No Guillotine for Me


This week’s #youredustory blog topic asks, “How are you, or is your approach, different than your favorite teacher?” I have a number of favorite teachers, but the first to jump into my mind is Mr. Jaroslav (Jerry) Prosek, my French teacher at Saratoga High School. He had a larger-than-life personality who could strike fear in the hearts of homework neglecters by rapping on their desks with a long red stick. The table at the back of his room also sported a scale model guillotine that he (mock) threatened to use on rascals and ruffians.

I hope I convey the same passion for my subject that he did, but my style is definitely more inclusive and nurturing and less intimidating. My standard response to virtually every off-target response to a question is “close,” even if it’s nowhere near. Instead of a guillotine, the back wall of my room features 4″x 6″ headshots of my students and quotes they’ve submitted to inspire each other. So, in our own ways, we’ve decorated our classrooms to fit our personalities.

Interestingly, I found this question quite difficult. I strive to be as SIMILAR as possible to the teachers I admire, not different. I try to be as interested in my students’ extracurricular lives as Mr. Prosek demonstrated by brining his daughters to my gymnastics meets. I hope to engage my students as much as he did with his favorite quips. (“When colleagues tell me that the subjunctive is dead, I can only reply, ‘I wish it were!'”). Eventually, I hope to be as beloved as he was, one of the first subjects of our high school Facebook page wondering fondly “What ever happened to… Mr. Prosek.” And to his guillotine.


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