A student wrote my philosophy of education

by Mr. Sheehy

The end of the year is a bit of a mix for me — most of it is good and savory but then there’s that bitter bit of lettuce or something that I always hit . . .

The savory stuff for me is reading these letters I have students write to me. I tell them that it is to me, not about me, and they should feel free to write about what they will. Inevitably, I suppose, many write about English because that’s where they are and that’s what they’re thinking about. I don’t particularly mind, as I like hearing students’ impressions of what my classroom is like and what they feel they learned in class with me. At one point I began putting together excerpts from these letters to make a blog article out of them, but I found I was including something from every letter and my article was getting so long it was unreadable. I still might assemble the article, if only for my own reference and appreciation (then if I wanted to revisit my overall impression of reading the letters, I could simply turn to the one article instead of the hundred plus I’ve got).

Today, however, I share only one, one that shows why I’m doing this job despite the bureaucracy I mentioned last weekend — that bureacracy that came to mind while reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago:

That is how the tradition arose that the Organs do not make mistakes. (97)

This system is broken. It must be if we are so stuck in secrets and illogical choices and decisions that cannot be undone. But I speak in frustration when I must look instead to the reason I am here: students.

Let me turn to the apt description of learning from one particular student, a description that rewards a teacher in ways money cannot:

When [this year] started actually most to of the year I didn’t really know what we were doing, we read all these books but it seemed like we were just reading to read. As the year went on I started to grasp what we were doing but still was thinking what is the point of all these blog articles. Then it kind of hit me, when I read books I started to think more then what was just blatantly said in the text, books stated to mean more. One thing I noticed when I was reading by my self was that you couldn’t have a discussion afterwards that could have made thing come together. Then as the year went on I found that my words in the blog article started to flow easier then they had in the past, so I found that when it came to papers it was a lot easier to write them too.

I could tell you my philosophy of teaching, or I could show you this student’s description of his experience in my classroom this year. I’ll take the student’s description, since it is like a statement and proof all wrapped into one. And because it helped me forget all the other parts of this system I’m in.

Thanks for reading.

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