Friday, May 18, 2012

What makes a great teacher? - A student says, "This!"

Guest post by Irene, High School Junior

My old Language Arts teacher never smiled. She kept the blinds closed to keep the sunlight out. She often professed her raging dislike for the art of writing, yet she droned on class after class on the correct format of an outline. I often entertained thoughts that she was an evil witch who fed upon the souls of children. Therefore, you may imagine that after my experience with her, my expectations of Language Arts teachers were, well, low. However, after I changed schools I was lucky enough to take Classical Mythology, as my teacher for that class completely shattered each and every one of my preconceptions.

My Classical Mythology teacher recently transformed his classroom into a temple complete with candles, incense, and offering platters and brought in a woman to pose as an oracle. He told us to prepare for our meeting with the oracle by washing our hair, opening our minds and bringing a relevant and significant gift. He then dressed in white, acted as sibyl and brought each one of us into the "temple". The oracle gave us each prophecies with which to begin our hero's quest.

We had been learning about the hero's quest for a while. Even though there were only five unique prophecies distributed to a class of eight, the assignment was the same. Discover yourself and where you need to go. Write about your own journey and perform it, whatever that means to you, in front of the class.

Although the entire rotunda smelled like incense for the next week, the entire class was energized and excited about their quests. I don't know about any of you, but this is the most epic way a teacher has ever given me an assignment.

My Classical Mythology teacher is one of a kind. He will sit and talk with a student if they come in and ask for his help. He genuinely cares about and connects with each and every one of his students and he commits so much of his time and effort to ensuring that we grow and challenge ourselves. With this oracle experience, he not only gave us an assignment but started each of us on a personal and intellectual journey.

I go to the nation's top arts boarding school. Almost all of the teachers I’ve had here have been extraordinary and inspiring in one way or another. If public schools were able to find teachers as dedicated, engaged and passionate as this one, students everywhere would have the opportunity to begin their own personal quests.



Irene is a junior at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is a composer, a writer and a filmmaker. She is originally from Sammamish, Washington.
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