However, this countryside spot is stunning in a different way than urban Venice, Florence, and Rome. Visiting allowed me to really get some perspective on Italy’s diversity. As your train turns the corner into Siena, prepare to be stunned. This little town is tucked into the mountains and had beautiful weather even in February.

FullSizeRender-3.jpg

IMG_3716.jpg

4) Delicious food and wine

It is hard to fully enjoy Tuscany without a glass of Tuscan wine in your hand! Thankfully, there are many restaurant options in Siena that allow you to eat outside and soak up the sun as you devour your pizza and and contemplate your wine options. While some restaurants were closed down for the winter, we were very content with the places we chose.  In some cases – what you hear is really true and wine is cheaper than water! Dining here was such a treat.

IMG_3656.jpg

FullSizeRender-5.jpg

IMG_3699.jpg

5) Easily accessible

Best of all, if you’re planning a trip to Italy, Siena is an easy stop to add whether you’re headed north or south. We chose to go south and take the train from Florence to Siena (only an hour and a half ride for 9 Euro)! And afterwards we headed from Siena to Rome. Taking the train is definitely our preferred method of travel because it is inexpensive, relaxing, and a great way to see more of the country than otherwise possible.

FullSizeRender-4.jpg

There ya have it! If you decide to visit, all I ask is that you take me with you!

Italy

My First Taste of England

Let’s be honest – there isn’t a single thing that could replace queso, fajitas, or kolaches, or my family’s Sunday night dinners…but England is trying its best. In addition to eating my way around Oxford, I am taking advantage of my dorm room kitchen that I share with four other girls by finally learning to cook! Luckily, my roommate Tatjana only makes fun of me a little bit when I ask her basic cooking questions.

While I haven’t found the “food of all foods” here yet, I am still on the hunt. Here’s what has stood out so far!

IMy first meal across the pond obviously had to be fish and chips. The green sauce was questionable, but the fish and chips were divine. As of now, my best effort at ordering a drink requires asking what the waiter recommends, but I’ll get there one day.

The food at our Welcome Dinner, hosted by Trinity College, was unreal. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the delicious duck confit. This room (pictured right) is where students who attend Trinity College eat their daily meals. It sure beats Lakeside at Elon!

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

British coffee isn’t quite the same as American coffee, but their cafes sure are cuter. Finding little spots around town to study and have a snack has quickly become my favorite afternoon activity. Oxford is the perfect size: small enough to know well, yet big enough to explore.

img_0036

Last night, Elon professor Kevin Boyle took all of us Elon students out to a nice dinner at Portabello! Definitely my best dinner out in Oxford so far with great company.

img_0040Best of all, however, has been nights spent in Logan House and meals cooked with Tatjana. This is the salmon and rice we cooked together tonight! We have been meal planning and making shopping lists together which has been so motivating. Having the opportunity to eat together and share stories about our individual experiences, culture, political systems, family, and friends has been incredibly eye-opening. Through learning about others, you really learn more about yourself. Food has an amazing way of bringing people together and making memories!

This week wrapped up with another St. Clare’s day trip; this time we went to Stonehenge! Stonehenge, thought to be built around 2,000 B.C., is a mystery to this day. No one quite knows its true purpose! Located in the middle of nowhere amidst rolling green open fields (full of cute sheep!), the monument is clearly out of place.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We braved the cold for some photos!

england taste Trips Uncategorized

5 Things I Learned This Semester

1. Say “yes” more often

This semester was, by far, my toughest academically. Towards the beginning of the year, I found myself getting too caught up with the piles of homework I had constantly waiting at home. That’s right: I was actually too concerned with homework. Several weeks went by, then another, and I realized that I was using homework as an excuse not to get out and do things.

Halfway through the semester, my Teaching Fellows cohort went on a Beach Retreat. I was legitimately stressed about this in general because we were told not to bring homework. What?! No homework?! While that might sound like heaven for some, I was freaking out internally.

Over the course of the weekend, these fears began to dissipate. I spent time sitting on the beach, talking with friends, and reflecting on this semester. As I reflected, I realized that I had been missing out on so many things that I had enjoyed freshman year because I was using a busy schedule as my excuse. I decided right then and there that the last half of my semester would be different – and it was.

