Teaching Inside: March Madness

I think every educator knows that March is a time when EVERY SINGLE STUDENT IS A MANIAC! They see the end of the semester in sight and it’s like their neurotransmitters all begin to misfire at exactly the same time. Without fail. In the prison classroom, it is absolutely no different LOL! These guys were ALL over the place during March, but they still managed to make me pause and reflect.

March 10

So, part of the challenge of teaching in a pre-release facility is knowing that guys will (and, great for them!) go home before you think you’ve made the impact you want to make.

Tonight, a guy who works his ass off and who, with 20 minutes to prepare with his group, drew a neuron (and dendrites, and the nucleus, and the axon, and the myelin sheath, and the nodes of Ranvier, and the axon terminals, and the synaptic gap, and receptors) FROM MEMORY, told me he was going home in a week. This was going to be his last Psychology class with me and he stayed after to let me know face to face. I was so bittersweetly overjoyed for him and he, obviously, was psyched to be going home.

This guy, for the first couple of classes, was a bit lost and took some time to get his footing but he took amazing notes and studied often. This evening, he carried his entire group’s presentation and I was so proud of him and his growth.

He will be sorely missed in class but I know he will do great things.

And I BETTA not see him back in class


March 12

Heard today in classes:

1) “Erin. This writing thing. Sounds way more like art than a science.”

2) I asked some new students how they made it to my class. The common response: “Well, [other student] told me I needed to come and some other guys said this was a good program.”

3) “You’re from that Eckerson school of writing feedback.”

😂 Why yes. Todd Eckerson, who teaches Philosophy with us, taught me everything I know #martlets4life #originalblackandgold

4) Student A: So, Socrates was saying…..
 Student B: Yes. It’s like when I was in high school, playing basketball and dunking on people…
 Student A: (interrupting) Bruh, you ain’t never dunked on nobody ever in your life so we gonna shut that down right now.

*hysterical laughter*

5) Awesome discussion about whether Socrates was divinely inspired philosopher or insufferable know it all.

Teacher: So see, right, this is where Socrates goes in for the kill. 
 Me: But wait. I thought Socrates was just an empty vessel waiting to be spoken to by the divine. How would he even know what “the kill” was?
 Teacher: I don’t think I like your tone.

*hysterical laughter*

Student C: I think I’m on Erin’s team now. 
Student D: Me too

6) “Yeah, she gives you A LOT of feedback. Once you stop crying over how she makes your paper bleed, you’ll see she’s helping you make it better. It’s like breaking a bone. It hurts like hell but it grows back stronger.”


I. Love. What. I. Do.

March 15

When you start grading papers and, on the first one, you can tell where your most promising student actually went in and track changed for his classmate….and made the same comments and changes you would have made LOL

March 20

Yesterday I sat in on the Second Chance Philosophy Workshop. Two guys sat next to each other. One is a young, Haitian-American, ultra left leaning liberal and the other is an older, White, staunch republican whose heroes include the likes of Scalia.

While these two have been seated next to each other often, they never speak directly to each other. Both are equally as active in the probing, philosophical debates, but rarely do they interact as individuals, as people.


In class, our republican student (the lone one in the workshop, by the way) made a particular point with which our liberal student excitedly agreed. The liberal turned to the republican, smiling, and said, “You know, you’re alright, man.” The republican smiled in return. “Thanks, you too,” he said.

Small blip on a large landscape, yes, but imagine the implications. If these two men, so firmly entrenched in their own politics in an environment that routinely seeks to limit the expression of their humanity, can find common ground, why can’t we?

March 26

Heard today in Philosophy inside:

Student*: While Plato’s Republic predates Machiavelli’s Prince, they sound remarkably similar.

Also heard in class:

Student: Plato is saying that if your wiener doesn’t work, you’re freed from mad masters.

(Photo of the passage to which he was referring can be seen here LOL)

😂 Guess there was no viagra back then.

* Student with the asterisk is being released tomorrow.

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