If you were to rank and sort my old high school according to today’s standards and test scores. James J. Ferris would rank at the bottom.
A Ghetto school whose teachers could care less about test scores and rankings. Our teachers were on a bigger mission than test scores, their standard was far bigger than any Common Core State Standard. Their goal was to make us literate adults, readers who loved and valued books. Valued books more than movies, valued reading to understand books prepared us for the best of times, and armored us for the worst of time. They Left so addicted to books that there has never been a night without reading in my life.
I remember Mrs. Sheeran saying we are going to read an amazing book. Imagine two men in love with the same woman, one about to be executed in his cell. The one she loved most was about to die. Girls, can you feel her pain? Now imagine the other who loved her so much he would give up his own life just to make her happy. She said boys all of you raise your hand if you would make the same decision? Only my hand was up. The others were you are crazy Jesse, she said not crazy, but a true Romantic. I am the books I read, and yes I am a romantic. Then she read Dickens's opening of “A Tale of Two Cities”
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Then we got lost in that opening quote for the whole class. Increasing the pacing of her lesson had no place. She regularly stopped time for us, again and again.
Then she gifted us with reading chapter one for homework. I read the whole book that night. Then each night I read each chapter anew as any True Romantic would. We love learning about the French Revolution, London, and Paris. She had us from day one and held us through novel after novel. This is how teachers did it before these high-stakes tests; hijacked the purpose for becoming literate. I hope this is the way a few still do.
Blessed by incredible teachers, Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director