Two days later, my friend Amanda texted me and asked if there was any way I could drive her home to Asheville, NC the next week so she could vote in her county. Normally, there is no way that I would say yes to something last minute like that! However, this was the sign I needed to bounce back from my boring first half. I said yes, emailed the professor whose class I’d be missing and asked to submit a paper early, got a cover for work, and started packing. The next night, we headed to Asheville. In 12 hours, we managed to fit in an incredible dinner, dessert, and sunrise on the parkway.

Days like this are the ones that won’t be forgotten. Don’t forget to break the rules and say yes sometimes.

 

2. Take time for the things that bring you joy

To continue alongside my previous thought, say yes in particular to things that bring you joy! Sometimes, this means saying no to others and saying yes to yourself. Yes, I deserve to have a night to myself tonight. Yes, I want to go on a hike today! Yes, I deserve that cookie! Yes, I want to read a book for fun tonight! Yes, I have time to go workout!

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the things that we “have” to do: meetings, class, homework, more meetings, that we forget to take some time for ourselves! Whether this means spending time on hobbies you enjoy, reading a book, or just relaxing, we all need to things that we like!

I notice that when I neglect myself, my relationships and academic life suffer. If I’m doing things that make me happy, then I’m happier!

So, treat yoself, grab that cookie, and take that bubble bath and then get back to your seemingly endless to do list.

 

3. When you’re in the right major you’ll know

Last year, because I brought in AP credits, I actually was not enrolled in a single English course! I thought that I was in the right major…but how would I know without a single college English course under my belt?!

This original uncertainty ended up being a good thing. I got to explore different fields, gain interesting perspectives, and by the time sophomore year came around, I knew that English was the field for me. While I enjoyed some of my core courses, English and Sociology classes just feel right. Exploration is a super important part of the college process! If you don’t have anything to compare your “major” courses too, how will you know you’re in the right place?!

This year, I am happily enrolled in all English, Sociology, and Education courses. I feel so lucky to take amazing classes alongside many people that I now call my best friends. In Teaching Literature, we focused on asking big philosophy questions: what is literature? why should we teach it? how should we teach it? Through TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I spent my days volunteering at an Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center in Greensboro and learning how to manage a multilingual classroom. Class became less of a chore and something I looked forward too.

Ultimately, I have learned how valuable a liberal arts education is. University is much less about getting a degree and much more about the education process. Living on campus at a University like Elon allows me to have educational experiences both in and out of the classroom each and every day.

 

4. Career choice is a lifelong process

Even if you know that you’re in the right major, it is perfectly okay to not know exactly what your life will look like in 5 years or 20 years. In fact, it is probably impossible for you to know. Instead, I try to focus on each experience I have and reflect on the things I learned and how I could use them in the future.

When I came to Elon, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a Teaching Fellow. What if I changed my mind and didn’t want to teach anymore?! While I know now that English and education are “right” for me, I am still not sure exactly where I’ll end up.

Last semester, after taking a course called Sociology of Education, I added a Sociology minor to my 4-year plan. I do not know exactly how this fits in yet, but I absolutely love combining my fields of interest. Talking about things like the achievement gap, socioeconomic disparities, and tracking students is what I love. Additionally, after taking TESOL, I have developed an interest in working with speakers of other languages. Next year, I will be starting a research project and studying how ELL students are treated and regarded by my local school district. I am hoping to somehow combine all of my loves and experiences into a career path one day.

I have accepted that the only thing that I can do right now is fully immerse myself into each opportunity that I have. By doing this, I know that I will end up exactly where I am meant to be.

 

5. It goes by fast

I knew going into this (now past) semester that time was going to fly by. And like clockwork, it has now come to an end. It seems unreal that I am already packing up and preparing to go abroad to Oxford, England. Soon, my college undergraduate career will be halfway done.

Even though leaving Elon was bittersweet, I am trying to focus on living in the moment and loving each semester for what it has to offer. Yes, things will be different next time I’m back, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Oxford, I’m ready for you!

 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Courtney

Reflections Uncategorized

My Teaching Philosophy

** Disclaimer: This post is for a class project and is an example of a page that I would use for my future class website **

Preparing Students for the “Real World”

 

Hello, Parents!

