Andrews ability to teach both SWS and regular English provides enriching lessons


English teacher John Andrews teaches both mainstream and SWS English classes. His ability to teach both provides enriching lessons for his classes.

Nina Rogers, Staff Writer

Do not call English teacher John Andrews interesting.

Sophomore Eve Jones is in Andrews’ C-block world literature class and believes Andrews has a unique and valuable view on the word.

“In class, he doesn’t let us use the word ‘interesting,’” said Jones. “We aren’t allowed to use it in class discussions, which I think is good because he says using the word ‘interesting’ keeps you from taking an actual stance on something.”

Andrews views the word as a placeholder and believes it often becomes meaningless when further elaboration is not done. Andrews use this little “game” to help students achieve one of his greater goals as a teacher, which is for them to find new rich ways to express them.

Andrews, who has been teaching at the high school since 2001, is both a mainstream world literature English teacher, and as of four years ago, he is also an English teacher in the School Within a School (SWS) program. Andrews’ ability to teach both SWS and regular English classes provides enriching lessons for both sets of students.

Prior to Andrews’ 18-year tenure at the high school, he worked for three years in New York City. Andrews then taught in Washington D.C. for seven years in a school predominantly consisting of immigrants and children of immigrants. This school of around 500 students and the community it created led to Andrews looking for something similar as he applied to become an SWS teacher four years ago.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be in SWS was to have a chance to know my colleagues a little bit more,” Andrews said. “I wanted to watch the same students over several years, which is an advantage.”    

Andrews was interviewed by a committee of both staff and students during his hiring process and left a lasting impression on both parties. SWS coordinator Dan Bresman was bubbling over with compliments for Andrews when describing what he added to the SWS family.

“He challenges things that need challenging,” said Bresman. “He is not afraid to speak his mind if he thinks there is something that needs to be changed.”

When asked about his opinions on teachers who teach both mainstream and SWS classes, which Andrews does, Bresman was quick to answer that he loves it. He believes that it allows the SWS staff to share their students’ experiences since they, as well as their students, are participating in both communities of the school. Andrews himself says he does not have a preference when it comes to which class he teaches.

“I don’t think I could say I like one better than the other,” said Andrews.“It’s like: what kind of dessert do you like? Do you like apple pie or chocolate cake? Sometimes you want one, sometimes you want the other but they are both pretty good.”

His ability to teach both SWS and regular classes provides enriching, but not just ‘interesting,’ lessons for the students of both classes.

Despite Andrews’ diversity of classes at the high school, he is able to use similar methods in both mainstream and SWS spaces to keep students engaged. Both Jones and junior Simon Grossman, who is in Andrews’ creative nonfiction class, mentioned discussions as a cornerstone of their respective classes, with lectures being few and far between.

Grossman attributed the close bond his class has developed to the constant discussions that Andrews has students partake in, both in regards to one another’s work and to the question-of-the-day which students are asked. And, it’s not just students who participate.

“John answers them as well,” Grossman said. “He really is as much a part of the class as he is above the class.”  

Andrews does not allow being a part of two different communities within the school change who he is as a teacher, a factor his students have picked up on.

“He is the same person,” said Grossman. “If you call him John or Mr. Andrews he is still the same guy. He is still teaching English classes.”