Does English Class Matter?

SHOPI’ve never attributed the love of reading to a particular English teacher. There are some bloggers and readers who can trace it back to their fourth-grade teachers, or to a librarian, but I seem to have been born with it, grown with it from the second I was able to read my first word.I’ve had teachers that have encouraged my love of reading, made me think more critically, who have made me a better writer. I can’t attribute that all to a raw love of it.My parents seemed to encourage our reading by rewarding us with trips to the bookstore, talking politics and economics over dinner, urging us to be informed, to be passionate, to be curious. Knowledge doesn’t help, school doesn’t help, until you want it for yourself.So I’d never particularly been interested in an English class or a specific teacher until I went to Interlochen last summer.It was so undeniably refreshing to me to take a class because I loved it, because I wanted to write with somebody else. I had two professors, Brian and Jamien (who went by Jamie) and they were both FANTASTIC.Brian was my fiction professor and would start out each class (a small seminar-style setting with maybe ten people in the class grouped around a conference table) by passing out a short story or two. We’d mark it up, annotate it as much as we thought necessary, and round it up with a discussion. He’d tie it into the day’s lesson and we’d spend the last half of the class writing and sharing based on the prompt.Jamien was my afternoon poetry professor and had this infectious energy, this drive to teach and to write that was magnetic. She’d read us a poem, take us to get ice cream, walk around campus with us to find the most inspiring spots. We’d talk and workshop, fully aware of the magic of words.It wasn’t so much that Interlochen taught me how to write, it’s that it taught me how to get myself to write. It worked really well in showing me how to understand inspiration, how to trick myself into following a prompt, how to keep the clarity in a piece. I tend to struggle with my succinctness – as y’all know from my numerous essays and ramblings – and my professors taught me so much.I’d never had a schoolteacher affect me in that way before, so I was unbearably excited to get Mr. Thomas this year at school.Mr. Thomas is one of the best teachers at Plant, the public high school that I attend. He was my brother’s favorite teacher, the writer of one of his college recommendations. He’s articulate, passionate, balanced in a way that few teachers have ever achieved. He teaches with engagement, with purpose that makes you look forward to each class. Last year, I wanted to talk to him but was shy in the way that I am, and finally got up the courage to talk about this year; he was so helpful in guiding me through my possibilities in English, what I could do at my school.He’s actually leaving in a little while because he’s going off to work for the county. He’s done such an incredible job with his AP Lang class over the past few years that he’s gotten a priceless opportunity to implement his programs in other schools. It’s heartbreaking, to be honest. I’ve never had a teacher I connected with that much before, never had a teacher whose class I could not stop SMILING during, never had a teacher that let me look forward to school so much. I told myself, “it’s what’ll get me through junior year.” Obviously, I’m upset that he’s leaving but happy he’ll get to do so much.It’s been an interesting experience to cycle through English classes, to differentiate busy work from essay styles to novels. I’m an English-oriented person by nature so my English class is important to me.English class gets me out of my comfort zone a little, while still rooting myself firmly to the identity I have as a reader, and as a blogger. It’s nice to relax into the monotony of academia, to get lulled by the rhythms of homework and be honestly engaged by a class. I’m a nerd at heart so there’s nothing I enjoy more than learning about something that I love, whether that’s literature or reading the news or talking to an expert.This year, we’re reading The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby and some others that I’m endlessly excited about. I essentially believe in anything that Mr. Thomas says (although he facilitates discussion and differences in opinion, which is a great class to be in!) and I’m hoping for a solid AP Lang year.Maybe it’s because I’m aware of what I want to do, what it’ll take for me to get there, how competitive it is, that I’m so invested in my schoolwork. The college part is exciting for me, although I wish I knew where I wanted to go so I could stop worrying about it! I’m still terrible at math but English at least is what it takes for me to get through my school day.

Are there any high schoolers out there? How important is an English class to your reading identity and habits?

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