Jon Phinney - English and Learning Skills

I am relatively new to teaching. In fact, I think it is safe to say that Dublin itself is teaching me how to be a teacher. One thing I have learned is that teaching is continuous work that takes many forms, and can in itself be overwhelming. But it is also tremendously rewarding. I get to be an English teacher in a classroom, guiding students through complex texts, helping them learn to be better readers and writers; I get work one on one with students in the learning center, helping them with study skills; I get to coach in the afternoons, and get to share in the satisfaction of a team, in all its constituent parts, coming together. 

Jon Phinney working with 11th grade English students.

Dublin is not like other schools. The combination of academic rigor and deep community is unique: we set lofty goals, but because we have a broad range of learners and teachers, we provide many forms of support and structure. Wonder and curiosity are engines that create minds, and Dublin has many ways to engage all of these. Members of our community are encouraged to try new experiences, new avenues of discovery, new activities. And while we do this, other members of our community are there, helping us up if we fall, offering a bit of advice to try a new tack, giving us space to stumble and recover, cheering us onward.

This is a place where students and faculty and staff are asked to be flexible, even multiple, to fill various roles. I think this is wonderful because it is at least a partially intentional contrast to an unfortunate feature of too many other schools, and too many other professions, where a person is expected to find a fixed identity, or worse, a single role to fill within an institution, and labor internally to maintain this construct. Dublin frees us by demanding that we be more.

I teach at Dublin because it forces me to remember how to learn how to learn. This isn’t a typo. Teaching demands different kinds of empathy, one of which involves imagining how it feels to not understand a text or a math problem or a historical concept. So, Dublin helps me imagine ignorance, and in so doing, helps me remember all that I don’t know.

I teach at Dublin because I’m scared of not teaching, because I want to make a difference. The world is a strange place, and forcing myself to try and make sense of it, to construct a story about it that is empowering, that encourages hope by being actively engaged in shaping its future, keeps me from despair.

I teach because I am never bored when I am teaching. I teach for the intellectual contagion of a good discussion, for the rush of helping a student conceive of a new idea or come to a new understanding. I teach because it makes me a better listener, and listening is an act of affirmation. In a broad sense, teaching is a way of learning, one that demands patience and dedication and perseverance. So, teaching at Dublin forces me to be a better version of myself.