by: Letty Rahman
This semester I have had the pleasure of taking a course by a fabulous teacher, Professor Elizabeth Forester (Ms. Forester to everyone who knows her). Now, Ms. Forester is not your typical teacher. For one, she is tough. I don’t mean tough like she’ll beat you up. I mean she doesn’t let you ever take the easy way out. I’m quite certain she has never seen a Scantron in her life. She probably doesn’t even know what they are. No, Ms. Forester’s tests are all-essay, and you’d better know your stuff when you walk in because it isn’t going to be fill-in-the-blank kind of questions.
On top of that, test time isn’t the only time you’d better be prepared in Ms. Forester’s class. Every time you walk in those doors, she is going to push you and tease you and pull every nugget of information and understanding out of you. You would be surprised how often students say things they didn’t even know they knew in that class.
Strangely, I have noticed several types of students in Ms. Forester’s classroom. There is one type I feel the most sorry for. They took one look at her syllabus and dropped the class. Oh, yes, in the classroom she fully lives up to her reputation as a slave-driver. At first that scared me too, but I had to have the class so I didn’t have a choice to leave. I’m so glad now that I didn’t. I think it was Divine Providence or something that kept me there.
Why? Because I’ve learned so much–yes, about poems and Jane Austen, but more than that, I’ve learned about life. I’ve learned that the things we learn in different classes like chemistry and history and even math can fill in and fill out who we become as people. They are not ultimately about this piece of knowledge and that piece of understanding. They are about the whole that we become by learning them.
Take, for example, the poems and books we are reading in Ms. Forester’s class. I won’t lie to you. The Browning poems were a challenge, but Ms. Forester didn’t just stand up there and talk about iambic pentameter and rhyme. She taught us how to understand the meaning of the words. Like the one line about Shakespeare and how he was brave enough to put his thoughts and his understandings on paper. How the person writing the poem thought Shakespeare was crazy for letting people into his world that far, but how, in fact, it was because he let them in that his name has been immortalized throughout the centuries.
Then there’s the whole Jane Austen thing, which I personally thought was… well, whack, to begin with. I mean who cares about these people who think women can and should be bought and sold like cattle? However, as we’ve read and understood and learned, I realized it’s not about that. It’s not about the fairness of that society. It’s about people who are trying to be themselves and learn and grow in spite of those rules and rigidity or maybe in defiance of them.
It’s so interesting to me because I sit here trying to explain what Ms. Forester has given to me as a teacher to a student, and it’s all right there in my mind like I can touch it and grab onto it and give it to you. But when I start to write it down, it’s like I can’t capture it. Maybe it can’t be captured in words. I don’t know.
What I do know is that Ms. Forester has changed my life. She has shown me a world I didn’t even know existed, and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like that. In Ms. Forester’s class you are not a number. You are not a lump of flesh who happens to be sitting in a desk. You are a person. A real, live person with a history and a story of your own. In fact, I’ve learned to even look at people differently, to read who they are and where they are with life through this class.
I wish I could explain that, but maybe you just have to sit in her classroom and absorb who she is and what she can show you to ever really understand. I just wish every student was lucky enough to take her class and to stay long enough to realize that they have something worth sharing as well.
Buy “If You Believed in Love”