Anyway, the point is that I probably wouldn't have reflected too hard on this teacher without the invitation to write him a letter. It's been almost a decade after I've graduated high school, and I mostly remember and reflect upon the teachers in subjects like Literature and Creative Writing. I always knew this particular teacher was good and that his class was fun, but he taught Political Theory. I wasn't interested at the time. I only took it because all my friends - all progressive liberals, all kids who argued politics at lunch time, all kids who were up on their current events - really loved the class and convinced me I should take it. Like so many art classes that tried to teach me how to draw what was actually there rather than what was in my head, I had the opinion that all the current political drama wasn't as exciting as a play. I was, of course, WRONG... but everyone's wrong when they're 15 years old.
Here's the letter I wrote:
I was a theater kid in your political science class before I graduated in 2006. I got to be a member of the Free Press during our huge role-playing game, and I immediately decided to be the tabloid reporter of the classroom. (Apparently, sensationalist news is easy to generate when all your politics are dictated by high school students.) I'd pick up scraps of paper left behind by presidents, scrawl my name on them, and post it on the chalkboard without much effort. I started pissing off half the class while making the other half laugh... until one student decided to drop an "anonymous tip" involving copyright and loyalty complications around our president's usage of the term "Booyakasha." I wound up in "court" where you ushered me into the stairwell and told me I absolutely had to speak the truth or fail. The student who dropped the joke, having never intended for his fake news to go viral, wound up in jail.
He got me back, though. Caught me skipping an exam I hadn't prepared for and tattled, which directly led to the incredibly magnanimous quote: "Grace, you can work your ass off for a B, or I can let you drop out and we won't mention this again."
Honestly, I wish I hadn't dropped out. Getting a B or C (or D or even totally failing) in your class would have been worth it, even though I was far from a perfect student, I didn't have the time I wanted to dedicate to your class, and by that point in time a good chunk of the students hated my guts. Your class is better than anything I took in college and I have often found myself wishing that more teachers - high school and university - taught like you do.
I'm not a political scientist, but I do teach theatre in extra curricular activities now. Your class taught me a lot about the power of role playing, and how to hand the class over to the students to get them motivated to learn. I try to implement a little more JBJ every time I create another lesson plan.
Thanks for everything
After writing this, it dawned on me that "handing the class over to the students" is exactly what my Cass Street "Theatre in Our Community" class needs. Maybe I could invent a role playing game for them, much like how I learned in Political Theory 8 years ago.
I'll try it today and see how it works out.
"The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner."