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Mr. Lessing
Sarah Jordan
Experiments in Reading Literature and the World
(Feelings) p. 4

Oak Park and River Forest High School exists to provide all students a superior
education so that they may achieve their full human potential (OPRFHS mission statement).
The school both succeeded and failed me. It seemed the school could only help a student if they
saw potential in certain abilities. I learned I had two kinds of potential, academic and artistic. I
found a calling outside of high school that was equally demanding. This created a tension that I
had to resolve. In third grade my parents took me out of a conventional school because
they didnt get me there, and enrolled me in a small Montessori school where learning was
individualized. I learned skills and values that prepared me to flourish intellectually in high
school. I arrived at OPRF with a passion for learning.
My parents did not exactly agree on what they expected me to learn in high school. My
dad had a fantasy that I would receive a broad, liberal education but he recently realized he
didnt get that until college. My moms hope for me was to learn how to function and learn in a
conventional school. She wanted me to be passionate about learning even if I did not have the
relationship I had with my teachers in Montessori. I surprised her because I learned how to
advocate for myself and she did not expect that to be part of the process. My ability to be self
advocating helped my teachers understand me and taught them how to help me. I was clear to
explain what help I needed and how I needed it. The school provided accommodations through
my IEP that I needed to succeed. I proved that accommodations are successful with students like
me. Usually I would request extra time for tests and sometimes ask to present or express my
knowledge in an unconventional way. I found in OPRF that many of my teachers were flexible
and wanted to help me show what I knew in a way that best reflected my abilities.
The school pushes students who are capable to take as many honors and AP classes as
possible. Taking on all honor and AP classes seems to be the only option to be challenged and be
with a stronger intellectual peer group. I succeeded best in that peer group yet the workload
would have been too overwhelming for me to have all those classes and have the time I needed
to devote myself to my dance studies.
In many of my college preparation classes the peer difference is dramatic compared to
honors and AP classes. I often felt bogged down by my peers in regular classes. I wanted to be in
a class with people who strive to try hard and succeed. I wanted to be in a class with people who
want to learn, who are intellectually curious, articulate, and open-minded people. I needed to be
classes that were intellectually demanding in school but that did not require strenuous hours
outside the class which would prevent me from studying dance at the same time. I do not think
OPRF adequately addressed this need.
It is frustrating to think that the only way to have a peer group maybe a little more
competitive; maybe its not even about competitiveness but the problem is that the high school
defines honor and AP classes by the speed of lessons and the immense amount of homework
rather than the depth of understanding. I really had to buck the stressful honor and AP trend so
that I could wholeheartedly pursue my love of ballet.
These purposes diverged when I decided to attend a ballet boarding school. Although the
school highly valued ballet as a legitimate field of study, it lacked the challenging academic rigor
of OPRF. Ballet has really impacted the way I see education, Im still trying to make a decision;
whether to place into a company immediately after high school, have a full collegiate experience,
or go to a conservatory where I can try to have the best of both worlds.
I am most proud of overcoming my ADD and staying focused and determined to succeed
and achieve the goals I have set for myself. I set the bar very high despite my parents hope that I
would learn to live with a B. Unfortunately, I received a B in Health class the summer before
Freshman year, and I am still angry about that. I am proud that I got into a college with a
Presidential Scholarship. I am proud of myself for maturing as a dancer, my teacher who is
brutally honest told me I could and should try to be in a company. I used to wonder if dance was
the only talent I possessed and thought that I could not do anything else. Now I realize that I can
do either. The only way to find out the extent of my abilities was to play a game of chance and
focus entirely on that.
I honestly did not know what to expect in Mr. Lessings Feelings class. I mean, who
names a class feelings. I definitely experienced feelings in the class. Mr. Lessing and I were the
only Jews. Meditating allowed me to quite my busy thoughts and created moments of stillness. I
learned that it is best to look inside yourself to expose the true essence of you through writing
and I think that Mr. Lessing helped do that. He encouraged us to dig deeper inside ourselves to
bring ourselves to the reality we live in and really take a minute to reflect on our lives and face
the hard parts, memories, and thoughts we keep protected. I learned to think about things that
never crossed my mind. Things, that some people keep hidden because they are sensitive topics
and it is intimidating to share something that important to you.
I think this class, in particular, strongly bonded. I have never had friendships like the ones
in Feelings that I can take away and continue to cultivate. Ive always been too shy to say that
much to people who will listen. I learned that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes. Allowing
yourself to be vulnerable doesnt make you weak, it makes you stronger. I think that Mr.
Lessings unconventional way of teaching helps us discover and understand ourselves as well as
understand others. I really appreciated that its the process and experience that is important, not
the grade.

I dont want to say that I arrived in the classroom without knowing what to expect because all
my friends had told me that I would love Mr. Lessings class. It was really interesting to me
when he had us meditate.

Oak Park and River Forest High School seems to stress goods grades in which students are
rewarded; good grades are determined by test scores. Tests make up most of the percent of your
AP classes simply prepare you to take the AP test. I believe that standardized tests and AP tests
do The stress of high test scores do not bring justice to students, like me, who are not strong test
takers because our brains are wired differently.
There is also a problem among each educational level within the school.
OPRF demands that students do everything. They encourage us to
Im not saying that I dont want to join clubs and sport teams, and outside the classroom projects
for the specific course. There is just not enough time. I wish I could do everything. I really do. I
wish I had time to pursue my visual and fine arts artistic abilities, chemistry club, AP Euro with
Ms. Young. There are so many things

I wish and want to strengthen my brain, and learn how to think. That is the purpose of learning.
Memorizing material, taking scantron tests to prove you did an assignment, should not be such
important factors in education.
Discussions, debates, digging deeper, more time and individual attention to allow students to
really understand what you as a teacher is trying to teach.

Teachers should not impose students with their ideas as facts, but allow for students to explain
why they do or do not agree. By asking questions or bringing up topics students have never
thought about before is a way to teach us how to think. And to think while putting meaning to the
subject, put some value to the question why are we learning this? Isnt teaching a student to think
the mission the school aims for. To prepare us? If authority is shoving rules and facts down our
throats and drilling things into our brains dont we become automatons?

In nature nurturing entails safety, but when there is a crack down on safety in response to one
incident when a student makes a mistake, or makes an irrational decision, and we punish the
entire student body, this safety demolishes and weakens a nurturing environment.

Ballet demands an average of twenty hours a week. And ballet does not have an off-season like
most sports.

It is impossible to do everything and meet the expectations of what the school, parents, teachers
and peers, society, stresses on a student. It is overwhelming and can break a student.
If a student is struggling with behavioral issues, for example, reprimanding them and punishing
them should not be the answer. It is the adults responsibility to be patient and help the student
find their way rather than scolding them and degrading them or pushing them down, keeping
them from succeeding. I know some teachers are sadistic enough to provoke and torment a
student into submission, because they want to see them fail.
Even when it is hard teachers should never give up on a student. Students in high school are still
children. American society wants us to grow up too fast and put on a face to show we are ready
to conquer the world.

t is exploring that realm of study.
If you have a gift you have to use it. Dad.

What kind of knowledge was prized in class?

What is the knowledge you believe is worth knowing?

Did you learn more in school, or in some extracurricular activity, or even talking among friends
outside of class?