Arkansas Schools Tour 2011 - The Poe Show
Caden: The gray Chrysler Town and Country (which we have cleverly dubbed “The Raven” because that’s not an obvious joke) pulled into the Valley Springs school complex, and the first thing I saw pasted on the windows was a series of Edgar Allen Poe posters—or “Poe-sters” if you’re into wordplay (though I’m sure everyone else blogging here will make the same joke). What struck me was not so much that the students had made them for our arrival, but that each one was detailed and intricate and had a definite theme that the student presented intelligently: the theme was “Poe Knows…” and each would end with another word, such as “Love” or “Necromancy” or “Death.” Each poster was designed with that theme in mind: Love had hearts over Poe’s eyes; Haunted had several Poe portraits with the head or eyes missing from them. Chilling, funny stuff. My favorite combination.
The mere fact that these high school students showed so much interest in this show and the works of Edgar Allen Poe conveys to me that these students are not only interested in and hungry for more knowledge but that they also know how to have fun with it. This always seemed a mark of high intelligence to me. It is apparent that the Valley Springs student body has teachers that not only care but are also willing to deviate from (what are in my experience) typical high school teaching methods in order to get kids interested in the subject matter and encourage them to form an original outlook on it. The English teacher, Wes Whitaker, was not only insanely helpful with setup (including solving a last-minute technical problem) and urging his students to ask questions and participate in the workshops, but after seeing his classroom and having a few words with him, I realized he was also a teacher who would open student’s minds and encourage them to pursue interests that lie outside the norm. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it weren’t for a similar high school English teacher (looking at you, Thomas MacQueeney), who gave such assignments as writing short stories, short plays, and short films, on top of all the reading we had to do. I think the educational system works much better when teachers eliminate fear (of failure, of displeasing your elders) from the classroom and instead foster interest in whatever topics captivate the students. More Wes Whitakers in the school system would lead to more wonderful students like the ones we performed for in Valley Springs.