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

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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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade.

I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass, and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school, and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone, it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach:

Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off," and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake, I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself, not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, but you also turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It's about the players.

You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won't have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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To The Senior Who Thinks They WON'T Miss High School, You're So Wrong

It's hard to imagine you will miss a place like high school, but believe me, you will.

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I am writing this letter because, yes, this was me.

I could not wait to get out of high school. I hated the monotony of all my classes. I hated teachers who assigned busy work just to try to make it through the 50-minute class period. I hated being told when I could eat when I could leave and what I could wear.

I couldn't wait to graduate and get to college. The thought of creating a schedule for myself and getting to choose the classes I take seemed too good to be true. I continued to see people become sad at the end of high school and I couldn't help but think, "How could I ever miss high school?"

The truth is, you don't. I don't miss all the torturous monotony of high school, but it is naive of me to say that I don't miss some things.

To the tough guy like me who thinks you will graduate and never look back, here's what you will miss.

You will miss your friends.

Chances are more than 50 percent of your friends will not be going to the same college as you. Even the ones that do go to the same school will most likely have different majors than you, and let's face it— they might as well be a world away. You'll begin to appreciate your high school friends more and more. After all, those are the friends who knew and loved you through your awkward phase.

You will miss your teachers.

Until I got to college, I never realized how meaningful the relationships I had built with my high school teachers were. In college, you lose the environment where all of your teachers knew your name. While you might not miss certain high school teachers, you will miss the ones with which you built important personal relationships.

You will miss your family.

The family is involved in your high school career way more than you expect. Parent nights, grandparents' day, extracurricular activities. Your family, immediate and extended, are involved in your high school career in so many ways. When you get to college, you realize that it's all upon you. You won't have a parent signing all of your failed math tests. You won't always have a parent at your extracurricular activities.

You won't miss high school. You will miss the amazing people around you that helped you make it through your four torturous years of high school. So, if you're a graduating senior or even underclassmen, take a moment to appreciate the people in your life right now, because I guarantee you will miss them.

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