I am so glad that you have taken the time to scroll through our class website. Having all of your students in class this year is an absolute pleasure and I cannot wait to get to know each one of you better throughout the course of the year. My contact info and personal information is under the “About Me” page on your left hand side. This site will be a resource for both you and your students. Please feel free to shoot me an email or call me about any concerns you may have or just to say hello! Additionally, my door is always open! Stop by anytime and email me if you would like to sit in on a class.

smcrnbaw3pxzg

In this technological day and age, there is a lot that we have to prepare students for. My job and duty as an educator goes deeper than just teaching students how to read. Fundamentally, my job is to prepare students to be educated citizens primed to contribute to society in the “real world”.

My goals are as follows:

3oeduykjpvbx6vhijw

  1. Instill a LOVE of reading within each student
  2.  Encourage students to have a personal experience with each work they read 
  3. Expose students to new cultures and ideas through reading
  4. Prepare students for a diverse workforce in which they will be expected to know how to use technology

i6g4dgjn31xoo

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

kqoxxwjjutb7o

 

Most importantly:

I want your students to leave my class truly loving to read! Instead of asking them to memorize plot lines and giving them comprehension quizzes, I want them to focus on the language of the text! After all, this is what makes great books so special! Class time will be focused on literature they would not be able to read on their own.

A love of literature inspires a lifetime of reading. Books have the unique ability to provide a window into other worlds and teach us things. With a love of reading comes a lifetime of learning.

Multi-cultural literature

In my class, we will cover a variety of works that all have authors and main characters with different perspectives. These differences should be appreciated! I want my class to be a safe space where each individual’s opinion and personal experience is valued. However, anything that devalues or demeans other students will not be tolerated. Furthermore, I will have a classroom shelf full of a wide variety of Young Adult literature that the students can “check out” at any time.

Multimodal literature

yxucohuud4s88

The term “multimodal” refers to anything that is characterized by several different forms of activities – just like this website! Even though you might not have noticed, the gifs used on this webpage help break up the text and enhance understanding. They serve to add to the overall experience, not take away from it. The same thing is true in multimodal teaching! This includes but is not limited to: film, audio, video, performance, pictures, and graphic novels.

What will class look like?

Depending on the assignment, students will be asked to read for homework and write down any questions that they have. Class time will be spent discussing whatever we are working on as a class. Literature often does not have a “right answer”, and we will talk about a work’s historical context and the multitude of ways that it can be interpreted.

Additionally…

Each book that we read in class will be accompanied by some sort of “multimodal” activity. This will not replace traditional classroom literature, but instead will be used to supplement and add to the students’ experience.

gb3xcl0cniuxi

I’m going to give a few examples of how this would work in my classroom. Once again, multimodal forms help enhance your students’ experience with text, not take away from it.

Raise your hand if you like watching movies, plays, or listening to audiovlvu8bvv67mvs

With that in mind, lets think about some great ways that we can combine traditional literature with various multimodal assignments!

Example one: POETRY

xt4uq8in2mldi3jl56

 

Poetry is often one of the most difficult units for students and even adults. When complicated poems are shoved in front of us and it can be frustrating. Students will start to believe that they can never understand poetry.

igrss5prw7aeo

A great introduction to poetry is having students write and perform their own poems. This helps to get them over the fear of poetry being “scary”. During this unit, I will provide a variety of different poetry books and spoken word performances for the students to browse during class. They will watch and read, find what they like, then base their own poem off of it. After several drafts, they will perform their own spoken word poetry piece for their classmates.

HERE are some great links to spoken word poems!

 

Example two: SHAKESPEARE/PERFORMANCE

Let’s talk about Shakespeare and be honest about it – Shakespeare is difficult!

xt8qbuzyzzqdmrhwm0

We do not want this to be the students’ reaction when they hear Shakespeare’s name! It is easy to forget that Shakespeare was written to be performed, not read on a page. During the Shakespeare unit, students will be given a plot summary so that they can focus on the language of the play and various ways it might be interpreted. Then, they will be split into groups and asked to perform a scene of my choice for the class. While the scene is chosen by me, interpretation will be up to the students.

This improves confidence, public speaking, and allows them to come up with their own interpretations of the text! They will be graded on group effort and style.

