Life can be a blur, so Anna Smith is constantly seeking ways for her students to slow down, to deliberate, to ponder, and to contemplate.
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Life can be a blur, so Upper School English teacher Anna Smith is constantly seeking ways for her students to slow down, to deliberate, to ponder, and to contemplate. It's why art, music, and meditation are vital components of her English curriculum. Below is our weekly Q&A with Anna Smith, seasoned English faculty member, alumna, and Porter-Gaud parent.
1) Why are you an English teacher? Why did you want to come back and teach at PG?
Since I was a young girl, I've always known I wanted to be a teacher: I love to interact with students and to discuss literature, and I enjoy sharing my passion for ideas and for words with them.
When I was at Porter-Gaud as a student, I was intrigued by my English classes-- by the beauty of the language, by the ambiguities and complexities communicated through literature, and by the transcendent experience of reading. I wanted to do this as a profession-- to give students writing and reading comprehension skills that they could take with them through the rest of their academic careers and throughout their lives. The students, though, give me gifts each day: their fresh perspectives, their willingness to take intellectual risks, their hilarious jokes, and their successes and even sorrows. They are my energy and my inspiration.
2) What have you read lately that may have led you to tweak the way you teach? If not, what have you read recently that moved you?
I read all the time, so that's a difficult question. While I was preparing my AP course over the summer, I came across an essay by David Foster Wallace, a writer whom I have always admired, called "This is Water"; he is careful not to moralize, but he poignantly attempts to convey the spiritual experience and the potential transcendence of this everyday life. If we'll stop and see our world, we have the ability to make meaningful human connections each moment, in all sorts of ways. Foster Wallace reminds the reader that it's all about awareness, and teaching gives me so many chances to help students navigate this crazy road we call "life"-- I'm certainly not suggesting I'm the expert, though perhaps I have some wisdom of experience to impart to them.
3) Favorite three words in the English language and why?
There are so many possibilities. I think the words "ambiguity" and "complexity" and "nuance" are important words, especially in our fast-paced world that thrives off sound bites and quick judgments. These words force you to slow down-- to deliberate, to ponder, to contemplate. Oh, and a shout out to my D period AP 11th grade class-- you have to love the words "lugubrious" and "phantasmagoric."
4) As an alumni, faculty member, and parent, you've experienced PG from multiple angles - what do you see?
The fact that I have my own two daughters here means I am 100% invested in this school. I would describe it as challenging, rigorous, and dynamic, all within a nurturing, safe environment that also asks students to take reasonable risks. We truly know these students, and we genuinely care about them. And the students do the same for me; I've saved notes that students have written me over the years-- they have great hearts.
5) What is your favorite way to spend your weekends?
I love doing a nature walk with my family-- my daughter Shea especially loves Caw Caw-- and reading literary fiction. I also love to lift weights at the gym.
NEXT WEEK, WE WILL FEATURE THE AMERICAN DREAM ESSAY AND ART PROJECTS BY SMITH'S AP ENGLISH CLASSES.