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A Reflection on Faculty Reflections

Juan Lopez '22 Assistant News Editor
A chance for teachers to volunteer to speak at Assembly has newly arisen this year at Hopkins; the speeches are called Faculty Reflections.
The Faculty Reflections program allows teachers to express their love for the subject they teach as well as for their students. With minimal restrictions, teachers are able to connect with students and communicate a message that would only be heard otherwise by the students they are able to teach; however, the teachers only have five minutes to speak.

Erika Schroth, Director of Choral Music, presented her reflection during a winter Assembly. Schroth found it difficult to fit so much into a short amount of time. She said, “It's more difficult figuring out what to leave out! There are lots of things that I care about related to my work. I tried to focus on the thing that I find most essential: fostering a deep sense of empathy and vulnerability. This makes us kinder and more compassionate citizens of the world.”

Classics teacher John Anderson also presented his reflection this winter. Experiencing the problem of wanting to say a lot in a short period of time, Anderson stated, “I actually had more that I wanted to say, but as you only have five minutes, you have to make sure it's tight without being dense. Always a balancing
act. On the other hand, if what you have to say isn't so helpful, your audience is relieved that it was only five minutes. I think that our school has a tendency to be overly results-oriented. I worry that students think that in some way not all of who they are matters in achieving those results. I wanted to remind students that they matter no matter whether the results are achieved; their importance is absolute.”

Some students were appreciative of Anderson’s message. Max Gordon ’22 said, “At times it feels like the only thing Hopkins cares about is your grades. A’s are seen as gold and B’s as silver. One is obviously more valuable and sought after. Mr. Anderson’s speech was the start of a conversation that is needed at Hopkins. Hopkins needs to relieve the idea from the minds of students that results are the only things that matter and instead promote that things like mental health matter just as much.”

Anderson’s reflection focused on how to show his love and support for his students: “I guess my concern is how that love is expressed. Students are incredibly sensitive to the messages we teachers send. I've heard on countless occasions from students that Mr. So-and-So hates us or Ms. So-and-So thinks our class is hopeless. Over time I've wondered how I can make sure that my students don't pick up that message from me. I want them to know that I care and that I'm not giving up on any of them. I certainly find myself giving students more positive feedback and reinforcement than I think I did earlier in my time at Hopkins. I try to remind students that grades aren't everything, even though I'm aware that I can’t help but send a mixed message due to my role as a teacher.”

Schroth centered her speech around how to use vulnerability as a tool to learn to become better people and create better connections with others. As she explained in her speech, “Being vulnerable is hard. We protect ourselves in many necessary ways; from the world, from other people, from fear of messing up, of not seeming strong, or in control, or on a path to success. Our defenses, day to day, are strong. Singing requires us to allow a crack in those defenses, for our vulnerability to show, and it is uncomfortable, and unsettling. When one person needs to breathe, the person next to them sings, to keep the sound going, and the favor is returned later in the phrase.”

The new Faculty Reflections program seems to be well received by the Hopkins community, as many students find the reflections a positive way to start out their day. Matthew Booth ’22 said, “I can’t speak for all of Hopkins but having teachers speak in Assembly, motivating and showing care beyond the classroom, makes my day and sometimes my week much more positive by knowing I have support from a community.” Annie Burtson ’21 agreed with Booth, stating, “The Faculty Reflections influence my Hopkins experience because I feel a closer connection to the adults around me. My classes seem to have a greater purpose than just learning the information. [The Faculty Reflections] make the teachers seem much more human (for lack of a better word). I feel more connected to my teachers and now better understand that they truly care about us as individuals.”

Some students also believe the Faculty Reflections are a great way to learn new things about their teachers. Burtson said, “I look forward to hearing the teachers speak about their experiences. They are all unique. They provide me with the opportunity to better understand a teacher I would otherwise not have the opportunity to know. I really enjoy the Faculty Reflections because they provide me with new information about teachers I know and don’t know. It is really
interesting to learn about the things that inspire the teachers and how they apply it to their teaching.”

The next Faculty Reflections include English teachers Ian Melchinger on February 7 and Alexandra Kelly on February 24.
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