Thursday, December 29, 2011

A student's take on suspended teacher (LA Times)


Link to LA Times story about column "Student defends teacher caught with pot":

By Dashiell Young-Saver
There were three types of kids at summer school: those who hated school and failed their classes, those who loved school and needed extra room to take more classes, and those who had nothing better to do.
I walked onto campus the summer before my freshman year at Westlake High School to take a required course, health. I wasn’t a particularly unhealthy kid (although my current strict diet of red meat and french fries suggests otherwise), and I wasn’t interested in taking more classes than I had to. I was a kid who had nothing better to do over the summer.
On the first day, high school seemed scary. The buildings were big, the students were big, and I was small.
Before class started, all the smart kids who were trying to take more classes talked quietly in their corners using big, intimidating words. The kids who failed their classes yelled loudly in their corners using much smaller, but equally intimidating, words. And the rest of us walked around, using no words, looking intimidated.
I couldn’t see much hope for the next four years.
Finally the bell rang and I went to health class. I honestly wasn’t expecting much: maybe a few more state-funded “Just Around the Corner” videos about puberty and a semi-scary talk about how smoking leads to a robot-voice, but not much else.
Thanks to my great teacher though, I was mistaken.
Courtney Stockton, the WHS teacher who was recently accused of having less than an ounce of marijuana in his car on campus, was my teacher that summer for health.

His teaching methods were as ordinary as his first name is masculine. He talked, just talked, for whole class periods about the nature of life, as if it was a course in philosophy.
His lectures may have started off with health-related topics like the negative effects of drugs, but he eventually would find a tangent and run with it. The class never got bored.
He talked about the s t ruc tur e s of time and space according to a physics professor he heard on the radio. He talked about meeting his wife at a camp. He talked about swimming in an Olympic pool.
No matter what topic, he had a ton of stories in stock. But he always had a method to his madness— each lecture had a purpose, a logical and lucid flow that helped the students retain the material.
At lunch, the kids from other health classes said they had fallen asleep after the last lecture on sleeping. All of Mr. Stockton’s kids would talk about his different stories and somehow relate them back to the topic at the beginning of the lecture.
Mr. Stockton turned a boring curriculum into an interesting class, and, at the end of the day, we learned the same stuff and probably retained more of it than the bored classes did.
Plus we learned a little about life according to Mr. Stockton. He was my first high school teacher and was one of my best.
Mr. Stockton’s anti-drug teachings and his recent alleged drugrelated actions may be contradictory; however, his actions may actually add to his teachings.
His alleged drug possession has led to his suspension, a true testament to his health lessons of how drug use will hurt someone in the long run. And I’m sure he will use this story of his suspension to teach kids in the future before moving on to some memorable tangent in his lectures.
So, as the district decides how to act with regard to Mr. Stockton’s alleged possession of marijuana, I hope that it takes into account that he was, and still is, a great teacher.
Students need his ability to make the classroom interesting, and they need to hear this story, along with the rest of them, firsthand.
Dashiell Young-Saver is a senior at Westlake High School. He is a regular Acorn contributor.


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