50th Edition, Education

Weintraub teaches with passion

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

What is your favorite part about teaching?

I love sharing things that I love with people whom I genuinely enjoy spending time with. It’s a win-win situation for me, and sometimes I feel like the luckiest guy on earth. I mean, in my Senior Film Studies class, we get to spend five weeks discussing, debating, deconstructing, and dissecting Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which is one of the most profound and mystifying films ever made. We get to watch and discuss Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. We get to read Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
These are texts that I would be spending tons of time with anyway–as a teacher, I get to really dive in. And I feel so privileged to accompany my students as they encounter these brilliant, mysterious, gorgeous, problematic texts for the first time (even if they don’t always love–or get–them the first time around!).

What have you learned as you’ve progressed as a teacher? Have you changed your styles?

I’ve learned so much, especially from mentors and colleagues, and, of course, from students too. I think the most important thing that has changed in my teaching is that I try to create student leaders in my classes rather than have students follow my lead–at least that’s the hope. Part of this relates to the way I structure class (lots of group work, collaboration, group thinking) and part of it relates to what kind of questions I encourage them to think about.
I’m paraphrasing this from Margaret Metzger (a great English teacher at Brookline High, where I went to school), but my ideal class would help students to realize how smart they are rather than prove to them how smart I am.
My style has thus changed accordingly–though I like the sound of my own voice, hearing it doesn’t necessarily make my students better readers, writers, or thinkers!

How has South changed over the years you been here? How long have you been at South?

South is the same, but there are more cellphones in the hallways. (Turn off your cellphones, people!) I have been here six years.

Is there a favorite teacher you had when you were a student that you aspire to be like? What was he/she like?

My favorite teacher was an English teacher named Mr. Viglirolo, who was a wild Italian-American poet/intellectual who would hurl epithets at the gods and chalk at his students, who loudly hailed Dante and Dostoyevsky, Homer and Harper Lee, and who showed me how rich and vast the world of the mind could be.
I think, in retrospect, his pedagogy was not what we’d today call “advanced”–lots of “teacher-centered” activities. But, man, was he inspiring. Taught me to think, you know? (and taught me why thinking was important).

What are some of your passions outside the world of teaching and education?

I try to be a good family man, as in, spending time with my wife and my dog (cockapoo; name: Ricky Nelson).  But I have hobbies, too. I just learned how to play the pedal steel guitar (a flat-panelled, high action electric slide guitar that is most commonly associated with Hawaiian music and Country/Western music–you’ll know it if you hear it).
I like eating meat, especially slow cooked barbeque and spit-roasted things. Bowling, I try to knock all the pins down. And I do my best to stay current on important films and music (of all types, though my friends Sean Turley and Jamie Rinaldi have a much more esoteric set of aesthetic expectations than I do).

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