Reflection from Dan Mendez

The most significant lesson I’ve learned from teaching in Sunflower this past week has been the complexity of my students. Having never taught high school students before, I have never had the opportunity to get to know the people in my class so well. I see my Sunflower students not only during class, but while eating lunch, while walking to and from the LEAD Center, and while driving them to Ruleville for pickup. I am beginning to get a sense of their extremely various interests (e.g., K-Pop, chess, The Catcher in the Rye, the US Constitution, and fatalism), as well as their concerns and convictions. These last can often be, at least to me, quite surprising. I am learning just how much you can distort someone by trying to fit them into a readily available box. (One and the same student may, for instance, believe both that offensive speech should be illegal and that corporeal punishment is good.) And so for the first time as a teacher I am coming to appreciate how useful it can be for students and their teachers to meet each other halfway: for the students to be willing (as my students in Sunflower always are) to follow out an unfamiliar line of thought with which their teacher presents them, and for teachers really to listen to their students, in order that the lines of thought with which they present their students may be in appropriate dialogue with those students’ own.

It has been an excellent week and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of our course.

Dan Mendez is a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at Boston University. He is teaching his course on Language and Freedom at the Sunflower County Freedom Project this summer. 

Emily Gowen