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Laura Clemens

Middle School English Teacher
B.A. English Literature, Swarthmore College
M.S. Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin

Teaching Philosophy

Important skills I want to teach my students

I teach my students to read and think critically; to participate in an intellectual conversation and work collaboratively with a group of peers; to express their ideas in organized, clear essays and paragraphs; and to be good students who take full responsibility for their own work.

Teaching methods to reach these goals

I ask my students to engage in the real work of intellectuals. We read interesting texts, discuss big ideas, and debate our values. We plan, write, revise, and critique essays, presentations, creative stories and poems, and short films. We engage in simulations and use concrete projects to better understand the concepts. Frequently, we make connections between the work we do in English with the ideas and skills used in other disciplines.

My favorite projects

In the spring, the eighth grade reads Romeo and Juliet. Instead of sitting in desks discussing the text as something to be studied, we take on the roles of rehearsal actors. In collaboration with a representative from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the students get up on their feet and experience what it is like to enact Juliet or Tybalt or the Nurse. By speaking the famous lines, creating blocking, and imagining the emotional journeys of these characters, they gain a deep understanding of the play that goes far beyond learning the plot for a test. By the time they complete the rehearsal and performance process, Shakespeare is no longer strange or scary but an exciting and doable challenge.

What I like best about teaching at Seven Hills

I am continually impressed by the students at Seven Hills. Not only are they incredibly intelligent and skilled, but also they create a wonderful community of learners. I have never before experienced a group of middle schoolers who were so kind, helpful, accepting, and motivated. I feel truly lucky to have them in my classroom each day.