9 Things My Teacher Did to Make Her Classroom So Much More

9 Things My Teacher Did To Make Her Classroom So Much More Than Just A Classroom

I can't thank you enough for being one of the first people who really saw me.

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As a sophomore in college, I cannot believe it was only two years ago that I was preparing to graduate high school. Looking back, I remember how ready I felt to leave the world I had always known--a world full of noisy hallways, classrooms without AC, and textbooks containing information I never thought I'd use again in my life--for a new and exciting world at a university.

Now, as my day-to-day life is full of internship searches, courses that each bring me one step closer to my dream career, and trying (key word: trying) to maintain a balanced saving-spending ratio, I hardly ever think about high school anymore. However, sometimes, when I hear the word "ethos," or am discussing a political crisis, or come across a box of ice cream sandwiches, my mind wanders back to my days as a high school student, specifically to when I sat in the classroom of one Mrs. Bobbi Carter.

Bobbi Carter's AP 11: Language and Composition class contained so much more than a teacher with a curriculum. She had an agenda, that's for sure, but her course objectives extend far beyond teaching students to "analyze and interpret samples of purposeful writing" and "respond to different writing tasks according to their unique rhetorical and composition demands." Though it was three years ago that I was in her classroom, I still vividly remember so many lessons she taught me, as I'm sure I will for years to come.


1. She adequately prepared me for a college curriculum.

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As a high-ability student, my writing was rarely critiqued in general education classes. I capitalized the first letters of sentences, avoided using contractions in formal writing, and even threw in an occasional semicolon; subsequently, I avoided the scrutiny of my teachers and receive As on most of my papers.

Once I sat under Bobbi Carter's teaching, however, my writing was actively and consistently criticized. I learned to avoid fallacies, analyze rhetorical techniques, and meet deadlines. Outside of writing, I became more well-versed on different theories, perspectives, and philosophies. The content in this course has helped me in various classes at my liberal arts university--from seminar courses to religion courses, to global studies, to campaign courses.

2. She was not afraid to keep me humble.

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The constructive criticism Bobbi Carter gave me taught me that I had much more to learn than I realized. Instead of making me feel incompetent, this criticism gave me the drive to learn more and become a better writer. I realized that there was (and still is) so much out there I had left to learn, and I was eager to do so.

3. She taught me, quite literally, to shake it off when I face troubles.

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Not only was Bobbi Carter an exceptional English teacher, but she was also a phenomenal choreographer. I participated in the spring musicals at my high school, and Bobbi Carter was the choreographer for two of them. Whether I was tired after a long day in stuffy classrooms, upset about an argument I had with a friend or stressed about my relationship, it all seemed to fade away in these rehearsals. There was something therapeutic about making 8-counts the center of my focus, with the sound of music drowning out all of the other cares I had.

4. She taught me how to take a break.

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Ask almost anyone I know, and they will tell you I am Type A, almost to a fault. I love to be two steps ahead, take the reins in any and all situations, and check off all of the boxes. Because of this, I tend to overcommit and overexert myself. In my first trimester in Bobbi Carter's classroom, I found it so confusing when she had us pause between parts one and two of our exam just to eat ice cream cones.

I was programmed to get the job done quickly, and I didn't realize how beneficial stopping and smelling the roses could be. Whether we had a reading day in the outdoor courtyard, took a period to address general concerns about life in the real world, or finished class with 80s music trivia, I began to realize that allowing myself time to breathe actually increased my productivity. I'm not a robot--I am a human being who needs rest, and Bobbi Carter taught me that I deserve to let myself take a break once in a while.

5. She became one of my biggest fans.

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After we took the AP exam in early May, my class spent almost two weeks working on our common application essays as our final project. Bobbi Carter emailed us our revisions at the beginning of summer and encouraged us to check back in with her as we completed the college application process. She truly wanted us to reach our fullest potential as human beings, not just as her students. When I received a 4 on my AP exam, I emailed Bobbi right away because I knew she could celebrate with me.

6. She taught me the importance of diversity of perspectives.

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Like I mentioned earlier, there was so much of the world that I had not been exposed to before entering Bobbi Carter's classrooms. She asked the hard questions, and she didn't settle for surface answers. She encouraged us to challenge the status quo, to change our point of view (even if just for a moment), and to keep an open mind. In Middle of Nowhere, Indiana, this revolutionary thought prepared me for the liberal arts education I am now receiving.