EXAMPLES of student performances 

 

 

Example three: FILM

Have you ever read a book and then watched the movie and absolutely hated it? This happens because when a book is turned into a movie, the director has to make certain choices that often change the meaning of the film.

This year, my class will be reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. After we have finished the book, we will watch the film and discuss how the director chooses to convey certain scenes. Students might have trouble pulling out imagery from the text, but when it comes to watching film they can do it easily. Students will gain a better understanding of literary terms and will be able to discuss how they are conveyed in a film. They will be graded on their understanding and written responses.

Watch the trailer and see if you can pull out some things to discuss!

 

Here are a few questions I would use for discussion points in class

1 – When the twin towers are falling, why is the scene filmed at an upward angle?

2 – Why do you think that both the book and movie are told from Oskar’s (the young boy) perspective?

3 – Why do you think that in the film version, the grandfather is introduced in the beginning instead of at the end?

4 – Why do directors make different choices than authors?

 

fsrtksetycg0w

These are just a few examples of ways that multimodal lessons can be implemented in the classroom. I want students to gain valuable and applicable information that can be used beyond my high school English class. A multimodal education provides some of those skills and benefits. Ultimately, we all just want to prepare students to be successful in whatever they choose to do!

yojc2gnsclbpokv0ea

Class Projects ENG 363 Final

Pre-Abroad Feels

My plans –> Oxford, England

For those of you who haven’t heard, in exactly one month and two days I will be headed abroad to Oxford, England! My semester in Oxford at St. Clare’s International runs from January 8th – May 6th with a couple breaks in-between. I will be flying out of DFW on January 7th and returning on May 18th after a visit from my mom! While at St. Clare’s, I will be taking my usual English and Education classes, completing an internship in a local school, and spending my free time immersing myself in English culture and traveling as much as possible.

I cannot believe that my lifelong dream of traveling Europe will actually be set in motion in such a short time! Meanwhile, I have been spending my time procrastinating my finals work by spending my time researching trips.

 

download

Travel Plans

As of now, I have a one trip in the works and a couple others on the list. We have two weeks off in the middle of April for Spring Break during which I plan to backpack with a couple friends through Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam over the course of 17 nights.

Several friends and family members have also been kind enough to plan trips with me! My boyfriend, Harrison, will be visiting me during his March Spring Break and my good friends Morgan and Ally are coming the week after! Additionally, extended family in Switzerland have offered to host me for a long weekend – an opportunity I am all too excited to take advantage of. At the end of my semester, my mom and grandparents are visiting and we will be exploring London, Paris, and the surrounding areas.

If you have any connections abroad or will be in Europe from January-May please let me know! I would love to make plans with you.

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Visa Applications & Internships

I had absolutely no idea that my Visa application would be such a hassle! This semester has been filled with Study Abroad meetings and numerous hours dedicated to filling out my Visa, going to fingerprint appointments, and getting everything in order. I will be on a Tier 4 Student Visa which allows me to work/intern.

Luckily, Teaching Fellows has hooked us up with awesome teaching internships when I am abroad where I will be working with 15-16 year old second language students at Cherwell Secondary School in Oxford! One day a week we will be spending a full day working in the school. Additionally, I will be enrolled in a comparative education course as part of my studies and am really looking forward to studying a new culture while living there.

oxford

Nerves

Despite being ridiculously pumped to go abroad, I’ll admit that I am a bit nervous too! I don’t think that it has really set in that I will be away from America for a full 4.5 months! Mainly, I am worried that the time difference will create a barrier between those who I have relationships with at home and myself. I know that balancing will be necessary so that I do not spend too much time communicating with those back home to the point of missing out on new things! Furthermore, I really want to make friends with some of the international students which I know will require extra effort since they may not be in my classes. Like any semester, being abroad is full of ups and downs that I must prepare for.

 

Overall, I am extraordinarily excited to embark on this journey! Please feel free to follow this blog to keep up with what I am doing abroad and here at Elon! Again, if you have any advice or insight on what places I must visit, I would love to hear it.

 

Thank you to my family for making this all possible!

Much love,

Courtney

 

 

 

Reflections Study Abroad 2016 Trips