Walking into school, the first day. Deep breaths. It was a new school, so I knew nobody. I clenched my fists and stayed close to my brother. When we had to split up, I kept to myself and stayed quiet. On the second day, we had classes. I went through my schedule and kept my head down. There were only unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar school.
Then I walked into history class with Mr. Shea. I was apprehensive at first, since history wasn’t my best subject. I went to the back and tried to not be noticed. Mr. Shea introduced himself and the classroom, and I couldn’t deny that he was… different. He didn’t talk down to us, but made it clear that we weren’t to act up. He had structure, but at the same time he was cracking jokes and laughing. We thought he was strange.
The next few weeks passed, and I got moved to different classes for math. That also meant I had to switch history classes. Great, I had to get to know everyone again. Little did I know that was a blessing in disguise.
The first day in that new class, I was pleasantly surprised. There were only around ten kids in that class while the other had more than twenty. I again sat in the back and kept my head down, but it’s difficult to go unnoticed in a group of ten or eleven. We were then forced to do group projects. But Mr. Shea knew the deal. That project helped me make friends and not be so quiet.
Over the course of the year, he showed us more of his teaching style. He let us work on our own, with just the right amount of guidance. We made our own decisions and thought for ourselves, and he just pointed us in the right direction. We made presentations, posters, and even little skits to help us learn the material. Other times, we had debates or just conversations that weren’t planned. Some may call it a waste of time, but I learned more from those conversations than I did from most of the class simply because I was interested in it. We talked about controversial topics that other teachers would be afraid of such as gun control or abortion.
He never talked to us like he thought he was smarter than us. In fact, he said we were probably smarter than him in some areas. He let us express our opinions and actually listened to what we had to say. He taught in a fun manner with jokes, but knew just when to reign it in and get back on topic. He made projects fun to do.
One time, he assigned themes to presentations. He assigned me and my partner the theme pringles. It made the project enjoyable, since we had to come up with analogies for pringles. It also helped us understand it better. He also did things like teach about ancient law through a mock trial. At the end, the loser got beheaded (pretend of course). We learned a lot that day, and had fun whilst learning.
He always tested us on understanding and analysis, not rote memorization. He would almost always make us write an essay for tests, which shows that he cared not about memorizing material, but that we could apply the information. He did that even when he knew it would mean more work for him.
Most important, we could just talk to him. There was a group of us that had lunch with him on certain days, and we would just hang out. He was approachable and easy to talk to because he had respect for us as people. He was more than a teacher; he was a friend. When I wasn’t confident in myself, he always would reassure me and it felt sincere.
I still have lunch with him sometimes to this day. I can still talk to him like a person who cares. So thank you, Mr. Shea. Thank you for being an inspiration and role model. Thank you for being such an amazing teacher.