7. She treated me with respect.

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Even though I was only 16 when I became a student of Bobbi Carter's, she never made me feel like less than just because I was young. Some teachers tended to assert their dominance by reminding us of our age and inexperience, but Bobbi Carter sought to understand the way our brains were wired and how the environment we grew up in shaped us. When I spoke, I felt like she genuinely cared about what I had to say.

When she emailed my class our final grades, she attached a note to each of our papers. My note said that I was "truly wise for [my] years," and for one of the only times in my high school career, I felt understood. I struggled in high school because I felt like I was pretending to care about things that didn't really matter. My interests weren't exactly the same as most high school students, and the only person I talked to about this inner struggle with was my mom. Bobbi Carter, however, somehow saw through my facade and appreciated who I was--right down to my core.

8. She taught me to adventure.

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When talking about our spring break plans, Bobbi Carter told me she was going on her own version of "Eat, Pray, Love." Her plan was to pack a suitcase full of books, a swimsuit, and clothing suitable for various temperatures and get in her car and drive. She didn't have any hotel reservations or any destination in mind; instead, she was just going to go where the wind took her. This inspired me, causing me to realize that sometimes, it's perfectly okay to not have a plan.

9. She willingly and voluntarily cultivated a lasting relationship with me.

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After graduating high school, Bobbi Carter invited two of my friends and me to brunch at her house. These friends of mine were also in her AP language class and participated in the spring musicals.

Bobbi Carter's husband had recently accepted a job two hours away from where we all lived, and she wanted to have us all together for a meal to say farewell. All morning, we sat on her back porch talking about the huge transition we were all about to undergo. She was moving, and the three of us were going to college. Looking back, this brunch feels like the part of a coming-of-age novel where it is evident the characters lives are all radically changing. I left that brunch with a smiling soul.

She cared about us as humans, not just as students, and diligently tried to help us see the potential we had to make a great impact on the world. Even now, I know that if I needed her, Bobbi Carter is only an email or phone call away.

Maya Angelou is quoted saying, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Though she taught me to avoid cliches, I cannot think of anyone who epitomizes this quote better than Bobbi Carter. She is one of the few people who I believe ever actually took the time to see me. She taught me to believe in myself, to live life to the fullest, and to never stop learning.

Bobbi Carter taught me to become a better writer, but more importantly, she taught me how to become a better person. For that, I am forever indebted to her.


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Dear Soon-To-Be Seniors

These are a few things we'd like to tell you about Senior year.
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Dear soon-to-be high school seniors,

Goodbye. As the class of ahead of you, we've watched you grow, always one step behind us. As we graduate, there are some things I'd like to tell you about your last year of high school.

Yes, Senior year can be just as amazing as everyone says it is, if you make it that way. But don't think it's a blow-off year with no work. This year may hold some of the most stressful times of your life.Be prepared for late nights writing papers or hard tests that could make or break your graduation status. However, don't stress too much about homework. A question I often asked myself this year was, "in twenty years, will I remember staying up till 2am studying for Econ? Or will I remember a fun night with my friends?" Ok, probably not the best advice if you don't have the best of grades, but most of the time you stress yourself out for no reason and miss out on fun things.

Another thing, try to get on the college grind early. If you haven't already, start looking at colleges and applying! Then narrow it down as soon as you can. You don't want to be stressed about that decision in the last month of senior year. Honestly, the sooner you can make your decision, the happier and less stressed you will probably be.

It's not too late to join new things either; a lot of people join a sport or a club senior year and have a lot of fun because of it. So try that thing you've always wanted to join! Speaking of which, go to prom! I won't tell you prom is the best experience of your life because for some people it's not, but it's pretty amazing. Don't stress too much about getting a date, either the right guy/girl will show up, or you'll just go with your friends and still have a blast.

Don't be too rude to the underclassmen. You were that young just a few years ago. And they're the ones who usually put your senior nights together, so make sure you thank them. Also keep in mind that they are looking up to you. Remember those seniors you looked up to just a few short years ago? Be a good example. Take your place in the school as Seniors and continue where we left off; carry on the legacy of your school and be proud of it.

If your school does Kairos (or a similar senior retreat), be absolutely open to it! If it's your thing, enjoy it! If it's not your thing, still try to be open to it. You don't have to love it, but at least don't hate on it before you've even been. Bonding with your class is a big part of senior year. I made so many new friends this year that I never thought I would if it hadn't been for Kairos.

