As we dive headfirst into fall, Back to School Reflections is a series designed to 'catch up' with members of our faculty and administration on how the ease into the school year is going.
A growing and thriving student population brings a number of exciting additions to our expert faculty. In the wake of our Meet the Teacher evening where parents and teachers met to get to know each other and discuss student expectations and plans for the year, Mr. Cunningham sat with Mr. Sean Griffin, a first year teacher to talk about "electric" excitement over poetry and how both him and his students are adjusting back to the start of school.
Mr. Cunningham (RC): What are you most excited about for this year?
Mr. Griffin (SG): What excited me most before I arrived was the academic approach, the autonomous approach that leaves it to the teachers to be professionals to do their job. I love the approach BASIS.ed has about how they pick their teachers, not just picking people who are certified, but are masters in their fields. That is exciting and it means that a lot of the people I work with are pretty brilliant. I get to have these really thrilling conversations in the hall. I always leave the building feeling a bit smarter… and realizing I am not as smart as I thought.
RC: “The teacher becomes the taught…”
RC: Is there any specific moment that has really stood out since the start of school?
SG: Absolutely. After we covered our material for BOSS I made my very first academic lesson a poetry lesson. For students both young and old, poetry can have overall a pretty lukewarm reception. With the poem I put up to discuss, I thought in the same class period we would get to writing. But we spent the entire class analyzing the poem. I have never had students so super charged for a poem. Not only bring excitement but come up with creative interpretations – ones that aren’t so far out of bounds. They look at the lines, use the text to support. They were so enthused. It was close to insanity.
RC: Was there one student who snowballed or did you get that from the start?
SG: No, it wasn’t just one student. It was right from the start. It was so, so cool. All I did was read the first stanza, and say “what do we think?” They had a unanimous reaction where everyone shot their hand up. They had that face where if I didn’t call on them they would explode. It was so cool to have that class-wide response and feel that thrill. As Dickens said, “it literally electrocuted the crowd.” And he was using the opposite form of literally, which is actually a definition. It’s a cool word. Anyway…
RC: What was the poem?
SG: “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. She’s from Kansas and used this repetitive form in the piece where she says “I’m from…” She’s from the elm tree whose limbs she knows so well it’s as if they were her own. The plan is for students to read, analyze, and emulate to write their own “where they’re from.” We took up the whole class analyzing it. Some of the students’ approaches to it were incredible. One student thought she was writing as if it were a personification of a tree because she talks about all of these plants and shrubbery and she ends it as she’s a leaf falling from the family tree. It was groovy.
RC: Can you tell who the new students are and who are the returning students?
SG: Only because I asked them. It is actually difficult to tell. The students that have been here are absolutely welcoming and the students who are new are so observant and eager to absorb into the student body quite immediately.