Dear Lusher Parents and Students,

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and give you a sense of what you can expect over the course of the next seven months.

My name is Sean Leon. In 2002 I moved to NYC to join the NYC Teaching Fellowship. After teaching four years at a middle school in the Bronx, I was offered and accepted a high school English position at The Beacon School in Manhattan. Over the course of my eleven years at Beacon, I have taught English 9, 10, and 12 (English 10 and 12 for nine years). Interestingly, Beacon allows teachers to design their own senior English electives so I created and taught an Existential Lit course (imagine the good times in that class) and a Poetry Seminar course.

Alas, the end is built into the beginning. Over time, a dizzying homesickness and family duty called me home to Louisiana, to Lusher, to you.

Now, sitting in a Lusher classroom typing this note to you, I realize that the transition for your child may be difficult. Ms. Chellin is an amazing educator who cares deeply for her students. They know this and consequently, have great appreciation for her.

So, I thought I would take some time and words to give you a sense of what to expect this year so that you may rest easy.  My classroom is a place where literature, vocabulary, and grammar/style instruction are seamlessly integrated into the curriculum. It is a place where my students come to understand that great writing must be not only clear and concise, but also purposeful, powerful, and elegant. To this end, writing and its instruction are conscious and deliberate processes rooted in close examination of student writing as well as the writing of the greats whom we read throughout the year. As the year progresses students will develop control/mastery over the content, style and mechanics of their essays. They will be expected to pay as much attention to the nuances of writing (i.e. diction, syntax) as the argument. Don’t fret; I will teach you to that end!

Moving along… Literature instruction and discussion would satisfy both Nabokov and Vonnegut as my students and I embrace didactic and aesthetic approaches to literature. As someone who fundamentally believes that the educational experience is a human experience, I hope to help them appreciate literature as a microcosm of life that facilitates discovery and fosters empathy. I aim to have them inhale the experience of each novel, poem, and short story. I want them to “hold their breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny” as we search for meaning in literature, in self, and in the world (Nafisi). This literary approach has resulted in discussions that have accounted for some of the most inspiring and beautiful moments in my classroom. Additionally, I also expect my students to appreciate each text as a work of art wherein the author has manipulated language, as a painter would color and stroke. In both cases the artist aims to achieve certain effects. We will vigorously explore the elements and devices of literature as we critically and analytically deconstruct each text in search of meaning—in search of the literary effects.

While my voice and instruction are fundamentally critical to the foundation of my classroom, I stress to my students that their voices and perspectives are equally important. As my students immerse themselves in the world of each text, they have little trouble taking ownership of the material. For instance, at Lusher one may see some of my seniors arguing that the progressive socio-theological views of Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard are devalued today in light of their respective sexist views. One might see my sophomores parody or satirize social, economic, and/or political subjects in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. As my students take ownership of the literature, they develop a sense of confidence in their ability to analyze complex literature. So, students, embrace your interpretation and help us to see the text from your perspective using the text to give your argument credibility. While you develop a sense of confidence through embracing your voice, you are also expected to work with others and appreciate the difference of opinion that often defines a humanities course. Ultimately, I hope the intimate relationship that you develop with the content enables you to both thoroughly understand the content and thoroughly enjoy the learning process.

My expectations are high, yet I am always available to help my students meet those expectations. I rarely leave the building before five, so do not hesitate to stop by if you need help. My office hours will be held every day after school except for Wednesday. I am also available for tutoring during lunch. I love what I do and I am passionate about helping my students not only succeed but have fun and laugh along the way. Perhaps, I take most pride in the laughter and smiles that mark the landscape of my classroom. My students have been very successful in the most quantitative ways one measures success, and I understand the importance of this measure of success; yet, I also place value in the more subjective, qualitative success that is measured in laughter.

Now that you have a sense of what to expect in my class, take some time to explore the class website, BlackboardDreams.com (maybe one day I will explain the significance of the name). Please keep in mind that it is in the process of transitioning from Beacon to Lusher. You and your family can access the following on the site: homework assignments, updates on the happenings and direction of the class, complementary/supplementary materials, writing and research resources, exemplars, class forums, PowerSchool, and even a link back to the Lusher homepage!  Rest easy knowing that the site will honor Lusher’s student privacy policy. I am most excited about using this website as our e-community built on the Blackboarddreams forums. We will use the forums to examine author’s craft in search of a deeper understanding of the readings and to use those readings as a catalyst for critical discussion of our world and ourselves.

Remember, the site transition is still a work in progress and will evolve over the course of the year.  In the meantime, consider it an e-version of our class, not quite as good as the real thing (just as your e-version of your Self) but not a shabby alternative either.

So here’s to a school year that would make Dokken proud…one that is rockin’ like Dokken!

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