Sarah Feiss, Middle School English

"I love that I know what I plan to do, but that the girls are so creative and imaginative at this age that they take me to new places. That’s part of what I love about middle school – I don’t think I’ve ever taught a class where we didn’t laugh."

When you first came to Bryn Mawr three years ago, what really stood out to you?

I was really impressed by how all of the girls celebrate the uniqueness of everyone. Even in something as simple as having class elections, it’s not a popularity contest. They appreciate that each girl has her own hobbies and interests and they celebrate that quirkiness.

What do you like most about teaching in the Middle School?

I love the fact that I have no idea what’s going to happen sometimes when I come into the classroom. I teach the entire eighth grade, so I’m often teaching the same lesson several times a day. But it is never boring because even though I go in with the same plan, each class takes it in a different direction. I love that I know what I plan to do, but that the girls are so creative and imaginative at this age that they take me to new places. That’s part of what I love about middle school – I don’t think I’ve ever taught a class where we didn’t laugh.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I want my students to be able to think critically about the texts we’re reading, and then apply those ideas to the world around them. I also want them to be able to write well about the ideas they have been developing. My goal is to help them become stronger thinkers and writers so they can go out and change the world.

What do you say to the student who comes in at the beginning of the year and says that she doesn’t like English class, or that she’s not good at that subject?

I recognize that everybody has their “thing,” and I tell them that’s OK. But I also tell them that everybody can write, and we can approach it from a more analytic or formulaic manner to get them started in finding their own voice if that’s what they need. I also say that we can find books and ideas in books that they can apply to whatever it is that they love.

What items do you need for a day at Bryn Mawr?

My heater, because I get cold easily in my classroom. A mug of tea – my students also always joke about how much tea I drink. And, of course, an open mind because I don’t know where my students are going to take me.

If you could only teach one book for an entire year, what would it be?

I really like teaching “Lord of the Flies.” Watching the students go through the reading process and start to realize what [author William] Golding is doing and appreciate that is so much fun. When they finally learn why it’s called “Lord of the Flies,” I have girls falling off their chairs, screaming – I’ve actually had teachers come in from other classrooms to make sure everything was OK. Watching that process of realization and how each girl comes to understand it is very gratifying.
 
You’re stranded on a desert island. Food, water and shelter are accounted for. What three things would you want to have with you?

My running shoes, a really good book – or actually, my Kindle loaded with a lot of great titles – and a comfortable chair for reading.
 
What do you like about coaching cross country in the Upper School?

I like that I get to continue to have a relationship with those students once they leave my class. I also am able to run with them, talk about things outside the classroom and get to know them in a different way, which I really enjoy.
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Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Bryn Mawr School is a private all-girls kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school with a coed preschool for ages 2 months through 5 years. Bryn Mawr provides students with exceptional educational opportunities on a beautiful 26-acre campus within the city limits. Inquisitive girls, excellent teaching, strong student-teacher relationships and a clear mission sustain our vibrant school community where girls always come first.