50th Edition, Education

Jampol reminisces on teaching, tennis, and life at South

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

How long have you been teaching at South for? Over the years, what have you noticed in the changes of the school? In other words, what do you find notable in the history of our school?

I started in the spring semester of 1981. South at that time had but three grades, tenth through twelfth, and it seemed a quiet, almost sleepy place. Adding the freshmen really charged the atmosphere and forced us, at least in English, to generate a more coherent academic program across the four years. The school has lost most of its working-class population over time. Thompsonville and Upper Falls, where those kids lived, have gone upscale.
Open campus, surprisingly, has survived though it disappeared long ago from most other high schools. Students here are accorded an almost unprecedented amount of freedom, something they ought to appreciate more.
The facilities, from the fieldhouse to the auditorium, have improved dramatically.
Finally, most of the old guard, the teachers who gave South its particular, quirky flavor, have retired or even passed on from this life. I miss them though I respect and like their replacements.

Why did you choose to become a teacher?

I love literature, and I enjoy working with adolescents. I also love everything associated with tennis!

What has been your favorite or a particularly notable moment at South?

One year, on the last day, in a classroom filled with wonderful students, I lost it and so did they- lots of tears. I couldn’t imagine not seeing them four times a week the following year.
I’ll also remember the class in which one senior student of mine confronted another who had harassed her in middle school. No one there will ever forget their encounter and reconciliation; it was an honor to be a part of the event.

What have you learned about teaching throughout your years as a teacher?

Rigor and pleasure: mixing the two must be the primary challenge of any classroom teacher.
The school day, let’s admit, seems pretty dull to most students.
I take it as my task to make something happen in class, not that I always succeed.
I also have learned that students take a long time to absorb the stylistic lessons I teach, as hard as I try to convey them.

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