He wrote his final essay - changes he would make to our current educational system - and his response was so good it needed to be posted here.
So here's his work. I will pass on any comments to him.
Now, of all the classes that have been offered to me over my years as a student, my interest in English has continuously been on another level from the rest. Mainly due to a mixture of my appreciation of reading and love for writing, accompanied by my burning hatred for math and science. The examination of underlying meanings in everyday text as well as the exploration of numerous writing techniques have never failed to capture my imagination. The teachers are generally very knowledgeable and the class as a whole, very engaging. But it seems that nowadays its not too hard for English classes to lose their edge. More often than not, the class gets wound too tightly into a dull knot of repetitive essays, most of which get a quick letter grade and some nice comments scribbled into the margins.
Then, there's the reading. The tortuous chapters written by the likes of Shakespeare and Homer that seemingly hold our minds upside down while they’re beaten repeatedly until thoroughly deformed. And where does this torture lead us to? Just another 100 page essay, 9 out of 10 times requiring a loaded explanation of the “purpose” of the text. And once more, the only clarification we are given - the assurance that we are even in the ballpark of understanding these texts - is just another letter and a “nice job” scribbled in illegible red ink.
I don’t see how through this structure we can grow as readers and writers. With no constructive feedback, no instruction, and no one-on-one interaction, how are we to even know if our ideas are legitimate, or our opinions well-driven? As students in High School, we need clarification from our teachers, and from our class. It provides us with necessary confidence and keeps us out of the dark.
In my personal opinion, the best way to achieve this, is through transforming the dynamic of English classes to make them more discussion-based. Based on personal experience, there is no better way for me to learn about any given topic, than through an interactive and free-flowing Socratic Seminar. Especially in an English class setting, the most efficient way to gain understanding of a text or writing style is too share ideas and opinions with classmates. Through sharing, deep discussion, and occasional healthy debate, it is nearly guaranteed that each and every student will come out with enhanced knowledge and useful clarification over the subject matter.
This is vital understanding that can not be provided through letter grades and mere margin comments.
“Everyone who wants to participate, jump in the circle, and those who don’t, get out your phones and sign into the discussion on the screen.”
I don’t really get why kids actually choose to stay out. If you’re going to go out of your way to elect a writing class, what’s the point of sitting out of a seminar on what makes a good essay? I ponder it over for a few seconds before I hop over the chair situated conveniently in the circle. 6 other apparently brave souls take their seats as well. Ms. Morris looks over us from her podium, and initiates the conversation.
We start with a small idea; something simple, maybe even obvious. We all acknowledge it, and then get rolling. That's the beauty of a Socratic Seminar - that it really doesn’t matter what you say, because there is no wrong answer. We build off whatever is thrown out. The discussion expands, straying away from grammatical topics and moving towards ideas about the task of connecting to a reader. Within each general topic, we throw out personal experiences, various attained opinions, and friendly acknowledgement. The digging continues, leaving nothing off the table of discussion, listening to one another with open minds and valuing their input.
Something peculiar takes form in these conversations. The freedom we create for one another melded with the common commitment to explore deeper meanings, connects us in a manner unrealized by those outside the circle. We are not merely spitting out artificial chatter in hopes of impressing the teacher; on the contrary, we are building off the opinions of one another, working as a unit to gain understanding. Transitioning through debates, laughs, and agreements, we experience a learning tool that for a reason, especially puzzling to us in the moment, is rarely used nowadays.
Eventually the discussion does come to an end, the bell does ring, and the day does continue. But after a rejuvenating class session like this, I feel engaged, and turned off at the idea of sitting through a lecture in my next class. Unfortunately for me, the clock works on its own schedule, and the teachers, by their own agenda...