By LJ Scurfield, Middle and Upper School Teacher
Arriving at Westtown fresh from college, I had no idea what to expect. Nothing could have prepared me for this year and how profoundly it would affect me. I did not come to Westtown expecting that it would change me; in fact, I was very hesitant about the decision since I had no support system in the area. However, the light that shines through the people in this place breathed new life into me, and Quaker testimonies deepened my introspective understanding of myself. When I return home, I espouse my belief that the Quakers got it right, that religion is supposed to be this way. The delicate harmony that echoes throughout the Meeting House every Wednesday became a calming a force, gently nurturing my soul and feeding my spiritual appetite. I will cherish this and take it with me for the rest of my life. In today’s world of multi-tasking and overworking, I almost forgot to take a step back and remove myself from that world, but this year has changed my spiritual attitude forever.
On the teaching side of the year, I felt privileged and lucky because I had the most amazing group of kids for my first class. Yet, I suspect most Westtown teachers would say that about their classes. The year started off both bad and good for me. Emotionally, I was in a confusing time in my life – I was struggling with identity and who I should be as a young adult. But once I became comfortable with myself, I was able to relax. Pedagogically, I began the year very well. My first semester was filled with lessons that were poignant and effective. During the second semester, I wanted to try more new things in the class, particularly in project-based learning. Unfortunately, I am not sure about the success of these attempts – for some students it worked well but others struggled with the material more than the first semester. I learned more in the second semester from the less effective lessons than from the excellent ones in the first semester; tweaking these lessons and projects for next year motivates me to become a better teacher.
Finally, my year ended on a high note when Spencer Gates and I co-taught an English elective on banned books. To work side-by-side with a master of the craft of teaching enabled me to absorb so much pedagogy and many life lessons by osmosis. Spencer infuses his classes with enthusiasm and dedication. I loved working with him, and he taught me the most important lesson that I have learned in my life. Before any class where we were unsure what would happen, he would say, “Well, the worst thing that will happen is that it will be a complete disaster.” It’s okay to fail – not every lesson will be phenomenal, and you cannot expect brilliance out of the class every time. If something does not work, pick yourself up and try again tomorrow. Students remember the good lessons, not the bad ones, and so that is how I will remember this year. I had some low lows, but my triumphs were great, and I would not have succeeded without the help, support, and love from this wonderful Westtown community.