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Michael Smith: it's not about Me By Jack Marquez

I’d never met Michael Smith before. I’d heard plenty of Los Altos High students talk about him, and from what I understood, he was the best kind of teacher a student could hope for: helpful, down-to-earth, funny, and Umquidest adi doluptae nam, tores friendly. I wasn’t too surprised, then, that the first thing he ever said to me a del incitesed es ab ipsunt. was,quam “Congratulations, how long have you guys been together?” Beribus doluptatusam fuga. “What?” Nam nobit et pro volore volupti que I looked up as I unfolded our camera tripod, puzzled. non nis est volupta temquia ilitjust ut said you were his partner,” he pointed at Jonah, my classmate “He rerruptur rehent occabores ut rem on the project, who laughed. and collaborator eium aut fugitas ium dolor as “I’maut just messing with you, man,” Smith grinned, showing two rows of aliqui coribus aut quiae re, exernam perfectly white teeth. “So where should I sit?” aut esto magnate deri nobit, to of Inesuppose ficte evendit laborernam, vellabo that little joke wasn’t what surprised me about Smith initially. Instead, remque doluptatum dolupti unt. it was how deftly he transitioned from light hearted humor to Orum fugit ilis dolupta ipsae eatur, about education and back again. We came for an interview serious insights sum inum voluptatem eum volu about teaching styles, and we received not just a response, but a demonstra


tion of his unique style in action. We set up in front of the whiteboard, a plain background that wouldn’t draw any attention away from Smith’s expressive body language. In hindsight, though, his desk might have made a more interesting backdrop, as his row of hip-hop bobbleheads and a half-size skull would have made great conversation pieces. When asked about his popularity among students, Smith replied, “I’ve been told over the years that a student that comes into my class really gets the idea that I am here to help them... I really will stop at nothing to explain a concept. I tend to treat kids with a lot of respect... and I think they like that too, the idea that I don’t think that I’m better than them, but instead I’m trying to work with them to help them become better, and that it’s not all about me” (Smith). Smith graduated from UCLA in 2001, with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He traces his interest in teaching, though, back even further, to his years in middle and high school. “After going to school in the US system, you be-

gin to find those teachers who have been effective and those who’ve been a little less effective,” he explained. “I thought that that was something I could do pretty well--reach out to students, interact with them on a daily basis, to help them think a little better... it was the motivation of believing that I would be a good fit for the occupation” (Smith). This drive against the boring, aloof English teacher stereotype appears to be one of Smith’s most important goals. He points out that he’s willing to go further than most teachers to assist his students, but he sees that commitment as something students expect of all teachers. Even in the Mountain View Los Altos School District mission statement, the district calls for its staff to be “committed to focusing on the development of each and every student” (MVLA United School District). Los Altos student Brianna Ellington agrees. “Some teachers just aren’t there when I need them... but Mr. Smith is always there... he has made me really confident in who I am” (Ellington). “When [students] do need some help, every student wants to be able to at least

have access to that help, and if not, you can start talking about relationships ending quickly. You know, you go to a teacher, and [they’ll say] ‘I don’t have time for this.’ the love out, man” (Smith). Smith was equally vocal when addressing the idea that high school teachers should act more like professors to prepare students for college. “I would think that it’s a bit of a farce,” he laughed. “That’s not the only dimension.... This influence of a professor

type or this person in front of a class lecturing is relatively archaic; it’s been around for a long long time, and to think that thats all you should do in high school is very trivial to me... The majority of the jobs that you will have, they don’t even exist and so preparing you to sit and listen to a person talk for 50 minutes--if thats the most important thing for me to do then I should quit tomorrow. Straight up.” Instead, Smith explains, the


best way to prepare students for college is to build study skills and encourage discussion. “That kind of [lecture] experience you have in class in college is nothing like the experience you will have with your peers or on your own, studying in things in a library, researching what truly interests you. That is your opportunity there to go out and do what you want to do.” Referring to lectures, “If you think about it, where would collaborating with other people be? Where does respecting peoples opposing viewpoints fit in? A professor can teach you so much and then he needs to let you practice and I think the real education ability comes from you being able to practice.” Smith gestured toward the camera lens. “Imagine if you never got to use the camera that you are using now but you got to look at it.” He made an oohing sound, “It looks cool. But using it is how you learn how it works.”


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