“It’s all about the dynamic you have in the classroom, the culture you create as a teacher,” said Community High School English I teacher Brad Brown.. “It’s all about building confidence.”
It’s a good quote to describe Community High School English I teacher Brad Brown.
“It’s all about the dynamic you have in the classroom, the culture you create as a teacher,” Brown said. “It’s all about building confidence.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Brown was on the other side of the classroom at Community. A native of Unionville, Brown attended Community; he admits he was rather a “goof ball.”
But even with his sense of humor, his high school English teacher and current BCS communication director, Carol Garrette, described him as reflective, listening to others’ thoughts, and always one to put ideas in their simplest terms.
“Brad would say, ‘Isn’t it just this?’ And it would be that, in a way I hadn’t thought about . . . . I always wanted to hear Brad’s idea because often it was a departure from any of our other thoughts,” Garrette said.
Growing up as a kid, Brown enjoyed reading the “Harry Potter” and “Goosebumps” series. But by high school, he was into the classics. During his senior year, Brown read Catcher in the Rye “and that book blew my mind,” he recalled.
Though he enjoyed English, Brown said when he started at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, he was an undeclared major.
It wasn’t until he was working his part-time job bagging groceries that he ran into Community High English teacher Amanda Lemmons. She recommended that he come and watch her teach one of her classes.
“I kind of laughed it off and asked ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Because I think you’d be really good at it.’ Didn’t consider it. Went, watched her, and it just clicked,” Brown said.
Now, Mrs. Lemmons’ classroom is right across the hallway from Brown’s. “If you know her, I don’t know if she has a bad day. She might have a bad five minutes but she’s just always so happy to be here doing what she’s doing. It’s just motivating.” Which is one of the reasons why she received “Teacher of the Year.”
At MTSU, Brown turned his major from undeclared to English and minored in education. After graduating in 2012, Brown worked at the Liberty School, teaching 7th and 8th his first two years, respectively. He moved on to high school shortly after.
“I love working with younger students, but I just wanted to be able to read and talk about things in a certain way.”
Students in this generation learn differently. “Today’s generation is definitely different . . . . They want to do things their own way and have flexibility and creativity.”
He likes to let them discuss and come to a conclusion and get to the point of understanding through self-guidance.
“That helps them when they leave my class to kind of be like ‘I know how to do this; I know how to think about this.’”
“I think now, more than ever, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual school, their stamina for reading has declined a little bit. So, the more that you can make it very easy to relate to, it’s more encouraging, rather than here’s this book, read it,” Brown said.
His first year of teaching, that kind of classroom dynamic was not there. Though he was teaching by a textbook definition “it honestly took me until Christmas my first year to be like, I don’t even feel like myself. I felt like I was pretending to be the teacher they told me to be in college.”
That second semester he started having more “real” conversations.
“A lot of the students are very reluctant, and they have no problem telling you, ‘I don’t read; I don’t like books.’ And you just have to curb it by finding what they like to read. It can take seemingly endless recommendations, but at least it’s a step up.”
Third or fourth year, he knew what he wanted his classroom dynamic to be. In his 10th year Community High Principal Robert Ralston said Brown “brings his authentic self to the classroom.”
Ask anyone to picture their high school English classroom and you conjure up images of desks in rows, a white board, and stacks of paper and leather books. But Brown’s classroom mimics a setting more like “The Central Perk” than a traditional classroom.
Students in Brown’s classroom sit in groups, either in stools, bean bags, couches, or even the floor.
“It makes it more inviting and a little more comfortable. And they can look in each other in the eye when they’re talking,” Brown said.
“Plus, I always tripped on the desks when they were in rows,” Brown adds with a bit of that humor he has.
The walls are lined with the “rebels” of literature like Hemingway and Vonnegut. “I relate to them as people and not just writers. I’m not a rebel in a bad way, but I like challenging things and doing things your own way.”
With his class, he reads books like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “MacBeth.” Then there’s “Fahrenheit 451” which he says gets him “fired up about censorship.”
“Teaching gives you the ability to impact a kid,” said Brown. “I can’t have a day where I don’t care because that could have been the day where I could’ve done something that really mattered.” But it’s not all letters and language for Brad Brown.
To escape the complexities of reading and discussing English, you’ll probably find Brown bass fishing and spending time with his wife, Meghan, a teacher at South Side, and his two young kids.
That’s life in a nutshell for Brad Brown after 10years of education. He says he will continue to encourage his students to “find their voice,” from whichever bit of literature, or life experience, it should arrive.