By | Alexandra McLaughlin ’16

“To me, teaching is really just figuring out how to love each of your students, even when they sort of can’t stand you.”             —Lucy Short

During a recent fire drill, as Lucy Short ’15 (St. Louis) led a group of high school sophomores in Providence, R.I., to the tennis courts, one of them said, “Ms. Short, you kind of look like a student!” Though Short pretended to be flattered, the observation hit close to the truth: she graduated from Macalester four months earlier and is only seven years older than most of her students.

As part of her practicum semester at the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at Brown University, Short teaches 10th grade Honors World Literature at an urban public school down the street from her house. She teaches two hours a day and observes the rest of the time. Under the guidance of her mentor teacher, Short designed her own unit, including a Socratic seminar on Kendrick Lamar’s “i”.

“Teaching is an out-of-body experience for me,” said Short. “I’m a pretty shy person. It’s hard for me to take charge in a classroom. Naturally, part of my teaching philosophy revolves around listening. Maybe that student has his head down because his brother got into a car accident this weekend or something another student said in the discussion was really triggering. I am constantly reminded of the importance of checking myself and asking my students how they are doing before assuming anything.”

Majoring in American studies at Macalester pushed Short to think about systems of power, which influences the way she enters the classroom. “The other members of my cohort joke that I’m weirdly calm in the classroom. I think that has a lot to do with how Macalester encouraged me to question teachers as experts. I try to be real with my students. Most of the time, they appreciate that.”

Along with student teaching, Short takes two classes: Analysis of Teaching and Psychology of Teaching. She spends most evenings reflecting, planning lessons, and reading for class. “Graduate school feels much more high stakes than undergrad,” said Short. “I am working with 27 fifteen year-olds on a daily basis. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

Last year, when Short’s mentor and adviser Professor Duchess Harris suggested the MAT program at Brown, Short hesitated. “Graduate school was not on my radar at the time,” she said, “but everything sort of fell into place. My best friend got placed for City Year in the same city, so we decided to take a leap together.”

Short misses her friends and professors from Macalester. “I’ve begun to realize that my Macalester community is irreplaceable.” At the same time, Short appreciates her supportive cohort and program director at Brown.

“The MAT program has made me realize how much I actually want to teach high school,” said Short. “My students this semester and over the summer have blown me away. Teenagers are brutally honest. My students are also incredibly brave, passionate, and brilliant. I cry about my students. I write about my students. I even dream about my students most nights. To me, teaching is really just figuring out how to love each of your students, even when they sort of can’t stand you.”

On Fridays, Short hands out poetry and self-love homework. “I guess I’m that mushy teacher,” she said. “I’m really into playlists and motivational speeches. I used to think that I wanted to be a professor. Now, that’s on the back burner. I think I want to stick with teenagers for a while. They really speak to me.”

October 20 2015

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