A Request To Former Students From Me As I Enter Year 20 of Teaching 

Actually, it’s more than one request. 

Officially, pre-planning for the 2017-2018 school year starts next week. And yes, I am looking forward to it. I love what I do and where I get to teach. 

In the nineteen years that I have taught, I estimate that I have taught upwards to 3000 students, graded tens of thousands of essays (AP Lang will do that), taught over a 200 different novels, plays, and longer works of nonfiction, and written hundreds of unique college recommendations. There is not a grade level that I have not taught – remediation to advanced. 

I would do it all again. But I am in a place of  reflection and I would like some perspective from those who have been in my classes. 

So I want to see if any of my former students would let me know the following if you are willing to offer your answers in the comments of this blog post or on Facebook or any other means. 

What work of literature or nonfiction was your favorite that you have never forgotten its impact?

What assignment still stands out as one that really made you think and extend yourself? 

What skill did you learn from class that has served you well?

Do you remember where in the classroom you sat?

I am thinking of posting on my blog the “Items of the Week” every Sunday night for those who know what they are (AP Lang students).  Do you think that would be a good thing?

Again, do not feel you have to answer but I would like to know. And if you would be so kind to share with others that you know who might have had me as an English teacher. 

I sincerely appreciate your help, feedback, and time. 

But mostly, I am grateful to have been a part of your lives. 

6 thoughts on “A Request To Former Students From Me As I Enter Year 20 of Teaching 

  1. My favorite work of literature would have to be “Heart of Darkness” even though it was without a doubt that hardest book I’ve ever read.

    The assignment that stands out to me the most is the one where you had us pick a song that we liked and decipher it. I picked an Eminem song of course.

    I learned how to really BS my way through a paper if I couldn’t find enough things to talk about to make my points.

    I sat in the back left when looking in the classroom two seats from the back.

    I don’t think that posting the “Items of the week would be a bad thing” I always looked forward to you giving us those because you made news into a tolerable form for our generation.


  2. Egan,
    I would love to answer your questions for you.
    1. Two of my most favorite works of literature in your class were the Great Gatsby and the Crucible. It could just be because I’m a theater person but you often don’t study a whole lot of plays in the English classes that I’ve had, and I feel like that can be a good way to broaden students horizons to different styles of literature. The Great Gatsby is a classic (also a play I’ve worked) and I think it has a lot to offer students in terms of America and their own inner truths.
    2. The only assignment I can really remember is the Rattler essay. As much as we hated returning to it throughout the year, I believe the impact it had in terms of us discovering our own growth was astounding. The practice AP tests also helped considerably when preparing for that daunting exam.
    3. In your class I grew significantly in both my capabilities and understanding of different styles of writing. I also learned the importance of being connected to what is happening around you which made me love items of the week. Often, we will forget to pay attention to the broader world around us and just knowing one current event can lead to so many stimulating and engaging conversations with anyone you may come across.
    4. Of course I remember where I sat, it was right under the phone because I pretty much hit my head every time I leaned back slightly. I had a good corner spot so that I could see all of the fun and interesting things hanging up around your room.
    5. I would love for you to blog items of the week. Not only is it a good way to be connected, but I could also assume that we will get more of your sense of humor and sarcasm along with it.
    Thank you for being such an amazing part of my life, and the lives of many other students along the way!!


  3. 1. I always remembered the short story “A&P” by John Updike. I had not read many short stories before that one and I was entranced by the author’s ability to capture a moment in time in such a concise and succinct way. I also remember your way of reading aloud that captured my attention. I went out and bought a book of short stories after reading this in class.
    2. I remember the essay where we were able to choose a song and decipher it as we would an essay. I loved your way of qualitatively grading us and not limiting us to strict ideas or guidelines.
    3. I think a skill that I learned would be to look at the world around me in a more perceptual way. You taught us how to synthesize what was happening around us and not to let the world pass you by. Being an active part of each moment. You taught us not only to be good students, but to be good people. That’s invaluable.
    4. I do remember where I sat. To the left when you walked in there were 3 or 4 rows of 3 seats. I sat in the last row next to the solo desk, if I remember correctly.
    5. I did not take AP Lang with you, I had Serang, only AP Lit. Not much help on this last one.
    Thanks for all that you do!


  4. 1. I’ve always loved reading and I have gotten something out of almost every book I’ve read, but the book I remember most is actually one I hated and vividly remember voicing to you that I hated it many times. Heart of Darkness was (to me) morbid and dull and sad, but I’ll never forget what you told me. “Figure out how you connect to it and go from there.” It was good advice, not just for class but for life in general.

    2. It’s been about 5 years since I stepped into your classroom and I still remember that Rattler essay. It was the first time I remember feeling really challenged in an English classroom as usually that was one subject I didn’t have any trouble with. It motivated me to work harder and reminded me not to get complacent and to always push myself.

    3. It’s not that I didn’t learn academic skills in your class like essay construction and vocabulary and the like, but the things I learned on a personal level I feel are far more important. So here they are:
    Don’t be a jerk.
    Nerds are cool.
    Being kind is always the better option.
    Curiosity is a gift, so question things.
    Stand up for yourself, respectfully when you can but always firmly.
    Being different is a strength, not a weakness; you’ve just got to figure out how to use it.

    4. Second seat from the back on the row closest to the door. And then in Speech and Debate third row from the far wall second seat from the back again.

    5. I think blogging the Items of the Week is a great idea, it offers a new platform of discussion.


  5. 1. Despite the impact Heart of Darkness had on my perception of how nuanced and impressive a work of literature could be, in retrospect, I believe the work with the greatest impact on how I view writing was Crime and Punishment. It showed me that you can have a work of literature with greatly refined and meaningful prose without sacrificing relatable characters or a simple plot structure. It showed me that literature could be enjoyable through and through, if only I’d let it be, which has changed my philosophy of reading and writing for the better even long after I’ve last read it.
    2. The assignment(s) that forced me to really try more than any other, at least as far as skills related to literature analysis, were several of the poetry analyses, specifically the shorter ones. Given such a small amount of content to plumb, I was forced to dig deep and find the meaning in these poems, where with more longform works like plays or novels, I had the option to fixate on extraneous details. Of those poems I analyzed, I can still recite multiple lines from heart, such was the impact they had on me once I understood the breadth of their meaning.
    3. In your class, I learned so much not only about critically reading literature, but about so many other art forms as well. The fundamentals of critical analysis can be applied to visual art, animation, cinematography, game design, and probably any other medium with a creative vision in it. I feel like I enjoy film and art on a much more fulfilling level than I might have if it weren’t for your hand in my education. I think a lot of this can be chalked up to the book “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” which I earnestly hope you continue to prescribe to new students.
    4. I sat in the front seat of the third or fourth column from the outer edge of the building.
    5. I’ve liked your takes on recent events in this blog, and I could never say no to more Egan in my life, so I would be glad to have the option of seeing the Items of the Week, assuming it isn’t much of a time investment
    I hope things are going and continue to go great for you; you more than almost anyone I know certainly deserve it.


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