On a recent plane flight, I re-watched the classic Jack Black film School of Rock. It’s always been one of my favorite movies, and I even wrote a college application essay about Black’s character, Dewey Finn. Back when I wrote that paper, I had no intention of ever working in education. I apparently didn’t have great foresight. In case you haven’t seen the movie by now, the basic plot of School of Rock is that Jack Black steals the identity of his substitute teacher roommate to earn rent money, and winds up sharing his passion for music with the 3rd grade students in his classroom. Aside from the identity theft, I noticed that my experience at Bishop Loughlin this year has shared some odd similarities with the film.
At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know where or how to “start” in my role as a tutor. I wanted to meet and connect with the students, but not having any students that were required to come see me made that more difficult. After a couple of days, I jumped into a conversation between one student and the librarian, Mr. Frank, who were talking about TV reboots. I brought up the Netflix Voltron series, and the student’s eyes went wide as she asked me “You watch Voltron?” From that point forward, I was in. My connection with that student led to conversations with other students about topics ranging from fast food to sports. In a similar way to School of Rock, I was first able to connect with my students by sharing my passions with them.
From there, it was a short trip to trusting relationships. Because my students found that we shared interests, they could see me as not just some random educator, but as a person who is really there to help them and be present with them. Once that was established, my students had no reservations about asking me to help them study, write papers, apply to colleges, or just talk about life. Not only do my students now trust me, but I trust them too. I feel comfortable giving them extra responsibility, delegating certain things to them, and asking them to take leadership. For example, I have asked some of my “regulars” to help me tutor when multiple students need help in different subjects. I may not be forming a rock band with them, but those trusting relationships have been transformative for me.
I find that the most effective education happens when that trusting dynamic is present. When I have a more personal relationship with a student, I can tailor my tutoring to that student and their interests, making our work more meaningful for both of us. This is how I try to live out my Lasallian commitment to “touch the hearts” of the people I serve, and I don’t think I can accomplish that without allowing my heart to be touched as well. A scene near the end of School of Rock almost perfectly echoes this sentiment, showing how profound education can be when students and educators are open to the humanity in each other.
When I wrote my college application essay, I only wanted to emulate School of Rock musically. However, I am now living out the film through the relationships I have built with my students. For me, the passion and trust that have led to my most effective moments of education are what the Lasallian ideal of a “human education” is all about.
JT Taylor is first-year LV serving at Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, NY and a 2017 graduate of St. Mary’s College of California.