By: Nadya DeFreitas
Mr. Seymour is one of my absolute favorite teachers at Shorecrest and that is why I was so excited to write this article about him for “Classroom Spotlight”.
Mr. Seymour’s class is heavily discussion based and focuses on not only teaching students how to become better at English but also to be better humans. He teaches valuable life skills through his assignments and class discussions. I had the privilege to ask him a few questions and here are his responses:
What projects have your students done so far, and what one do you think shows off their creativity the best?
Some of the projects Mr. Seymour does in his class are Gamified Gilgamesh, This I Believe Speeches, and the infamous Othello Project.
Gamified Gilgamesh is new to his class this year. In years prior, Mr.Seymour would teach Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey in tandem with Gilgamesh; however, he was finding that in recent years a lot of students had already learned it, so he decided to flip it. Instead of teaching the students this “hero’s journey”, he said, “you teach me”. To put them into a creative spin he asked them to take the adventure of Gilgamesh and apply the concepts of Joseph Campbell to turn it into a game. All of his students demonstrated understanding of Joseph Campbell’s ideas perfectly and had a fun time doing it. Some projects included scavenger hunts around campus, board games, and many more. It is important to note that he did take all COVID precautions when doing so.
Back to the original question of creativity, Mr.Seymour said, “Gamified Gilgamesh is engaging for class material and shows off their creativity the best. But getting them [his students] in touch with things they actually care about is This I Believe”.
Of course, after hearing that I had to know more. How does a TIB speech work in times of COVID/in general?
Every year 10th grade students have to write a “This I Believe Speech” about anything they want. After they chose a topic, they present it in front of the class. This year things got a little bit complicated. Typically, when students give these speeches, friends and other students like to stop by; however, given COVID restrictions Mr. Seymour had to change their normal venue. This year, the students gave their speeches in the JRT. Of course he acknowledged that speaking in the theatre was a much more daunting task than just presenting in the classroom. Instead of looking out to a sea of spinny chairs you see the big auditorium. While it was scarier, he says all of his students really stepped up to the challenge— including the flexers. Including the Flex students. They too had to present in the JRT. Flex students were projected onto the screen in the theatre and gave their speech just as if they had been in person. He wants his students to “make friends with public speaking”. It’s a life skill that will help one succeed.
The last project the students do during the year is the Othello project. In a normal school year students are supposed to get together and film a scene from the play Othello. Last year, when COVID first hit, Mr. Seymour’s 10th grade class was getting ready to do this project. Due to the global pandemic, Mr. Seymour had to pivot and change his original way of doing the project which he used again this year. Instead of having all the students get together to film, they are now allowed to film their scenes separately and just splice them all together. And for those students who aren’t as comfortable with being in front of the camera he came up with an alternative—using Minecraft/Roblox. Instead of just recording, students now have the option to use Minecraft or Roblox animation to design the scene then use a voiceover to portray the characters. Of course, he wanted to make the grading system fair, so he says,
“If you’re gonna do live action, it’s ok that you’re not an actor. But if you’re not going to be on camera/memorize lines. You need to know what you’re talking about. You have to make the audience feel it”.
Besides projects I asked some questions about his class in general and how COVID has affected it. I asked, What assignment do you think challenges your students most?
He said the discussion piece in class is perhaps the hardest, and is the thing that took the hardest hit because of COVID. Because of the social distancing protocols, he can’t arrange the class into proper small group discussions. Instead of being in a small group, the whole class is now apart of the discussion. He says regardless of the COVID changes, “because interpersonal exchange part of learning is so pivotal to learning’s the hardest part.” .
To help get the students comfortable with this new set up he has been doing activities to help students prepare for class discussions. While this is a small thing, it has helped many students feel more comfortable with what they’re doing in class and it also helps them prepare for college. He says he based his course off what students are going to have to do in college when you take a big class. For those of you, like me, who don’t know what college is like just yet. When you join a big class, you also have to sign up for a study/conversation session. This is all about what you say in regards to what goes on in the big class and participating is the main difference between an A and a C.
Overall, Mr.Seymour says, “preparing is the lifeline that will give you the confidence to share your thoughts.”
How are you keeping your in-person and online classes in sync?
Mr.Seymour is keeping them in sync by doing live classroom sessions with students on WebEx. He also has “fully embraced powerschool”. He said how he and the majority of Shorecrest community members know how to use Powerschool so by utilizing all of it’s features really helps with class organization. Along with this, whenever he does class he tries to be even more engaging than usual so that it translates to the flexers over WebEx.
What are the biggest pros/cons of COVID on your typical lesson plan?
He said the biggest pros of COVID is that “it makes a lot of teachers, including myself, rethink what we’re doing and revamp our system. Also it gave the students that were on campus a sense of comradery. It really made us appreciate what we do here, it reveals what we’ve been taking granted”
Then as mentioned before, the biggest cons are that there are no more in class discussions, and he’s unable to reach the flexers as much as he’d like.
Opportunity and duty see things from other perspectives is really
Due to COVID and the social distancing requirements Mr.Seymour had to alter this set up.
To finish off the interview I asked him:
What is your life motto in regards to teaching?
He says it’s :“be a conduit not an obstacle”
What is one piece of knowledge you want all your students to leave your class knowing?
“That their prepared and to trust in themselves. Even if they paid a little bit of attention their prepared. They’re ready. To go into the world with the confidence that you know you’re ready and can handle this stuff. Adulting is hard but we all get the hand of it eventually”
And when I asked if he had any additional things he would like to say to his students:
“I’m sorry not sorry, that I beat up on their writing so badly”
He says, “I know it’s a gut check when kids have gotten that first paperback and I have taken points off for literally everything. But I do this to prepare them for future”
I loved having Mr.Seymour as my teacher and I know tons of others who feel the same way. Thank you Mr.Seymour for all you do, and for letting me interview you.