Speaking of which, be open to new friends. Whether they're seniors or not, talk to everyone. In a few months, you may never see those kids again, so it's worth getting to know them past just being friends on Facebook. Also, don't give up on dating people in your class. Yeah, there's only a few months left and you've spent the last 4 years with these people, but there might be one person out there who could change your whole year for the better if you give them the chance.

Above all, enjoy it. You only get one senior year, so make it count. Go to everything you possibly can: every football game, dance, party, musical, bonfire, etc. Enjoy wearing the jersey of your team for the last time, taking your last bow on your high school stage, and turning in your last final, because it will all be gone within the blink of an eye. You'll find yourself walking down the aisle in a cap and gown of those same school colors you thought you despised (but really, you'll secretly miss). You'll look at your favorite teachers lined up behind you and your family sitting in front of you, and most importantly your class around you, and I hope, I really hope, you don't regret a single moment of senior year.

Cover Image Credit: Anna Skog

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Please Spare Me From The Three Months Of Summer Break When People Revert Back To High Schoolers

They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

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I know a surprising amount of people who actually couldn't wait to go home for the summer. They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

Me? Not so much. I don't mean to sound bitter. It's probably really comforting to return to a town where everyone knows your name, where your younger friends want you around to do their prom makeup, and where you can walk through Target without hiding in the deodorant aisle. But because I did this really annoying thing where my personality didn't really develop and my social anxiety didn't really loosen its grip on me until college, I have a very limited number of people to return to.

If you asked someone from my high school about Julia Bond, they would probably describe her as shy, studious, and uptight. I distinctly remember being afraid of people who JUULed (did you get high from it? was it illegal? could I secondhand smoke it and get lung cancer?) and crying over Algebra 1 in study hall (because nothing says fun and friendly like mascara steaks and furious scribbling in the back corner while everyone else throws paper airplanes and plays PubG Mobile).

I like to tell my college friends that if I met High School Julia, I would beat her up. I would like to think I could, even though I go to the gym now a third of the time I did then. It's not that it was High School Julia's fault that she closed herself off to everyone. She had a crippling fear of getting a B and an even worse fear of other people. But because she was so introverted and scared, College Julia has nothing to do but re-watch "The Office" for the 23rd time when she comes back.

Part of me is jealous of the people who came into their own before college. I see pictures of the same big friend groups I envied from a distance in high school, all their smiling faces at each other's college football games and pool parties and beach trips, and it makes me sad that I missed out on so many friendships because I was too scared to put myself out there. That part of me really, really wishes I had done things differently.

But a bigger, more confident part of me is really glad I had that experience. Foremost, everything I've gone through has shaped me. I mean, I hid in the freaking bathroom during lunch for the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school. I never got up to sharpen my pencil because I was scared people would talk about me. I couldn't even eat in front of people because I was so overwhelmingly self-conscious. I remember getting so sick at cross country practice because I ran four or five miles on an empty stomach.

Now, I look back and cringe at the ridiculousness because I've grown so much since then. Sure, I still have my quirks and I'm sure a year from now I'll write an article about what a weirdo Freshman Julia was. But I can tell who had the same experience as me. I can tell who was lonely in high school because they talk to the kids on my floor that study by themselves. I can tell who was afraid of speaking up because they listen so well. I can tell who was without a friend group because they stand by me when others don't. I can tell who hated high school, because it's obvious that they've never been as happy as they are now.

My dislike for high school, while inconvenient for this summer, might be one of the best things to happen to me. I learned how to overcome my fears, how to be independent, and how to make myself happy. I never belonged in high school, and that's why I will never take for granted where I belong here at Rutgers.

So maybe I don't have any prom pictures with a bunch of colorful dresses in a row, and maybe I didn't go to as many football games as I should have. Maybe I would've liked pep rallies, and maybe I missed out on senior week at the beach. But if I had experienced high school differently, I wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't pinch myself daily because I still can't believe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I wouldn't smile so hard every time I come back from class and hear my floormates calling me from the lounge.

I wouldn't well up when my roommate leaves Famous Amos cookies on my desk before a midterm, or know how to help the girl having a panic attack next to me before a final, or hear my mom tell my dad she's never seen me this happy before.

If I had loved high school, I wouldn't realize how amazing I have it in college. So amazing, in fact, that I never want to go home.

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