Our “Why I Teach” series continues with high school English teacher Chase Ferree, who joined the CCSC faculty in 2013 after completing the Match teacher residency program and teaching in our Summer Academy. Mr. Ferree believes in the power of the written word to open eyes and hearts and to change individual lives and society. His classroom is a place where students learn they hold this power, too.
Why I Teach: Chase Ferree
Contrary to popular belief, the reason that English teachers ask students to read The Great Gatsby or The Scarlet Letter or The Bluest Eye is entirely unrelated to torture. We ask students to read these books to deepen their understanding of the world, of humanity. A recent wave of scientific research has “discovered” something that English teachers have long known: Reading makes people better – kinder, more empathetic, more respectful. I teach English because I want to be a part of that development. We watch plenty of movies and television shows about people whose lives may be different from ours, but the right novels give us an even more comprehensive perspective about the characters than the best movies ever could. Literature is a venue where humans can truly learn to appreciate, rather than fear, the variety of experience that exists in our world. When we read Invisible Man or Hamlet or The House on Mango Street, the lives that the characters live become real to us; no longer is the person we pass every day on the T just a silhouette in our field of vision, but a PERSON with motivations and desires, with loves and hates, with hopes and fears. I teach English because I want every student to learn how to use literature to access the diversity of experience that exists in our country and in our world and to grow into individuals who care about the sanctity of other people.
Yet English class is not just about being able to read. To truly become the movers and shakers, those who actually push this country to improve, students need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Our history is filled with examples that demonstrate the power of words; the quickest way to harness that power is to write, and write often. I teach English because I want to make effective communicators, students who will go on to bigger and better things after the time they spend in my classroom, students who impress those with whom they encounter with their ability to harness language and use it to make a difference.
I teach because of those who came before me and for those who come after me. I teach because of the TA in college who gave consistent and clear feedback on every paper; without her, I doubt very seriously whether I could have succeeded in upper level classes. I teach because of the grade school teachers who suggested new books, and new approaches to reading, to push me to recognize the way that a good book can change the way we see the world. I teach for the future business leaders, politicians, parents, doctors, lawyers, and teachers. I teach so that they will be more empathetic, more passionate, more engaging. At the most basic level, I teach English because I believe in the power of language to help us understand the world and make it a better place.
A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Mr. Ferree teaches AP English Literature and College Prep 11th Grade English, advises 8th graders, and coaches varsity track and cross country.