Reciprocal Learning | Teen Ink

Reciprocal Learning

April 29, 2010
By Aviva Nassimi BRONZE, Great Neck, New York
Aviva Nassimi BRONZE, Great Neck, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

When I was handed back the paper, it seemed as though bright purple ink was dripping off the edges of the page. As a high school student, I have come toexpect the usual of my returned homework assignment: a few general comments, some scattered check marks, and a massive letter grade at the top of the page. However, this paper was returned to me absolutely and totally covered with my teacher's comments, suggestions, and thoughts. The entire paper--right to left, top to bottom, front to back--was glowing with her appreciated, purple words.

This was my first assignment for Ms. Farkas’s Creative Writing class. She not only returned my piece completely covered with her thoughts but she responded to the content of my poetry by referring me to other poems by published poets. Her enthusiastic and thorough notes on our work made our entire class feel like she genuinely cared. Ms. Farkas, who has been teaching at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School for four years, is not only an instructor of English and Creative writing, but also the Director of the Writing Center, as well as a class dean. She is a teacher, a poet, and so much more.

I only had the privilege of having had Ms. Farkas as a teacher as a senior; however, I had come to admire Ms. Farkas far before this encounter. The first day of freshman year was a terrifying one, especially for someone who felt completely alone. The summer prior to the start of high school had been a very hard one for my family and me. That first day, I kept my head down as I wearily trudged from class to class. When I walked down the third floor hallway I looked up to see a teacher grinning with a huge, luminous and contagious smile. I could not help but smile back and then she introduced herself to me. That same kindness and charisma were again evident in the set-up of our senior class. All the desks were arranged in a semicircle, so that she could speak to us all, keeping everyone involved and contributing. Classmates and friends, who were usually the students in the back of the room with their hoods of their eyes, were now participating. We all seized every free moment we had to work on Ms. Farkas's thought-provoking, inventive assignments.

Ms. Farkas goes well above and beyond her job requirements. Whether after school or during her free periods, Ms. Farkas can most often be found surrounded by students, and the door of the Writing Center is even said to be permanently open. Any student, no matter if he or she is a student in her class, is more than welcome to talk to her. In fact, Ms. Farkas even put up a ten-foot crossword puzzle in her office so that students will feel free to drop by. Every time I walk past her office, I cannot ignore all of her students' writing samples she proudly posts on the walls. I always wrote in a journal, but I never showed anyone my writing. She was the first person with whom I ever shared my writing, and as a result I can now call myself a published poet. During my freshman year, I spoke to Ms. Farkas every day and she helped me through not only the death of my mother but also any issues I was met with in school. She gave me the education of a world-class writing teacher, and the comfort of a life-long best friend’s ear.

Ms. Farkas has changed the way hundreds of her students write; Ms. Farkas has changed the way her students treat one another; Ms. Farkas has changed the way students feel about maintaining relationships with teachers; and, most of all, Ms. Farkas has changed my life. She is much more than simply a tremendous teacher. Inside, as well as outside, the classroom, Ms. Farkas has taught us lessons that reach far beyond academics, or writing. She has shown us what it means it to be exemplary human beings--not just as students, but also as people.

The author's comments:
When my thirteen-person Creative Writing class ended this year, I felt as if I had lost a member of my immediate family. The time I spent in her classroom, as well as in Ms. Farkas’s office, is invaluable. As a class, we will collectively cherish her words, for they are truly valued.

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